It's well known a trip to the hairdressers is like a visit to a confession booth. Before you can say, "just an inch off today", you're spilling your secrets and revealing your darkest thoughts. We've also come to accept the positive benefits beauty treatments can have on our mental wellbeing, but is it deeper than just the feel good factor? Could visiting a nail salon be the therapy you need?
According to a report by Fresha, a booking software system for the beauty and wellness industry, nail appointments are proving to be worth their weight in gold. It's research found that two out of three of us believe a good manicure has a positive impact on our mental wellbeing, both physically and emotionally.
"The pandemic spurred on a new age for beauty, where wellness plays a more pivotal role," says Rebecca Hitchon, senior news and feature writer at Scratch Magazine, a dedicated nail industry publication. "With nail and beauty salons closed during this time, consumers missed how these experiences enriched their lives and self-confidence, and we're now seeing salons thriving on high streets and professional services held in higher esteem." At a time when the high street is suffering, with retailers seemingly closing daily, the value of beauty salons is being recognised.
"For some people, I know it can be the only place they feel comfortable to open up, so it really can be a lifeline in tough times."
Interestingly the report also found that it's not just women who are benefiting from the support of their bi-monthly nail appointments. "The findings from Fresha revealed 52 per cent of men support their mental wellbeing via beauty experiences too," says Hitchon. "So it's important to see wellness as a universal priority - not just solely focused on women."
While beauty treatments may be seen as superficial by some, there is a growing revolution that deems these as essential appointments of self-care, moments to step away from the daily grind, and offload to someone outside of your close circle of friends and family. "A nail appointment is so much more than beauty maintenance," Rebecca Bolton, CEO of The B Collection, tells POPSUGAR UK. "For some people, I know it can be the only place they feel comfortable to open up, so it really can be a lifeline in tough times."
Jodie Saunders, a beauty therapist, agrees. "Over my career I have heard it all. From early pregnancy announcements to gender reassignments, my clients know I don't judge and what is said in the beauty room stays in the beauty room," she tells POPSUGAR.
But why do we feel so willing to bare our soul during a cuticle trim? "Research has recently shown that getting a manicure promotes feelings of relaxation," Jade Thomas, Psychotherapist and Founder of Luxe Psychology Practice tells POPSUGAR. "Taking the time out of your hectic day or week to pamper yourself can help to reduce stress levels."
It is this feeling of relaxation that allows us to open up. "From the moment they enter the room to the moment they leave, I sense a weight is always lifted," says Julia Diogo, Bio Sculpture nail artist "Whether it's feeling good about yourself, chatting through everything in your life, or even just having an hour of your day dedicated to 'me' time."
There is also the breaking of physical barriers that can lead to us divulging struggles. "When you're holding on to a client's hands for an hour or more you feel close to them," says Michelle Class, Celebrity Nail Technician and Sally Hansen Ambassador. "It is this intimate connection that helps the client to feel safe and comfortable to naturally off load."
But does it actually help? "Talking and sharing your problems can provide emotional relief," says Thomas. "Talking to someone outside of the situation may help you to find a solution to the problem, or may help you seek validation or understanding of your feelings." If you're more of a sit-still-and-zone-out type then fear not. Even if you prefer to sit in silence during your appointments it doesn't mean you still can't reap the benefits from a fresh set of tips. "A beauty treatment can produce dopamine in the brain (the feel good hormone) as when we look our best physically, this can also help us to feel our best psychologically as we feel more confident," explains Thomas.
"The power of a fresh set of nails is underrated," Bolton adds. "It definitely helps to make you feel empowered."
"Talking to someone outside of the situation may help you to find a solution to the problem, or may help you seek validation or understanding of your feelings."
Like dopamine dressing, the idea that certain clothes and colours can boost your mood, the same applies for the nail colours you choose, especially if you want to boost your mental wellbeing to the maximum. "Choosing a colours which resonates positively with you is a great place to start," says Class. Try picking based on what you need that month, too. "Vibrant hues when you need a boost or soothing tones to enhance your mood can help. Always choose something that makes you feel good."
You may opt to try the red nail theory. "It's the theory that suggests wearing red promotes empowerment and signals to others you are strong and confident and reliable," says Class. A bright, true red like Sally Hansen Off With Her Red (£10), works for all skin tones and screams confidence – try it if you need a boost or want to feel capable.
If you need to restore some balance in your life opt for a warm nude hue like Rimmel's Super Gel Nail Polish in Shamelessly (£7). It goes with everything so it's ideal if you're feeling indecisive and overwhelmed. Another calming hue is a mint green, like the Nailsberry L'Oygen Nail Laquer in Fresh Mint (£15). It's ideal for bringing your emotions in check if you're feeling out of sorts. It can also give you a little boost on the days you need extra support.
For those in need of a real dopamine hit, there's nothing quite like a bright orange. We can't get enough of Nails Inc Walker Court Nail Polish (£11). This neon hue will brighten up your day and give you all the good hormone feels every time you catch a glance of it. If nail art is more you thing, there's a whole load of Easter nail art ideas to get you feeling ready for spring.
Whatever you choose, never underestimate the power of a nail appointment. Yes, your cuticles will be oiled and your polish unchipped, but there's a whole lot more you can gain from the humble hour-long check-in. And your nail technician will be ready to chat it all through.