Healthy and Prosperous 2019! Maintaining Back Mobility and Strength for Nail Techs

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Understandably, nail techs are “…more likely than most to suffer from occasional or even chronic back pain as a result of sitting for extended periods of time.” As with the previous post on wrist health, there are a few things we can do to prevent and alleviate these issues.

  1. Take a few minutes several times a day to stretch your back.  Here’s a simple thoracic spine stretch from I love this one, or simply lying flat with knees bent… Or, even better, doing legs up the wall for a few minutes at the end of the day feels amazing!pvn100118healingmovement-001-1541718318
  2. Incorporate some back strengthening exercises into your workout. recommends a few reps of raised kicks and swimmers.  You can do these while you are watching TV in the evening and, with consistency, they will make a difference!
  3. As with the previous post about wrist pain, it’s important to use correct posture while working. One of the most helpful habits I’ve found is to keep the clients’ hand or foot close to you so that you don’t have to bend over and lean forward to work on them.  To help with this, you can have tools thathold your client’s wrist or ankle elevated while you work, like the Wrist Assist, Pampered Perch or PediStil.
  4. Finally, a chiropractor and/or massage therapist can help you with body work that will relieve pain and help keep your back in good health. Seek out one in your area! If that’s not possible, you can try some body work on yourself each day. Roll your back out on a foam roller and graduate up to rolling a “peanut massager” around the spine.

Those are my best recommendations to keep back pain away.  What do you think? Any personal experiences with back pain? Leave a comment below!

This article is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.

Healthy & Prosperous 2019! Maintaining Wrist Mobility and Strength for Nail Techs

Understandably, “Nail techs are at increased risk for carpal tunnel and other wrist maladies.” In addition to working with our hands, we’re probably also on a computer for a good portion of the day.  All this can lead to overuse injuries like tendonitis, or worse. In this post we’ll talk about some preventative steps nail techs can take to ward off these common injuries.

  1. Carve out a few minutes for stretching and strengthening the arm throughout the day. Prevention Magazine recommends some simple stretches and exercises, including:
  • 2wristextension-1503621085

    forearm stretch

  • wrist extension
  • finger flexion and extension
  • grip strengthening with a stress ball

2. Use correct posture and wrist positioning. One of the biggest issues I find here is keeping your clients’ hand close to you so that you don’t have to bend over and lean forward to work.  To  help with this, you can have tools that hold your client’s wrist or ankle elevated while you work, like the Wrist Assist, Pampered Perch.

3. Wear a wrist brace in off-time if you start to feel pain or other symptoms. As un-glamorous as this is, it really did help me a few years ago when hours of nails and computer work took their toll.  I wore my brace every night as often as possible – you don’t have to take it on vacation or anything.  Keep in mind that this will likely take a few nights to adjust to wearing…  At first I would remove mine in my sleep!

Those are my best recommendations to keep wrist pain at bay.  Do you have any others? Any personal experiences with wrist pain or injuries? Leave a comment below!

This article is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.

Healthy & Prosperous 2019! Healing the Winter Itch

Do you notice that your skin gets drier and even itchy or irritated in the winter?  Apparently this is a super common condition known as “winter itch”, and I’ve had it for the past few years.  There are a couple things I’ve finally figured out will successfully fight it, though, and I wanted to share them with you in case they’re helpful for you or clients.  One of the worst places this shows up can be our hands, because of the constant hand-washing we do to keep the germs away!S&M 6 December 2015 A

Drink more water – Of course we know we’re supposed to be drinking 6-8 cups a day… in winter it’s more crucial that we make an effort to drink more.

Because it’s cooler our bodies usually don’t sweat as much and we may not feel the urge to drink. But staying hydrated from the inside out will give the skin a way to stay hydrated.

Increase the humidity of your home or work spaces – this has been the biggest help for me this season. I’ve added a humidifier to my bedroom and it has done wonders for my skin. During cold and flu season you can also add an inhalant (like Vick’s), which adds a clean scent to the space.

Avoid harsh soaps and moisturize – This seems like a small thing, but it can be very effective! For about a decade I’ve been using natural soaps when possible, and they work just as well as the pharmacy soaps for our needs.These are best for home use, since you’ll want a germ-fighting soap in the salon. Check out this article from Nail Magazine on why this is important.Once you’re done washing your hands (or other parts) it’s best to add some oil or cream within a few minutes. I’ve tried so many products over the years… Here are some of my favorite solutions:

  • An ointment for very dry skin, which will help lock in moisture. Just know that ointments can feel heavy and greasy, so I recommend applying just before bed and wearing PJs that aren’t your favorite.This is also a great time to apply ointment to your hands and put on gloves that help contain the moisture.
  • A cream for dry skin – This should feel really good on winter skin!
  • And for your face, a light moisturizer. Because your facial skin is sensitive and can feel dry (mine does!) or even look dry. Facial lotion typically works great under foundation, too!

With this post I’m kicking off a new informational series of posts designed to promote a healthy and prosperous 2019 for everyone.  I hope you’ll come back for more health and wellness tips for you and your clients, and some reviews or best practices ideas for nails techs.

Happy holidays, and here’s to kicking off an amazing 2019!

Protecting your hands… and your clients’!

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This post won’t go into either side of the argument on whether UV gel lamps are causing long term damage to our skin – harmful or not harmful for regular long term use – but instead accepts that each has valid points: With normal usage a client may not get too much additional UV-A exposure, but may be concerned about the exposure due genetic factors, medications, or other personal reasons; Nail techs oftentimes use UV-cured products to do their own nails, test UV-cured products on themselves, and are incidentally exposed to UV-A rays while doing clients’ nails. Here we’ll discuss several ways to mediate these concerns with some inexpensive and easy solutions.

First, for clients who are interested in protecting their skin for cosmetic reasons, the easiest solution may be a hand lotion with a sun protection factor (SPF), preferably of at least 30, to be applied about 15 minutes before their hands will go in the lamp. While this should not create too much additional work for the nail tech, it may require a shift in the sequence of product application so that the lotion is applied earlier in the service. This will allow ample time for it to soak into the skin.  A word of caution: the nail tech should take extra care to be sure the nail plate is properly cleansed and dehydrated before starting the application of product, to prevent service breakdown.

Aside from the UV protection, which may or may not be necessary, I’m moisturizing my skin with the lotion! This is the solution I’ve chosen for myself because it’s the easiest.

For now I’m starting with a sunscreen lotion developed by Neutrogena for use on the face. It seems to be less greasy than other sunscreens I’ve tried, which is a benefit during a nail service.

Second, and possibly an easier solution, is to wear UV protective gloves during the application and curing of the product. There are reusable and disposable versions of these gloves available. (Alternatively, you could simply place a washable towel over the hand during the curing part of the service, but this seems more cumbersome and time-consuming than using anti-UV gloves.)

A combination of the first two solutions may be ideal for a client that is sensitive to UV rays due to a medical condition or a medication they are taking.

S&M pink comparisonThe final solution is for fellow nail techs testing products. Rather than test products on yourself, why not use a practice hand or nail more often? While wear testing has to be done personally, simple application practice can be done on nailtrainer® practice hand, plastic practice fingers, and swatch sticks (I buy mine in large quantities from eBay and they’ve been great so far!).

This question has been raised to me by only one client in the last year, but I feel like I need to be ready to accommodate if a client comes into the salon with this concern.  And, perhaps more urgently, I need to protect my own skin, as it is perhaps exposed to chemicals and UV rays at a higher rate than the average user. And, if the additional UV ray exposure is not in fact not harmful, then we have been overly cautious with easy solutions – no harm done!

Are you a nail tech with other solutions for this issue? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Tried a New Workout: STRONG by Zumba®

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It’s been a few months since we’ve had a post on a health or fitness topic, so I thought now would be a good time to share information about my experience with STRONG by Zumba®. You’ve likely heard of and maybe even tried the Zumba program.  I started taking Zumba classes somewhere around 2010, long after the craze had hit. We had an awesome instructor and I loved the class, but have since moved on to functional fitness classes.  Since then I’ve sampled various Zumba classes and even became certified to teach Zumba in 2017.  Zumba classes are a fun, upbeat break from the norm and, even if you usually don’t like aerobics classes, you’ll probably like Zumba.

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STRONG® seems to be Zumba’s attempt at fitting in with the functional fitness “bootcamp” style classes that are popular now.  The moves include squats, lunges, pushups, planks and burpees (yes, the dreaded burpee!!) to the latin and hip-hop  rhythms you’ve become accustomed to in Zumba classes.

The class involves a warm up of approximately 5 minutes before diving into about 20-25 minutes of HIIT routines in which each movement is synced to the beat of the music. This is not a dance aerobics class, though. The movements are functional and plyometric, with a few calisthenics and cardio kickboxing moves thrown in for variety. Follow that with about 10 minutes of arm and core-focused work on the mat, like planks, mountain climbers, and several ab-specific exercises, then a few minutes to cool down and light stretch.  Class structure flows in the familiar pattern of most aerobics classes, but with more exciting moves and music to keep you focused. If you enjoy workouts driven by the beat of the music, this may be the class for you.

Here’s the catch: This is a fairly intense workout.  While most of the class seemed only moderately intense to me, the arms and core segment became briefly challenging for me in a couple sections.  I took this class once a week for six weeks. By the last two classes I was the only student left, out of several who had signed on to try this new class. My instructor was happy to show progressions and regressions for all the movements as needed, but it seems that most people dropped out, perhaps due to the challenging nature of the class. (It does not have to be this way. Your instructor is trained to incorporate movements for all fitness levels into the class, so don’t be intimidated if you are just starting out!)

This class is not only demanding for your cardiorespiratory system, but it incorporates body weight training, which is effective and recommended for general good health. Interested in finding out more? Check out a sample workout on the STRONG by Zumba YouTube channel.

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Like most franchised workouts,  STRONG by Zumba® has a DVD series available for those that can’t make it to class or prefer at-home workouts. I recommend the live class if you can make it, though, where the instructor can help you with form as needed, which is so important for healthy joints and injury prevention!

Note that I’m no longer certified to teach Zumba (I did not renew my certification) and have no affiliation with the company. I’m just interested in health and fitness, trying new workouts, and helping others find workouts they love! 

Have you tried any Zumba classes or DVD workouts? What did you think of them? Let us hear about it in the comments!

#NakedNails – Week 1

This week Smoke & Mirrors is joining the movement promoting the beauty of natural nails! I decided it was time for a fresh start, and so cut my free edge away, down to the nail bed about a week ago. Here’s a photo of the growth so far.

S&M 20 March 2018

As you can see, my natural nails are healthy overall but dinged, even pitted, in a couple spots from filing enhancements. And, thanks to the resurgence of winter, my cuticles are dry and ragged this week.


I’ll be taking advantage of this re-growing time by reviewing a new-to-me line of products called Miracle Gel by Sally Hansen.


The Sally Hansen brand offers a ton of interesting products for home users that I would love to test, but I’m not made of money so I chose to test the product that I’ve heard the most buzz about amongst DIYers over the past year or two.  Sally Hansen calls this “life-proof polish”, a gel polish with “No UV lamp required.” They say it’s “The next best thing to a salon gel manicure that you can do at home.” I say, let’s find out! I’ll be comparing Miracle Gel to my tried-and-true Gelish, in an effort to help you decide which is the best bang for your buck.

There are several Miracle Gel reviews available online, but here at Smoke & Mirrors you’ll find different information – I’ll not only test the product application and results from the perspective of a professional nail tech, but also analyze how well the product will protect natural nails as they grow out. Because long, healthy natural nails are what we want, right?

I’d also like to answer any questions you have about this product. So please leave me a comment or a question you’d like answered!

Tried a New Workout: Walk 15® live class

I rarely post about fitness topics on this blog anymore, but in honor of new year’s resolution season I thought I’d let you know about a great new workout I tried recently. It’s called Walk 15®, and it’s the brainchild of Leslie Sansone, who you may know from her popular Walk At Home® workouts on VHS, DVD, and now YouTube.  The program started a couple years ago and you can now find classes in most states. (Group fitness instructors can find out more information about becoming an instructor on the W15 website.)

Walk 15 is a live indoor class in which you walk one mile in 15 minutes. The classes are run in 15 minute segments, and the one I took was about 50 minutes long. We aimed to walk about three miles with a few minutes to warm up and cool down added on.

I took these classes twice a week for six weeks. The classes included not only walking but also some band exercises for the arms and legs, and some standing ab exercises. Honestly, none of it was nearly as hard as my regular workouts, but it seems ideal for athletes who don’t want to take a day off from working out and need a lighter workout. (I also highly recommend restorative yoga for those “off” days!) There were women of all ages in my class, and people of all ability levels are welcome. My instructor was happy to show progressions and regressions for all the movements as needed.

If you are:

  • just starting out on your fitness journey
  • looking to add to your current fitness routine
  • bored of treadmill walks
  • searching for a simple, yet effective aerobic workout without a lot of choreography
  • in need of a fun way to workout indoors after dark or during the winter
  • an athlete looking for a light workout for your “rest day”
  • recovering from illness or injury

…then this class might be for you.

After the six weeks I dropped this class due some scheduling difficulties (the classes were only in the evening, as this is the most convenient time for a lot of people). However, I’d love to get back into it. In a perfect world I’d be doing this when it’s too cold or dark outside to get my steps. Ideally I’d do it at lunchtime, as a nice break from desk work, or at the end of the work day, to loosen up before going home for possibly more sitting.

Finally, let’s recognize that walking is the ultimate exercise. Athletes and weekend warriors are probably laughing at me for saying that, but think about it – walking is the foundation of our movements from the time we are one year old until we are elderly. Walking is great for everyone – young, old, fit (it’s a great restorative workout for an active rest day), unfit (what better place to start on your fitness journey than with this useful and time-efficient exercise?), men and women. It’s a natural motion that’s easier on the joints than running, and improves cardiovascular fitness almost as well. The AHA found that “…mile for mile, brisk walking lowers the risk for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure as much as running does.

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Whatever you do, please walk more throughout your day. If you can’t make it to a Walk 15 live class, here are other FREE resources for getting your walk in at home:

  • Leslie Sansone walking videos on YouTube
  • Jessica Smith TV walking workout videos on YouTube
  • WalkingOnlineWorkouts is unique because they offer walking workouts with great music and cool scenery (you can sample parts of the workouts on their YouTube channel, or buy the full video on their website)
  • If the weather is nice and it’s safe to do so, there’s nothing better than a refreshing walk outside…
  • Or, just stand up and walk during your favorite TV shows. You’ll get in a half hour of walking that way!

And Leslie Sansone also has:

  • An app called Your Daily Walk, which is pretty cool because it has a calendar that dictates which of the walking workouts you should do each day
  • Miracle Miles walking workouts on DVD, for those who don’t want to use a streaming service

Have you tried any of the Leslie Sansone workouts? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: The Blue Zones Solution


In The Blue Zones Solution author Dan Buettner outlines 9 common lifestyle denominators among the populations with greatest average longevity:

  1. move naturally
  2. sense of purpose
  3. have a routine to de-stress
  4. stop eating at 80% full
  5. 1-2 glasses of wine/day
  6. social circle which supports healthy behaviors
  7. eat lots of plants with beans as foundation; meat only once or twice peer week
  8. faith-based community
  9. loved ones come 1st

Then the author goes on to describe the diets of these populations, from which he extracts a list of what he calls “longevity foods”.  Here’s a list of what I saw that they had in common:

They eat mostly vegetables & fruits, including lots of beans:

  • greens, seaweed
  • potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams
  • black-eyed peas, chickpeas, black beans
  • lemons, tomatoes, papayas, bananas
  • mushrooms
  • fennel
  • almonds, nuts
  • avocados
  • squash

They eat whole grains, such as:

  • brown rice
  • barley
  • oatmeal
  • maize nixtamal
  • whole wheat bread
  • flat bread (from durum wheat)

Their diet also includes fermented foods like:

  • sourdough bread
  • wine

They don’t drink soda!! Instead they drink:

  • H20
  • coffee
  • goat’s/sheep’s milk
  • green tea
  • soy milk

White sugar is not their primary sweetener. Instead they eat:

  • honey

… and use lots of spices like:

  • garlic
  • turmeric
  • black pepper
  • mediterranean herbs

And they do not cook with Crisco, but they do use olive oil.



In case you’re wondering, the “blue zones” are:

  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Okinawa, Japan: 
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  • Icaria, Greece

In summary, these people move throughout the day as they work, rather than sit all day then work out for an hour at best (#1 above).  They avoid processed foods, eat plant-based diet, and they don’t over-eat (#s 4 & 7). And they prioritize their own mental health (#s 2, 3 & 5) as well as their sense of community (#s 6, 8 & 9).

The author also includes recipes that include the superfoods listed above, if you want to incorporate more of these into your diet. Overall this is one of the more insteresting books about diet that I have read because it’s grounded in real life, not just lab results and number crunching.  I recommend this book if you find such reasoning persuasive, and if you’re interested in how other cultures eat and live.  If you want to know more about the Blue Zones project, you can check out


Book Review: Get the Trans Fat Out


I picked up this book on a whim a couple months ago because I was interested in learning more about trans fat vs. saturated fat. According to author Suzanne Havala Hobbs, Trans fat is simply hydrogen + vegetable oil. Main sources are “partially hydrogenated” oils… look for them in the ingredient lists of processed foods!

Trans fat raises blood LDL and lowers HDL, as well as causing general inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. So obviously we want to avoid this stuff!  Limit your processed foods because Trans Fat is mostly found in vegetable shortening (Crisco, anyone?), fast food, and commercial baked good.  Actually, it has been determined that there is no safe level of trans fat intake, so stay away from this stuff as much as possible by eating meals prepared at home.

Overall, this book was helpful but keep in mind that it was written over 10 years ago, so there is information about saturated fats that some experts now disagree with (which is why I have not included it in this review). But the sections about trans fat contain useful information and tips to help you avoid this harmful ingredient.

Book Review: Superhealth


In Superhealth, author Steven Pratt, MD focuses mostly on how what you eat affects your health, while also touching on the big picture of health by including sleep, exercise, supplementation, etc.  Dr. Pratt discuses the diseases that modern, first-world man faces, such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke, to lay the foundation for his pro-healthy diet and exercise plan arguments. He includes a helpful, albeit upside-down, SuperHealth Food Pyramid, which summarizes his diet plan from sweets at the bottom triangle to fruits and veggies at the top quadrilaterals.

The main thrust of the book is Dr. Pratt’s six week/six step plan that the reader can use to re-vamp their diet and lifestyle week-by-week. Step 1 is to bring out the best in your genes by incorporating more omega-3s, vitamin D and resveratrol into  your diet.  Step 2 is to detox your body by eating naturally detoxifying foods and avoiding environmental toxins.  Step 3 is the step that most people jump to first- the diet and exercise part.  Dr Pratt recommends consuming more vegetables and whole grains along with some mild but consistent exercise.  Step 4 ties in nicely with Step 3, explaining what you can eat to control inflammation.  It seems that steps 5 and 6 would more advanced steps for people just starting out on their new lifestyle plan, as they cover foods you can eat to improve appearance and preserve your brain and your senses.

The final sections of this book serve as a handy reference guide for the reader as they transition into a healthier lifestyle, such as a daily planner and food lists.

Overall I think this book was well-written and helpful as a guide for those starting out, as well as those needing more encouragement on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The layout makes sense for the logically-minded types who would like a week-by-week plan, but I believe the length of each Step could be tailored to the reader’s needs.    The information provided in the book is well-researched but likely nothing the well-informed reader hasn’t heard before. Therefore, I’d recommend this book for those beginning to be interested improving their health through lifestyle change, who are ready to make steady progress week-by-week and would like a guide to spell it out for them.

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