Secrets of the nail salon industry and more, on Slate’s Working podcast.

How Exactly Do Nail Technicians Achieve Instagram-Worthy Nails?

How Exactly Do Nail Technicians Achieve Instagram-Worthy Nails?

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Oct. 20 2016 4:31 PM

We Talked to the D.C. Nail Technician Behind Instagram-Worthy Nail Art

Slate’s Working talks to Vivian Cam about what goes into making nails looks beautiful.

Vivian Cam
Vivian Cam.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Jacob Brogan

In Monday‘s edition of Working, Slate’s Jacob Brogan talks with Vivian Cam, a D.C.-based nail technician who’s been in the industry for more than 10 years. For this episode, Jacob talks to Cam at Nail Saloon, where they discuss everything from the economics of tipping to ingrown toenails.  

What does a day in the life of a nail technician look like? How long did it take Cam to develop the skills required to be a nail technician? How did she get her start in the industry years ago? And how do nail technicians draw such elaborate designs on clients’ nails?

And in this episode’s Slate Plus bonus segment, Cam talks to Jacob about nail services for men, as well as her tips on how to kick a nail-biting habit.

Jacob Brogan: You’re listening to Working, the podcast about what people do all day. I’m Jacob Brogan. I confess that I’ve never taken great care of my nails, so I was excited to chat with this week’s guest, nail technician Vivian Cam. Cam has been working in the business for more than a decade and she currently operates out of the cleverly named Nail Saloon in Washington, D.C., a nail salon where you can also get a drink. She talked to us about working with her clients to make sure she that provides the right services for them, told us a little bit about how she does her own nails, and really let us through the structure of her days.

We also chatted with her about nail art, and she discussed some of the elaborate designs, including some seasonally appropriate Halloween images that she paints onto willing customer’s fingers. And while we only have audio to offer here, we’d encourage you to check out the Instagram account that she maintains to show off her work. We’ll give the handle for that account at the end of the episode. Then, in a Slate Plus extra, Cam tells us about working with the nails of her occasional male customers, such as me perhaps, though I didn’t get my nails done during the episode.

What is your name? And what do you do?

Vivian Cam: My name is Vivian and I’m a nail technician.

Brogan: What does it entail to be a nail technician?

Cam: A nail technician can take care of your nails. A manicurist, originally is just nails. But nowadays, business forms into more than nails, which is taking care of your skin, and taking care of your feet, and polishes, and being healthy.

Brogan: Why is it important do you think to have really good-looking nails?

Cam: Yeah, it’s important. It’s a girl thing, you feel more confidence with your nails done. Everybody moves around with their nails. If you’re giving a speech, if you’re holding hands, if you’re showing your hands, you’re showing your nails. You’ll feel more confidence when you’ve had your nails done.

Brogan: Right now we’re seated at a long bar that runs almost the full length of the establishment. Is this where most of the work happens? It looks like there are a whole bunch of different stations here.

Cam: So we keep it really simple here up in the Nail Saloon. There’s only pedicures and manicures. So then pedicures will be all along the chairs over there, and manicures will be along this bar.

Brogan: The chairs are little footbaths, it looks like?

Cam: Yeah, and all the tools are one-time use. They will have this line in wrapped around the bowl, and then you put your feet in there, and then you throw it away.

So then you’re not sharing with anybody. And we have this different concept compared to the other salons with this long bar. It’s a saloon. They also serve drinks and stuff here. Drinks, cocktails, coffees, and teas, and waters, sparkling water, everything, so we have this bar look, with the chandeliers so then the clients can enjoy their moments.

But we also host a lot of parties. Like bachelorette parties, birthdays—so there is space for you to have your drinks, and sit and chit-chat with your friends. And it’s just more spacious.

Brogan: Do you have regular clients? Or is it just whoever comes in that day? Do people come asking for you?

Cam: Oh yeah. So I have a lot of requests from clients, and then I do more with nail art. So a lot of my nail art clients come in and look for me, and it’s just people like you. They come and ask for you.

Brogan: Can you tell us a little bit about nail art?

Cam: So nail art is actually an art, it’s not something that everybody can do. Like here, we have 22 technicians, but only two technicians do nail art. So all the clients that come in to request nail art, they have to be booked under my name, or we have another technician. Because it’s an art, and it’s not something everybody can do.

And even if they try to do it, it may not turn out the same. So it’s like an art, and you draw on the nails to make them pretty.

Brogan: What do you draw on them with?

Cam: So, we have our own small little brushes and drawing tools. All the colors and polishes, acrylic paint, and everything. And it’s just putting the whole portrait into a small little nails. And I also have my own Instagram page, that just features all my nail art.

Brogan: If our listeners wanted to find your Instagram page, where would they go?

Cam: Go to Instagram @viiviiannailart, spelled with double I’s. So it’s vii-vii-an-nail-art.

Brogan: So can you tell us about some of the pieces from your Instagram, like some nail art you’ve done?

Cam: Yeah, so I try to keep it up to spirit. Like this is October—it’s fall, Halloween’s coming, so I would try to do Halloween designs and autumn colors.

Brogan: So what’s this one here? What did you do on these?

Cam: My most recent one that I just put up is like a spooky owl-face-head with autumn colors. So I always use orange and black for Halloween.

Brogan: It looks like each nail is different on given hand?

Cam: Yeah, so I trying to do them differently so then you don’t get bored with them, or it’s not too much. So there’s again, accent nails.

Brogan: Were these your nails? Or was this a customer?

Cam: This is one of the technician’s nails here. When we have downtime, then I borrow their nails and then I’d be like, hey, let me do a design on you, and then I take a picture. Most of my work is from clients, though. This is another client. She has a gorgeous ring, so I’d be like, oh, can I take a picture? She’s a bride-to-be.

Brogan: Mm-hm. Can we see some more? What did you do on this one here? It looks like trees?

Cam: Yeah, it’s just an autumn tree. Simple.

Brogan: And it shows the changing leaves on the bottom?

Cam: Yeah, yeah.

Brogan: These are really elaborate little trees that are on each of these fingernails. How long did that take?

Cam: This design looks pretty complicated, but it takes me two minutes to do everything.

Brogan: Two minutes to do all of those?

Cam: Yeah, because all I do is tap on the color. Yeah, and I have a brush to do that so I just have brush and tap-tap that on.

Brogan: Do you have a color that you’re using on each nail? do you do that color on each nail before you put them on?

Cam: So for this design, I have the white background and then I just draw some lines of brown.

Brogan: For the leaves of the trees?

Cam: Then I tap on the yellow.

Brogan: That’s the leaves?

Cam: Yeah, orange, and a little brown on. And it’s a very fast type of tapping.

Brogan: When you say two minutes. Is it two minutes per nail? Or two minutes to do all ten nails?

Cam: I’ll say all 10 nails, I’m pretty quick at it.

This one looks more complicated, but it’s very fast. But this one looks very simple, but it takes way longer time than that because it’s lines—I want to make sure the lines are perfect, so I spend more times on the lines. There’s some designs that need the perfection look, especially line designs.

You have to spend time to make sure the line is straight. For designs like the tree, it doesn’t have to be the same, it can be different.

Brogan: If you mess something up while you’re working, do you have to start all over? You just have to erase everything on that nail.

Cam: It depends, because it’s hard to say. It depends on what kind of mistake is it. But most of the time I fix it. But the only reason why I have to take everything off again is when the client bumps her nail on something and messes the whole thing up. That’s when I have to take it all off. But if I mess up on a design or something, I fix it, and I use my skills to imagine how I can move things around.

Brogan: Is there one that you’re especially proud of?

Cam: Yeah, I’m proud of this butterfly design because it’s pretty detailed. It took me a lot of time, but I think it turned out well.

Brogan: It looks like it took hours. How long did this take? You got tons of different colors, these really elaborate little butterflies. Tiny dots on their wings.

Cam: I don’t really look at time when I do stuff, but I’ll say this one, a total of 30 minutes, yeah.

Brogan: If someone’s looking to do nail art, what’s the easiest way to get started? What’s the first thing that they should start doing?

Cam: Dots. So a new technician who wants to learn nail art, the most thing they would do is dots because that’s the easiest nail art to do. You can turn the flower into five pedals and dotting the five dots in there, with another dots in the middle creates a flower.

But that’s for the beginner. That’s how I started too, five dots and one dot in the middle. That is like a traditional look of a nail art. Starting with everybody who’s just starting.

Brogan: Are you trying to do any more challenging designs right now?

Cam: Yeah, so I try to draw an actual portrait on the nails. Let’s say if you draw a portrait on the paper, you put that into a nail.

So I can transfer like the whole scenic into a nail. Let me see if I can find it. So this is like an Angry Bird character that I put in the nail art.

Brogan: Is this for a kid or an adult?

Cam: It can be both. This lady has really long nails, where she likes Angry Birds. That’s when Angry Birds was really hot. And I can put any cartoon character in there, and that’s what I’m trying to be better at, drawing characters on nails. Like, I have this Despicable Me minions nail art.

Brogan: Little minions, yeah?

Cam: Yeah. Or Sketchers.

Brogan: Shoes, I got it.

Cam: Shoes. Yeah. Or um, penguins.

Brogan: Can I see the penguins? Oh, they’re cute. I love them.

Cam: Yeah. So, you don’t just scribble things on the nail, but you can create something that when people looked in and know exactly what’s that on the nails instead of just some scribbling lines around.

Brogan: What’s your favorite thing to draw or to paint on someone’s nails?

Cam: I like everything, but my specialty’s floral.

Brogan: Do people usually come and say hey, do this kind of floral design for me, or do you just get to do whatever you want?

Cam: No, it depends on the clients. Some clients want specific things, so they will bring in a picture where they find somewhere in the social media, and I’ll match it. And then if some clients have no idea what they want, they’re going to be like, oh, I want something, and they just describe exactly what they want and then I’ll just make it up. Just like a tattoo artist.

Brogan: Can you describe your nails to us? Do you do your nails every day? How often do you change your look?

Cam: I change my look every three to four days. And my nails are very long, very natural. A lot of people think it’s fake but it’s not, it’s real. So I don’t have any designs today.

Brogan: But you do have some color there.

Cam: Yeah I do have colors.

Brogan: And some sparkly paint it looks like?

Cam: Yeah. I try to be in the spirit with autumn and the Halloween looks. So I have this orange, with the accent nail. With a little glitter on.

Brogan: What’s an accent nail?

Cam: So traditionally, people will have all five fingers with the same color. But nowadays, people can go for an accent, so we will have one or two nails in a different color, but it’s still in the same family of color. So it can be a lighter or darker color. It depends. Some people can do glitter just to make some different like a little pop. It’s just a new style.

Brogan: Do you chat with your customers while you’re working with them?

Cam: Oh yeah, communication plays a big role here. Clients like to talk, but not all of them do. Because some of the clients come here and just want to relax and space out. A lot of them come with a computer or laptop to sit and work. A lot of them come and read the magazine or the books, or they just prefer the quiet. So it really depends on the client.

Brogan: What’s your favorite thing to chat about with the customer?

Cam: You can always talk about some things but since I have kid. My daughter is 3 years old. And this is a salon where it’s nontoxic and we have a lot of pregnant women that come here, a lot of children, so I meet a lot of mothers. And when it comes to the topic of the kids, I can go on and on all day.

But if it comes to a topic of politics, then I’m done in five minutes.

Brogan: So it’s easier if you can find a connection and there’s some kind of.

Cam: Yeah, so it’s a connection, and everybody has a different connection. Like, if somebody doesn’t have kids, they can’t talk about kids. And if somebody is into politics, then they can go on and on with their project. So it really depends.

So that’s how you find your return clients. It’s when they feel like they have something in common with you, where they can have a connection with you that they want to talk about. Or they feel like they’re attached, and then they come back and chat with you because they feel like you like them.

Brogan: Do you ever have to like struggle to remember what you talked about with a client? A previous time?

Cam: Oh yeah. I have a really bad memory. That’s one thing that’s not good about me, which is, I’m not good at remembering names. Sometimes they come in here, they talk to me like two hours straight, like I feel like they know them for life, and then I forgot their name.

And the next time they might show up in like another three months and then they’ll be like, oh hi Vivian, and I was like, hi, but seriously I don’t remember their name. Like they have to come back to me more than three times a week in order for me to actually recover everything and remember their names, and exactly who they are.

Brogan: That’s fine, you help them. You see dozens of people in a week, it sounds like.

Cam: Yeah. But I feel bad. I really do feel bad sometimes when I feel like they remember me, they have the connection with me, but then I forget their names.

Brogan: Do customers know what they want when they get here, or do you decide on a look together?

Cam: So, there’s a lot of clients who are very easy, they come, they know exactly what they want. OK, I want a red. Pick a red for me. And I was like, OK, this is a good red. I was like, OK, let’s go for it. But there are some clients who come in who don’t know what they want and they will take 15–20 minutes on deciding what color to get or we have to try on like, ten nails full of different colors.

And they still don’t know what they want. So we have a lot of undecided clients. So sometimes, I do draw sketches for them. So OK, if you get this, this is how it going to turn out. If you get this, this is how it’ll turn out. So we kind of work together first to see how this looks and then we come up with a solution.


Brogan: What’s the most complex design you’ve ever painted on someone’s nails?

Cam: It’s not hard but it’s just a little challenge is when a little kids about 3–4 years old, and their nails are the size of a small peas and they want a fancy butterfly or like a SpongeBob or a Spiderman on it, which is possible, but also impossible.

So I always try and talk them into something more simple instead of painting the whole Mona Lisa on their small little fingers.

Brogan: Do you have to use like a really tiny brush for that?

Cam: Oh yeah very tiny, detailed, pointy brushes. We have all the tools in the world.

Brogan: How do you finish out a session with someone? After you cleaned up their nails, painted their nails, maybe put a design on it, what are the last steps before someone gets ready to leave?

Cam: After we finish, all the polishing will have a topcoat to seal everything. And here at the Nail Saloon, we have a really good quick-dry drops, so when you drop that on, it will make the process faster for the drying. So then I always tell my client to hang out for fifteen to twenty minutes before they mess it up, and a lot of clients are really good at just sitting, to make sure it’s dry before they leave, but we have a lot of clients who are in a rush. They will mess the polish up and they’ll come back and like, oh, I messed my nails up.

Brogan: You’ve been listening to nail technician Vivian Cam. In a minute, Cam tells us about how she got started, and what she does during a typical day.

So how long have you been doing this work?

Cam: I’ve done this for 12 years.

Brogan: And how did you start as a nail technician in the first place?

Cam: When I was in high school, I had a boyfriend whose mom had a nail shop, which was next to my high school. And when I had time, I would just go into the shop and help her out. And that’s how I started. She showed me and taught me. So that’s where I got the experience from. And after I graduated my high school, you needed a job, so you start working at all the other salons, and then you start getting your license, and everything. So that’s how I start.

Brogan: Are there things that people do wrong with then they first start working on nails professionally? Any mistakes you made that you don’t make anymore?

Cam: Oh yes, a lot. A lot. But the biggest, most dangerous thing is cutting clients and they bleed badly. That’s the worst thing ever.

That’s what I used to run into when I just first start working. If you’re a new person, you don’t know how much to cut so then you keep cutting and cutting until it bleeds. And the next thing is you get in trouble.

Brogan: When someone starts bleeding, what do you do?

Cam: That’s when you have to know how to stop the bleeding. We have this antiseptic solution. It’s call Liquid Styptic skin protector. So you drop that on a nail, and it will stop the bleeding right away.

That’s the first thing, to control the bleeding. And the next thing is work out with the client before they go crazy on you.

Brogan: What do you do that keeps people from bleeding in the first place?

Cam: Skills. Skills, skills, skills. It takes a lot of practice, it takes you a long time to build those skills up. It’s not like a one or two-week thing. Then you don’t make those mistakes anymore.

Brogan: So, was your training then entirely informal? Was there any formal training?

Cam: Yeah, after that, you have to maintain your skills in the salon. But then you have to go to school to get your license and your hours and everything.

Brogan: You have to do a certain number of hours before you receive your license?

Cam: Yeah.

Brogan: Is there an actual test? What was it like studying for that?

Cam: Yeah, it’s a hands-on test and also a practice test. You study a lot about chemicals and you have to study the type of skin, the type of nails, and all the tools. They’re focusing more on sanitation. So in the nail industry, sanitation plays the biggest role, it’s one the most important things. And I feel like that takes up all the learning and the schooling—it’s all about sanitation. Like to make sure you don’t cut other people, how to stop the bleeding, and how to prevent infections.

Brogan: So it’s about safety and care.

Cam: Yeah, safety and care. And then, you go in school and then you practice for your skills.

Brogan: Can you tell us a little bit about where we are today? Uh, is this where you work every day?

Cam: Yeah, so I’m working at the Nail Saloon now in Washington, D.C. This is the only nontoxic salon in D.C. They carry fire-free polish. It’s just better, because it’s not chemical. We make our own scrubs here, which is the salt scrub. We mix it in house. Just the salt and oil, and just the sugar and oil.

Brogan: What are these scrubs for?

Vivian: So the scrubs are to exfoliate your skin.

Brogan: Face, skin, hands, where?

Cam: No, we only do pedicures and manicures. So pedicures we will have salt scrub, and that will exfoliate your dead skin on your feet, and on your legs. And we mix that in house, so then there are no chemicals involved, there’s no colors involved. So you don’t irritate the client’s skin. And for the manicure, we use the sugar scrub, which is just sugar and oil.

The reason why we use sugar instead of salt is because the sugar is finer. So then, the skin on your hands will be less—it will be more sensitive, so then you don’t have the irritation from it.

Brogan: How many technicians work here in total?

Cam: Now it’s about 22.

Brogan: OK. But at any given time there aren’t that many people, you’d say?

Cam: We are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., which is 12 hours a day.

So we have technicians who do shifts. So I’m a morning shift. And we get to pick our own hours, so you get the shift that fits your work schedule. So, I mean, nobody works the whole day from 9 to 9, so I come in at 9 and I’ll leave at 3.

Brogan: Let’s talk about that a little. What is your typical day like? You say you get here around nine? What’s the first thing you do when you arrive?

Cam: OK, so I’m a morning shift person. I come in and open. So, I come in first thing and get everything ready. We turn on all the tools, all the machines, all the sanitation equipment, all the sterilization. We put the tools in the autoclave.

Brogan: Autoclave, is that for cleaning them?

Cam: The autoclave is the like a high pressure cooker-thing over there.

Brogan: OK.

Cam: They cook the tools. Leave it simple. You put the tools in there with the really high pressure temperatures so it will sanitize them.

I believe they also use that in dentists’ offices and hospitals, too. And we also have the otronics, which is like a sterilization solution where we put the tools in there after we use. And we also have a timer where we time exactly how long we’re supposed to have it in there.

Brogan: Mm-hm. So that’s the first thing is, getting everything turned on, getting everything set up. Uh, what’s next? You’re wearing a uniform right now, is that something that you keep here, or do you bring that in with you?

Cam: OK, so um, yeah, the Nail Saloons have all the technicians wear the uniforms. We have these gray scrubs, which look really nice and clean. Everybody wears the same thing, and we come in, we change to our uniforms, and we start our morning tasks.

Brogan: When do clients start arriving?

Cam: We open at nine, and clients come in at nine.

You have your own schedule because the schedule is pretty flexible. And it really depends on the salons too. So like, just because I have kids, uh, for example, I can’t work in a company or something that you have to show up on time. You have to be there. If not, then you get fired. In this industry, it’s a bit more flexible.

Let’s say I check my booker. I don’t have a client today, and I have to run some errands, I have to take my kids to the hospital or I’m stuck in traffic, or I’m stuck at somewhere. And I can also call in and say hey, I’m going to be late one or two hours. Versus, if you work in like an office, or a company where you have to be there.

Brogan: If you don’t have a client and you’re just sort of sitting here in this during your shift, do you just take walk-ins a lot of the time?

Cam: Oh yeah, we take walk-ins. But just because the salons take a longer time on the services, we turn away with a lot of walk-ins because it gets busy. Especially on the weekends. And when we don’t have clients, technicians will prepare for side jobs. Like, there’s a lot of side jobs we have to do here, like refilling things, cleaning things, making sure things are full and filled, so we can get ready for the whole week.

Brogan: What’s the hardest thing to do? What’s the most difficult service to provide of the various things that you have to do as part of your job?

Cam: The hardest thing for me to do is to satisfy the clients, because you never know what they want. And some clients, they’ll be like, oh I like this, I love this and everything, but the next day they come back, I don’t like this. So there’s a lot of women who are very indecisive in this world.

You can never satisfy everybody but I always try my best, but you just never know if they’re going to like it or not.

Brogan: Do you work with in-grown toenails and stuff ever?

Cam: Oh yeah. We have a lot of ingrown toenails. And I’m really good at dealing with the ingrown toenails. And I love that because one gross things about me, I like popping pimples, I like tweezing hair, and I like taking out ingrown toenails.

Brogan: Does that hurt the client when you’re taking it out ever?

Cam: It depends on the client. Some clients are very tough, where they’re like, oh, just do it, don’t worry. And they just going to suck it up and get it done because they know that after we take it out, they feel ten times better. But there’s some client who are very sensitive. They will move and yell and scream. They’ll say, oh, that hurts and everything. And it challenges you because you don’t want to hurt them and, and you want to make sure that they’re comfortable.

And then you want to make sure that the ingrown is out too. So it takes time, you have to talk them into it and then it’s just like talking to a baby. Like, it’s OK, and all that.

Brogan: Does the store set the structure for certain services? Is everything service-standardized here?

Cam: Yeah, everything is in standard fees.

Brogan: And are those fees generally standard across the industry? I mean, you’ve worked a variety of places. Or do they vary from salon to salon?

Cam: No, it varies salon to salon. Each salon sets their own prices. So now in D.C., there’s salons around Northeast, Southeast, Southwest. Pedicures and manicures can be about $20–25, which is pretty cheap.

But here at Nail Saloon, pedicures and manicures are $80, which is a big difference. But, you pay for what you get. The time is different. We take like an hour 45 minutes for pedicures and manicures, and all the tools, all the sterilization, all the stuff is different. It’s hard because a lot of people don’t like to pay a lot of money to get their nails done.

So they will go to cheaper salons. You know $21 for pedis and manis, and then the next thing is, they get bleeding, they will get infections, they will get all kinds of things put into them where they don’t know. Like I say, you pay for what you get if you go to a salon that will charge you less. Of course, the technician will have less skills, so then they will cut you. Tools are not sterilized, they will bring you infections. Bacteria.

Brogan: When you’re doing really elaborate nail art on someone, do you charge more for that? Or is it just included in the basic fee package?

Cam: Yeah, we charge extra. So there’s different types of nail art. We call one French, which is with white tips. That’s a dollar extra. And it’s not really a fixed price because it depends on how complicated, and how much time we put into the work.

Let’s say, if somebody shows up with a very simple design where I can finish it up in like two minutes, then I won’t charge them full price. So, the price is set by technician, by me.

Brogan: So you negotiate that with them? Do they ever try to haggle with you?

Cam: Not with the clients around this area. But other areas they will. They will bargain the price and stuff, but I set up the fixed number. And I just tell the manager in the front, like say, hey, her design is pretty complicated, so let’s charge by the nail.

Or sometimes I say, oh it’s very easy so we won’t charge it that much.

Brogan: Do people tip on top of that basic fee?

Cam: Yeah, so we have a lot of clients who tip basically 20 percent on the credit.

Brogan: Like a restaurant.

Vivian: Yeah, the same.

Brogan: How much of your income comes from tips?

Cam: It depends on how much I work. So I don’t have a set price for it. So let’s say this week I decide to work three days. Of course my income is going to be decreased and so are my tips. But if it’s like this week, and I decided to work like 40 hours or six days or more than that, then my income will rise.

Brogan: And are you paid an hourly rate or are you just paid by the job?

Cam: So we get paid by commission, plus the tip.

Brogan: So it’s a cut of the time you spend with customers.

Cam: Yeah.

Brogan: What’s the most important thing you have to have to do your job every day?

Cam: Gloves. Without gloves, I don’t want to do anything. I got used to it. I think it’s for both the technician and the clients. Some of the clients don’t feel comfortable when you touching them with your bare hands.

And it’s for the technician too. Sometimes we don’t feel comfortable touching the clients with your bare hands because you never know where people comes from. And it just makes it more comfortable, easier, with less of a mess when you have gloves. So gloves are always with me.

Brogan: Are they just regular latex gloves?

Cam: Yeah, it’s just regular latex gloves. And that’s how all the clients keep asking me, like, oh, how do you keep your polish on your nails. And I say, I’m wearing gloves every day. I wear gloves on everything.

Brogan: So they protect you. But your nails are so long, do they ever tear through the gloves?

Cam: Not really.

Brogan: Do your nails make it harder to do this kind of fine detail work?

Cam: To other people maybe. When they haven’t gotten used to what they’re doing. Because having hard, long nails can be challenging for what you do, but since I’m doing this every day, and I get so used to it, it doesn’t really bother me.

Brogan: Thank you so much of taking the time to talk to us today.

Cam: Yes, thank you so much, and it’s my pleasure to meet with and talk with you guys.

Brogan: It was our pleasure too. Thanks.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Working. I’m Jacob Brogan, and I bite my nails during horror movies. We would love to hear your thoughts about the podcast. Our email address is And you can listen to past episodes at There are a lot of them to go through. Working is produced and edited by Mickey Capper, who is going to get some spooky nail art of his own this Halloween.

You can check out Vivian Cam’s nail art designs on Instagram, at ViiviianNailArt. And that spelling is also in the podcast description, and on our page for the show at Our executive producer is Steve Lickteig, and the chief content officer of the Panoply network is Andy Bowers.


In this Slate Plus extra, Vivian Cam tells us about how she works with men’s nails, and how she learned to stop biting her own nails.

Brogan: Do men ever come in to have their nails done?

Cam: Oh yes, we have a lot of men here. Not all mens will do polishes but they have their nails really cleaned up. Not all men can cut their own nails, so they can come in here. We cut them. File them, trimming their cuticles, cleaning it, make it very clean.

That’s the beep when the tools are ready. Because we put the tools in there and we push the timer. Each process is supposed to take 10 minutes.

Brogan: For the sterilization.

Cam: Yeah.

Brogan: Yeah, so not all men get polishes, but—

Cam: We do buff-shine. We have this buff, like how people buff their cars or tires? So we have this small little buff, and it gives you this natural shine. And a lot of men use that. So men come into the. It’s just getting this clean look.

Brogan: So I’m a man who takes terrible care of my nails. I bite my nails, I don’t look after the cuticles, how would I start taking better care of my nails?

Cam: Biting cuticles is another big topic for a lot of people. It’s easy to say but it’s hard to quit.

Brogan: Yeah, like smoking.

Cam: Exactly, it’s hard. I used to be a nail biter. I used to bite my nails until all 10 fingers were bleeding. But I found a cure for myself. It doesn’t work on everybody.

Brogan: What was your cure?

Cam: So I figured that I bite my nails when I sit around and do nothing. It’s like when I’m sitting on a sofa when I’m thinking or when I’m driving. My hands aren’t busy. Like when my hands are doing nothing, then the next thing that happens is I will bite my nails. But that’s when I developed doing crafts, because I like to do crafts. So ever since that day, I started finding new things to myself by crocheting, knitting, cross-stitching. So I do crafts when I sit around doing nothing.

Brogan: You’ve got to keep busy to keep from biting.

Cam: Yeah, so basically it keeps your hands busy. I also tell a lot of my clients to find that magic three ball and don’t let your hands do anything. Because they’ll go into your mouth.

Brogan: So you could start maybe doing nail care? For one thing.

Cam: Yeah, and there are certain food and certain vitamins that will helps your nails to grow faster, healthier, stronger, and make them less brittle.