Advice on Budget Nail Bars and Mobile Nail Treatments

Budget nail bars have been springing up all over the place in recent years, with the popularity of nail art and affordable manicures hard to resist. But at the same time, horror stories of nasty fungal infections – and worse – are still doing the rounds. What are the things you need to look for if you’re considering a nail revamp but don’t want to pay the price later?

Show Me Your Credentials

One thing that any reputable nail salon will be proud to display is their certificate of membership for the Association of Nail Technicians, because this is probably one of the most important things you need to look for in a nail bar. The association was set up in 1998 to provide insurance and training, and also to set standards for nail technicians in the UK. The association has also worked with the Hairdressing and Beauty Industry Association (HABIA) to devise a code of practice for nail technicians.

There are at least 2000 ANT registered nail salons in the UK, so you should be able to find one in your area. For an up-to-date list of members, check the ANT website at:

Some local authorities require all nail salons to be licensed, although this varies across the UK. If in doubt, give your local council a call and ask them.

You should always check the qualifications of any nail technician you visit. There are several accredited qualifications for nail techs, these include

  • NVQ Level 2 in Nail Services (for junior technicians)
  • NVQ Level 3 in Nail Services (for senior and salon based technicians)

Are you Experienced?

The ANT also provides approved training. Be very careful who you let loose on your talons, as there are no minimum qualifications for nail techs.

Think about it – would you want to pay someone who couldn’t demonstrate that they know about basic hygiene, health and safety or nail care techniques to look after your nails?

Chemical Reactions

It may sound alarmist but there have been some pretty nasty cases of injury and infection caused by inexperienced technicians or bad practice. Some budget nail bars are also fond of using a chemical called monomer methyl methacrylate (MMA), which is a cheap adhesive that is sometimes used to glue acrylic nails into place. Because it’s cheap, it doesn’t always stick the nails properly, so technicians have been known to use electric files which actually shred the natural nail in order to make it stick better. This is all very well, but MMA damages the nail bed and the risks of using it have been well documented.

If your technician is using MMA, you should be able to tell because it has a strong, pungent smell, will often be stored in unlabelled bottles. Technicians who are using MMA often wear face masks. If you spot a tech putting on a mask, take that as a warning. Just make your excuses and leave.

MMA fumes can cause allergic reactions and asthma attacks, while other common reactions include;

  • blisters
  • itchy skin
  • loss of sensation
  • loss of the nail plate
  • infection

Phyllis Starkey MP has actually introduced a Bill into Parliament which she hopes will put an end to cheap, nasty nail bars. The Bill was introduced in March 2008.

Cheap and Nasty

The nail bar that just springs up overnight and offers unbelievably cheap extensions should probably be avoided at all costs – you could end up with a nasty fungal infection if the instruments aren’t sterilised, and even worse if the chemicals and techniques they use are cheap imitations. Make sure that the salon is clean and tidy, that the staff are knowledgeable, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the techniques and chemicals they will be using. If they are in any way reluctant to answer your questions, if the prices are well below average for the service, and if the salon seems dirty or disorganised, go somewhere else!

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