Sylvie MacmillanLondon-based session tech, Sylvie Macmillan, shares an insight into her career, British Beauty Council role, passions and dreams…

Tell us about your journey into the nail industry…

I’ve always loved creating intricate work, and undertook a Technical Arts & Special Effects qualification, primarily focusing on model making. I worked in set design and while I loved this, I wanted to return to small-scale projects. A profession in nails presented itself as a way to combine being on set with the creation of detailed work. Many people thought I was joking when I told them I was switching careers, as I’ve always been more interested in making beautiful things, rather than beautifying myself.

Who did you train with?

Anna Lee of Creative Academy London. She delivers fantastic education and pushed me to aim for perfection.

What do you love about working in the nail industry?

As a session tech, I can use a variety of materials to create effects and work sculpturally, which I really enjoy. There’s also such a caring, therapeutic aspect to being a nail pro, as we hold the hands of our clients and give them our undivided attention.

What does your typical working week involve?

There is no such thing as a typical week for me. Creating nails for the fashion world involves working in different locations with different teams every day. It’s exhausting at times, but I love the variety. In amongst this, I carry out a lot of image and historical research, as it’s vital in fashion to know your references.

Do you have a favourite type of job?

It depends entirely on the team, however I’d say that working within a harmonious group backstage at a runway show is one of my greatest joys. I come away beaming with pride for everyone after each show.

What’s your favourite nail creation?

Either extreme red thumb nails wrapped around a steering wheel for Altered States magazine, shot by Anton Gottlob, or crystal peep toes I created for Buffalo Zine, which were shot by Max Siedentopf.

sylvie macmillan fave creations

What are your go-to products?

Opi Nl Do You Sea What I Sea

OPI Nail Lacquer in Do You Sea What I Sea?

The Le Labo Hinoki Hand Lotion smells wonderful, and I’m obsessed with the 111SKIN Black Diamond Hand Cream. All profits from its sale go to Women for Women International, a charity for female survivors of war. I also love the Mii Cosmetics Neat + Tidy Cuticle Nippers, La Base base coat from Chanel and Weleda Foot Balm. My favourite nail colour, which I wear on my toes pretty much year-round, is Do You Sea What I Sea? by OPI. It’s a bright jewelled blue that seems to complement every outfit.

How do you wear your own nails?

During fashion month, I keep my nails short and natural, so I can use my hands to test looks and because I have no time for upkeep. My nails are naturally quite strong, so I grow them the rest of the time. I love to create an opal or pearly finish by mixing a milky gel, like CND PLEXIGELTM Builder Gel in Porcelain, with glitter flakes. The effect looks great with jewellery.

Cnd 2024 Plexigel Bottle Porcelain

CND PLEXIGEL Builder Gel in Porcelain

How would you describe your style and personality?

I prioritise comfort, so have an ‘all or nothing’ attitude when it comes to being glam. Personality wise, I’m open with how I feel – my face is very readable. I operate on a ‘kindness over niceness’ policy and think that if you truly care about people, you can be genuine with them. Aside from that, I’m goofy and have a terrible cackle!

What principles do you live by?

I think that society has become increasingly obsessed with the self: working on ourselves and trying to find solutions from within, but I believe you can’t solve a crisis without community. Reaching out and looking beyond the self is vital. I also think it’s important to be kind and honest, to work hard and adapt.

What are your hobbies outside of nails?

I have found a passion for fitness lately. Being a nail tech can cause bad posture, so I’m combatting that with stretching and getting stronger. I also love cooking, as well as being creative with crafts, and have recently made a lamp shade.

What is your biggest career achievement?

Getting paid to do a job that I find rewarding. I can’t name one achievement, because each job and accolade feeds the next.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?

‘You should really be a nail tech,’ which was said to me by Anna Lee. I’m also very lucky to have fellow session nail stylist, Ama Quashie, as a friend. If I’m having a work crisis, she is always reasonable and supportive. In an industry that can make you doubt yourself, it’s important to be there for one another.


Inspired by Michelangelo’s David statue, Sylvie sculpted broken fragments and painted using Off-White nail polish.

How does it feel to be appointed to the British Beauty Council (BBCo) advisory board?

I feel so honoured, and it’s such a great reminder to keep pushing forward in my career. I sometimes wonder if what I do isn’t noticed, so I appreciate being validated – and being among industry legends.

What does your BBCo role entail?

It’s early days, but I’m focusing on research within the nail industry. I’m as interested (if not more) in society as I am in nails, so I’ll be bringing a human aspect to figures and findings.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenges to the nail industry?

There are so many, which I see when I work with assistants during shows. They’re fighting all sorts of prejudice and false information, as well as a cost of living crisis and a social media vortex, which can cause some to hustle in detrimental ways. It is tough, and I worry that we’re losing the value of word of mouth.

What are your hopes for the future of the nail industry?

I want there to be more respect for the nail industry. It’s a gargantuan sector that adds so much value to a photo shoot or client’s life, yet it’s often regarded as a side hustle or hobby.

What are your career ambitions?

I have many ideas for a product line, so that would be great to launch in future. I think my main ambition is to never coast; I want to learn and grow.

Follow Sylvie on Instagram here.

By Editor