Nail It!



A lot can be deduced from the state of one’s hands and nails.  We use our hands in communication both consciously and subconsciously so they are often very visible to the observer. Whether it’s a hand shake during a greeting, taking notes at a client meeting, picking up your cellphone to answer a call, or raising your hands in worship, our hands are always on display. 


One of the most effective ways to improve your image in relation to appearance is to get a manicure, preferably one that includes nail polish or artificial nail enhancements.  As stated in earlier blogs, remember that within 30 seconds a person will have made certain decisions and created perceptions(which may be correct or incorrect) about you; your economic level, your level of sophistication, level of self-care, level of skill, knowledge and education based on your appearance, behaviour and communication (both verbal and non-verbal – such as body language and gestures).


Decisions on the most appropriate nail care depend on the image you want to portray. In addition the type of industry you work in will also determine how you present your hands in general and your nails in particular.  For example, a medical professional or beauty therapist should have “naked” nails because this ensures a professional, hygienic look –  short nails that will not puncture surgical gloves, harbour bacteria, catch onto the client’s skin or cause scratches during treatments.  A receptionist or other customer facing personnel would be required to have well manicured nails so gel polish or French tips would work well.  People working in creative industries can be more dramatic in the style, colour and shape of nails they adorn.


In a professional business setting the following nail care considerations must be made:


Ensure that your hands are clean and look healthy. 


Invest in a non-sticky, non-oily hand cream/lotion that will moisturise your hands during the course of the day.  If you have dry cuticles, hang nails or chipped nails invest in a professional manicure.  Ensure that your manicure therapist is professionally trained and conscious of hygiene issues.  Do not be shy to ask whether they have sanitised their tools before attending to your hands or feet as there are infections you can catch such as athletes foot (tinea pedisandtinea manuum) which can affect both feet and hands.  To even out the skin tone on your fingers scrub your hands and fingers each time you do a full body scrub.  If you are a nail-biter then go the artificial nail route as this will cover the effects of the bad habit and act as a deterrent to further biting.


Appropriate nail length


In a professional business setting, the length of your nails should not exceed one centimetre and should not inhibit your ability to type on a computer or use any other office/business equipment or tools.  If you find that your nails are impeding your ability to operate general office equipment then they are inappropriately long.If they draw too much attention and solicit a lot of questions they are definitely too long. Adversely if you bite your nails until they expose the nail bedthen they are inappropriately short and give an appearance of insecurity, lack of control and poor self-care.


Appropriate colour


We are living in a time when there are incredible new colour options. There are many shades of red and pinkthat do give a professional appearance.  In addition, there are nude shades, greys and even shades of blue (robin egg blue)that are subtle enough for the office, particularly when applied as gel polish on short nails.  However, there are colours to be avoided such as yellow, hot pink, glittery or bright “shouting” shades. Nail art is also not appropriate for a business setting.  These are distracting and give the appearance of immaturity and frivolity.If you do choose to wear colour ensure that you never appear in public with chipped nail polish.  In any setting, business or casual, on a scale of 1 to 10 chipped nail polish rates as a 10 on image-destroying factors.As a rule – the more formal your work or business setting the less colour variation you should choose.  Stick to subtle shades, natural look or French tips.



Appropriate shape/style of nails


As with colour options the different style and shape options for nails are increasing.  The coffin, almond and stiletto shape are appropriate for creative industries but not for business professional settings.  Abstract shapes are distracting and may hinder your ability to perform your tasks efficiently thereby diminishing your credibility as a professional.  In a formal work setting the natural looking rounded or square with tapered edge shape is ideal.


The following nail behaviours are to be avoided:

  • Nail biting

  • Nibbling on hang-nails

  • Finger-licking

  • Nail picking

  • Cutting/filing/buffering nails in the office

  • Making noises with your nails

There are strategies you can employ to break bad nail habits and behaviours you can adopt and consciously practice regarding your hands and nails to improve your image.  Contact us for a consultation.

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