Lover of detailed, hand-painted nail designs, Wolverhampton-based Yasmin Hodge of Gels by Yas takes a stand against the stigma she’s faced as a disabled nail tech, opening up about her experiences in the industry.

Regularly painting her own nails with polish or getting her nails done professionally, Yas decided to train in nails in 2021 in order to use her skills to help others unwind, while also diverting her attention from her chronic pain. “I always found getting my nails done and doing my nails relaxing and therapeutic, even when I was having a chronic pain flare-up, and decided to pursue nails as a career during lockdown.

“Due to my health conditions, such as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Chronic Muscular Skeletal Syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, I had to be careful I didn’t catch Covid, so I would spend hours playing around with numerous nail art techniques and I did a lot of research into the theory side of nails.”

“When Covid restrictions eased, I qualified in manicure, gel polish and pedicure,” she recalls. “A few months after qualifying, I decided to qualify in gel extensions, which also meant I had to train in e-file. As a result of my pain conditions, training in e-file has helped my hands and wrists massively.

“I absolutely love nail art. I love trying different techniques, but hand-drawn nail art is my go-to style. I love using my 7mm nail fine liner brushes and working small. When I’m creating nail art, I rarely notice my pain levels because I’m focusing on my work. I enjoy challenging sets and being as creative as possible, and anything pink and glitter!”

“I absolutely love pampering my clients and making them feel relaxed.”

“I source inspiration from anywhere and everywhere,” Yas laughs. “I use Pinterest and Instagram daily to save sets to use for inspiration. I also get inspiration from clothes when shopping.

“Sometimes, when I can’t sleep due to my health conditions, I lie awake, planning sets in my head. I also use Scratch’s Calendar Girl page each month to create some timely nail art designs.”

“I love how the majority of the time, the industry is so supportive,” she says. “There’s nail technicians I don’t know and have never met, but still support me daily by commenting and sharing my posts.

“I like that two nail technicians could do the same same set, yet they look so different, due to each tech having their own style. I think it makes the industry unique.”

“During my short time in the industry, I’ve found that there is still a stigma around disabilities. I’ve found that some salons don’t want to hire anyone who is disabled, and even self-employed situations within salons are hard to come by when disabled.

“I would love for there to be more recognition and awareness around disabled nail technicians,” Yas notes. “Just because somebody is disabled, doesn’t mean that they’re not able to do the job they love, and I know that my health conditions and disabilities don’t mean I can’t do my job well.”

“When I first qualified in gel extensions, I really struggled hand filing and refining, due to the pain it caused to flare in my wrists and arms. To overcome this, I decided to train in e-file. This helped me loads as it wasn’t as exhausting and wasn’t causing more strain on my body.

“I’m very open about my disabilities and health problems when enquiring to rent. I ask if the space available is on the ground floor, as sometimes, during a flare-up, I have to use crutches so I need an accessible space. However, it has led to people thinking I’m unreliable, which isn’t the case,” she shares. “I want the stigma to change for other techs, and myself. I’d love to work with companies and find an accessible place to rent.”

“I am hoping, by raising awareness of disabilities, it’ll help to open up some exciting opportunities for me.”

“I was in utter shock when Scratch asked to feature my Commonwealth Game nails in their December 2022 issue. I also won Battle of the Nail Technicians – Valentines Edition in February 2023, which shocked me, as there was so many amazing entries.

“I would love to have my own salon premises one day – full of pink and glitter! I would also like to then employ people or offer self employed positions and create a supportive community.”

“For any aspiring nail technicians with disabilities, the advice I would give is to not be scared! Just because you’re disabled, doesn’t make you any less of a nail technician than somebody else.

“Remember that you can do it,” encourages Yas. “Grab every opportunity you can, and don’t feel embarrassed of your disabilities.”

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By Editor