After a person requests to get acrylic nails from senior Lilly Sanchez, he/she is invited to her house, or she may go to his/hers. She takes out her supplies, consisting of Mia Secret acrylic powder and glue, a Kolinsky brush, a dappen dish to hold the acrylic monomer and a UV light. Sanchez starts off by placing the false nails, applying the acrylic after filing and then shaping it with an E file. What sets her apart from others is that her customers leave without paying a penny.
According to Sanchez, she does this for fun and sees it as an inexpensive way for people both in and out of her community to get their nails done in a variety of patterns and colors. Beginning her passion for acrylic nails when she was 13, Sanchez says that running her acrylic nail service completely free of charge was inspired by a rebuttal against the price in which salons were charging her.
“It’s really hard for me to work while going to school, so it’s hard to make up the money to pay for [salon acrylics],” she said. “ They were about $55 to $65 on regular sets, not even with diamonds or anything like that. Eventually I figured, ‘Why not try [making them myself] if I’m really interested in in them?’”
Sanchez spends around $50 to $100 each time she buys acrylic nail supplies. If she cannot fund for her supplies using her work salary alone, she may use money from dog walking or saving up as a backup.
“I technically do lose money because I constantly use my products,” she said. “Eventually I will start charging and raising my prices as I get better. I’ll get back my money’s worth, so in the end losing the money at first will be worth it.”
One of Sanchez’s favorite things about running her acrylic nail service is getting to meet new people. This experience allowed her to make many connections with people she would not have normally interacted with before.
“A lot of the times, the new relationships I make are through friends that have referred me to friends, who referred me to other friends,” she said. “Those people help me by posting my work on social media.”
Sanchez learned how to do acrylic nails through Youtube videos and observing the different techniques they use, she said. From these videos, she takes into consideration what products are good and what to avoid.
“I actually love just learning about how to apply the application smoothly and trying new things like blending colors or adding gems or designs to them,” she said.
Having done acrylic nails for up to 25 people, Sanchez considers herself to be quite knowledgeable on the subject. That being said, she is open to learning.
“I like when people give me good criticism or even bad criticism,” she said. “They tell me, ‘Oh, this is something you could do better next time,’ or ‘You did really good on this,’ so I know what to keep doing and what to fix.”
Sanchez offers designs and patterns involving butterflies, hearts and a variety of colors. Her most requested acrylic nail art design involves iridescent butterflies, which appear to float within the nail itself. This trend works in her favor, as her least favorite technique — blending colors — is not nearly as popular.
“You have to put all the nail polish colors on a makeup sponge,” she said. “You have to get a strong color, so you have to constantly put it on like 10 to 15 times. It takes some time to get the right color.”
Although doing acrylic nails for people is one of Sanchez’s main hobbies, she does not see herself pursuing it as a full-time career. Instead, she plans on becoming a nurse and wants to use her acrylic nail business as a way to generate money for college.
“It’s really hard for people to afford [salon-quality] acrylic nails, so I mainly started doing this to help people not pay as much money,” she said. “I might go to a nail salon and rent out a chair when I’m in college, or I may just stay home and figure it out.”