Nail techs share advice for catering to clients with multiple sclerosis (MS)…

What is MS?

On its website, the NHS states: “Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord. It’s a lifelong condition that can sometimes cause serious disability, although it can occasionally be mild. Depending on the type of MS, symptoms may come and go in phases or get steadily worse over time.” MS is most commonly diagnosed in people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Women are also around two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with the condition than men.

The NHS lists the main symptoms, which can vary from person to person, as:

  • Fatigue.
  • Difficulty walking.
  • Vision problems, such as blurred vision.
  • Problems controlling the bladder.
  • Numbness or tingling in different parts of the body.
  • Muscle stiffness and spasms.
  • Problems with balance and co-ordination.
  • Problems with thinking, learning and planning.

Deborah Bainbridge

“MS sufferers may have sensitivity to temperature, which can cause cramping in the hands or feet when cold. Either temperature extreme can lead to cognitive issues, such as speech or thought processing delays, which require patience from a tech,” says Deborah Bainbridge of Scarlet Damsel Beauty, Birmingham, who has been diagnosed with the condition. “If a client with MS is having a ‘flare up’ on their appointment day, this may mean they are hypersensitive to touch or pressure, and they may present shaky or jerky movements.”

How to cater to the needs of clients with MS

As a client with MS may be sensitive to temperature and pressure, Deborah suggests checking that your nail space itself, and any water used within the client’s treatment, is of a comfortable temperature. Check in with the client regularly throughout the service, and be particularly gentle when removing the cuticle or massaging the hands and feet. “When massaging, it may be beneficial to have a product with extra slip, so there is limited friction,” Deborah notes. Other causes of sensitivity can include the use of chemicals and strong scents, which can smell distorted to those with MS. Therefore, Deborah recommends thoroughly considering the products you use and asking the client what they are happy for you to apply.

She also explains that a symptom of multiple sclerosis can be a lack of full sensitivity – similar to those with diabetes. “Therefore, check that the client has full sensitivity before carrying out heat treatments, such as a foot soak or heated gloves, as if they don’t, they could be burned or scolded,” she says.

Rosie Briggs

Rosie Briggs, CNDTM nail artist & marketing executive at Sweet Squared, agrees that sensitivity issues require extra care when choosing which products to use on a client with MS. “As one of the symptoms of MS can be numbness, I would advise not using overly sharp tools for nail services, such as a cuticle nipper,” she explains. “Err on the side of caution, especially if you usually rasp the feet in your pedicure services.”

Importantly, create a safe space and be open to changing any aspects of the treatment. “Check in with your client throughout the service, and let them know that it’s fine to speak up if they feel uncomfortable,” Rosie continues. She recommends keeping the appointment short, using a system such as CND Shellac™ on natural nails, which takes 45 minutes to one hour. “If the client requires nail enhancements, carve out enough time in your diary for them to have a five or 10-minute break to walk around or stretch,” she recommends.

“It’s important to consider that some MS treatments can make the client immunocompromised, so good hygiene is a must – although this goes without saying,” adds Deborah.

Tech talk: Laura Peat

“During my time as a nail tech, I have met two clients that suffer with MS,” reveals Laura Peat, Lecenté educator. “One client struggled to keep her fingers and toes straight, as they started to curl and bend. I adapted my gel polish service by removing the base of my Lecenté lamp and hovering it over each hand, to ensure each coat of Lecenté Create had a full cure,” she explains. Laura describes how she introduced luxurious elements to the client’s appointments, to make her feel pampered and not excluded due to her condition. “The client loved having a hand and arm massage, as this helped ease her symptoms, so I did this at the beginning of her appointments. I also introduced heated hand mitts at the end, as a final pamper to relax her before she left.

“My other client with MS used a wheelchair, so I introduced wheelchair access and a downstairs room, which was adapted so that she could comfortably visit the premises,” Laura continues. The tech allowed extra time to make the client feel cared for and with help from the client’s sister, who kept her hands steady, Laura was able to create the novelty nail art that she desired. “Communication could sometimes be hard due to the clients’ slurred speech, but I always made eye contact when speaking to her, ensuring her experience was as enjoyable and personal as possible.”

Tech talk: Sophie Donaldson

Lecenté creator, Sophie Donaldson, describes one of her clients, who suffered with MS, as ‘the most important client I have ever worked on’. “Doing her nails felt like so much more than just carrying out a treatment, as it allowed her to feel independent and good about herself. This is when I realised that the role of a nail technician is about more than just painting nails,” she explains.

Sophie details two key considerations when treating clients with MS. The first is to understand that adjustments will need to be made – sometimes differently at every appointment. Being prepared with adjustable stools or chairs, and adding extra time to appointments, can be beneficial. She also notes that most people want as much independence as possible, so you should never assume what a client can or cannot do.

“If you know your client’s speech is affected by MS, I recommend finding ways to communicate with them as an alternative to speech,” Sophie continues. “It might be worth investing in cards that help inspire or choose a nail design, so your client can pick one, rather than trying to communicate if their speech is affected. Having swatches of colours and designs could be similarly useful.”

By Editor