Nail It! Get Hands On Tips From A Pro

Naomi Gonzalez-Longstaff is a modern day renaissance woman: multi-faceted, diverse and dynamic. Celebrity nail artist is not her only esteemed title, but one of many.
As an industry leader, Naomi has worked across the US and UK, leading nail teams backstage at fashion weeks, creative directing nail art for huge campaigns and working with top brands like Zoya, Essie, The Body Shop and CND. Since kicking off her career in 2009, she has worked with the likes of Shakira for Super Bowl LIV, Serena Williams, Marchesa and Ralph Lauren.

Naomi has been the house manicurist for high-profile salons like  Sally Hershberger Tim Rogers Salon and Serge Normant at John Frieda in NYC whilst balancing a demanding editorial, celebrity and fashion design week schedule. These experiences led her to launch her own polish line, NAOMI Nail Lacquer, which features a curated collection of vegan-friendly nude polishes for every skin tone. This busy pro took time out to talk to Right On! Digital’s Cynthia Horner about do’s and don’ts, current nail trends and how to keep your nails healthy.


Q: How did you first become a nail technician and what were some of your hobbies that you used to have that you may have incorporated into your work?

A: Entering the nail industry was a complete 180* change for me. In 2008, I was in the midst of my Master’s Degree from the University of Central Florida and in my dream job as an urban planner for a non-profit where I worked in a rural area community management, water purification systems, and nutrition programs for a remote village (like no roads, no water, no electricity). I lost this position and said, “if I am going need to work, I want to do it for me.” I love beauty and fashion, and said to myself what was the quickest and most affordable way in, since I was still completing my degree and remembered how much I loved getting my nails done. Lightbulb moment! I decided to go to nail school and be a licensed manicurist. I found a school on a Monday, registered on Tuesday, and began on Wednesday, August 2008, and have been in this industry ever since. All my design skills have come into play for this job. In addition to my love of color, architecture and geometric designs, being able to talk and relate to people from my hobby of Salsa dancing, really came into play in my work.

Naomi Gonzalez-Longstaff courtesy NAOMI


 Q: What are your favorite services to provide?

A: My absolute most favorite service to provide are pedicures. I love transformations and when you have a client sit in your chair for a pedi, they are not only wanting clean feet but are automatically transported into a state of relaxation and the service then becomes about making your client feel most at ease. I love to really sculpt and shape toe nails, clean cuticles and massage legs and feet. If someone comes with a missing toe nail, I love the challenge of reconstructing them! And when all the cleaning and services is done and polish is applied you see your client’s face go from relaxed to excited.


Q: What has changed for your profession with the Pandemic?

A: One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is how we are booking appointments. We used to be able to book two clients at the same time. For example, one is a natural mani and the other a gel removal (it takes 10-15 mins to remove a gel polish), so while one is prepped for the gel removal, you can complete a natural mani. Now we have to adhere to regulations to safeguard ourselves and others. Another change is allowing in the booking time, enough time for even more sanitation of chairs, pedicure bowls, implements and workstation. In our field, we already sanitize to the maximum per state regulations; now we are taking those practices to the next level such as, extra sanitation time of tools and cleaning of soft spot areas (think under the chair) so it’s adding 10-15 mins extra per appointment. Additionally, I am a celebrity manicurist and split time between NYC, Miami and London (I live in both countries). Productions are limiting the amount of people on set and or just having a manicurist for a touch and go, versus staying on set all day. So COVID-19 has totally changed up bookings.

Courtesy Naomi

Q: With the Pandemic many of us wound up with nail issues.  Some of us are still not going to salons, so what advice do you have about upkeep?

A: I love this question! It was my number one most asked about during lockdown. Women faced the following nail emergencies like how do I remove my gels and acrylic nail enhancements? I would get photos of nails after the yanking, pulling, and even biting off of these materials from their nail beds; it was so painful to see! One of my biggest tips is always use cuticle oil! Consider cuticle oil the conditioner of nails. A good cuticle oil will not only hydrate nails but also repair and help stimulate nail growth. This is a must for everyone, especially the self-home manicurist. Another tip is to use a good file with a grit (the rough part of the file) between 180-240; this will ensure the file isn’t too harsh for natural nails and prevent further splitting and peeling. And lastly, a sound base coat if you’re returning to natural nails from any enhancement service. Basecoats have different formulations, so find one that is an all-in-one, meaning it strengthens, conditions, protects and restores! If it has a light tint, even better and it can have multiuse. I also tell clients to use hand and foot masks as an added at home treat! I love these as it can be such a fun and quick pick me up.

Q: What are some of the nail trends that have developed over the past couple of years? Are there any that don’t appear to be that popular anymore?

A: Acrylic and hard gel nail enhancements have made a comeback after the “gel polish generation.” But I am not talking nail tip, I am talking custom sculpted nails. This is a highly skilled talent since it’s not just slapping product to the nail and shaping. This is understating mix ratios, a client’s cuticle shape, their C-curve, and creating  a gorgeous nail that will complement their fingers and personality. Some companies such as Apres Gel X have innovated this service by developing tips you can add product to, cure under an LED light and remove the tip to find a full nail. All you do is shape, polish, and hydrate (cuticle oil) and viola, you have length!

Q: Tell us about your products, NAOMI.

A: There was a huge missing piece in the nail market where I would find myself dealing with on a constant basis which was finding the perfect nude color for all skin tones. You can see me backstage with designers and on set blending pigments and colors to get the perfect nude polish. It was a challenge to find nude from rosy tones skin to my ebony models. Latina skin as well was challenging. I just couldn’t find one. So, I developed my line of couture vegan nail lacquer called NAOMI. I have 6 colors, a nail elixir base coat, my sold out nail shield top coat and sweet almond cuticle oil. We are introducing two new colors for the fall. The technology of these lacquers is that it’s easy to apply (brush fans out to cover entire nail) and all you need is one coat! It’s a vegan formulation, so we produce in small batches literally from lab to your dressing table (think farm to table model) with a shelf life of 24 months. I love the collection I’ve developed because it’s been so needed. I call my colors “the little black dress of nails.” Our motto, “Be Bold, Go Nude,” is a definite shoutout to the many women wanting these colors and finally getting them!

 Q: Is there a difference in the type of services that younger people use as opposed to older?  What about male clients?

A: I don’t think there is a difference service per se, but more about color options. Younger clients love bold and vibrant and embellished lengths. They love neon, glitters, and tons of prints. Older clients tend to go for more traditional colors such as nudes, red, black or a classic French. They tend to keep nails shorter or more active length due to lifestyle (work, family, etc). Male clients tend to keep nails short, trimmed, and love a nice shiny buff or a clear top coat to complete their service.

Editor’s Note: We think Naomi nailed it, what about you?  Visit her on Instagram @nailingwithnaomi and @naomilacquer