Nail techs share why they enter nail competitions and how it's helped their careers

Published 02nd Jan 2024 by Kezia Parkins

PB London 2024 is fast approaching. If you’re unsure if you want to enter the nail competitions, keep reading to discover how these three nail techs have been using competitions to hone their skills and boost their careers.

Pictured: Gemma Mc Carthy and her winning trophy at PB North 2022

Weighing in on the conversation we have Danielle Brindley, independent nail tech from Staffordshire, Shelley Laxminarayan, nail tech and educator from Holland, and Gemma McCarthy, nail tech and owner of Gemini Beauty salon in Dublin.  

How has entering nail competitions boosted your career? 

Danielle Brindley: For me the biggest boost has been mental. Working towards competitions has allowed me to give myself permission to be creative.

The process is my relaxation and meditation time. It has numerous mental health benefits for me as I have ADHD and find it difficult to quieten my mind and struggle to sit still. But, while I am creating my art I feel at peace.

Read more about Danielle's ADHD superpowers and struggles as a nail tech... 

Gemma McCarthy: It has introduced me to people I would have never met and helped me make connections throughout the industry. 

It forces me to continue learning and exposes me to new ways of creating the best nails. Competing has kept me on my toes and up to date with the latest nail art trends. I take these back to my salon, which my clients love.

The pressures of competing and the time restrictions mean I can work under pressure and maintain a high standard, which is essential for running a business. The more recognition I receive from competitions and awards, the more my name in the industry will grow. Over the last few months, my clientele has grown even further as a result.


Shelley Laxminarayan: Entering competitions has certainly boosted my career. They put you in the spotlight and get your name out there – especially if you win medals or awards. People find you on social media and if they can see that you won medals that shows your work is great quality so they are more likely to choose you over somebody else.

Why did you first start entering nail competitions?

GM: Back in 2015, I had been a nail tech in a salon for just under a year and had very little confidence. Two girls I worked with, who had previously entered competitions, pushed me to enter in the hope that it would give me a boost.

I was completely out of my comfort zone but decided to just have fun with it. I realised I had so much more to gain than lose.

It was at PB Ireland show in Dublin in collaboration with VTCT. I competed in the competition style pink and white category as well as the everyday extensions category at novice level. I was thrilled to place fourth in competition style and first in everyday extensions. Despite it being overwhelming, I caught the competition bug immediately.

Since then, I have entered a number of Professional Beauty competitions but I took a break from competing to start my own business, Gemini Beauty. In July 2022 I signed up for the Katie Barnes competition masterclass – she has helped me grow so much and the love for competing came flooding back. I competed in PB North and won in the 'Gel Polish' category.

The Professional Beauty Nail Competitions have been a great place to start. In March, I am scheduled to compete at PB London and following that my aim is to compete at more PB competitions this year.

DM: I had been toying with the idea of competing for years but I didn’t think I was good enough and wasn’t sure which category to enter. 

Last Easter, I posted some festive rabbit nails on my Instagram and Scratch commented saying I should enter their awards.

I entered because I wanted to push myself and boost my confidence. I won the Scratch "Polish & Paint Nail Artist" award in 2022 and later I won the "Catwalk Showcase" in the "Mythical Creatures" category at the PB North, as well as bronze in the photo competition.


SL: I first competed in 2019, in "The Nail Battle," a competition in Holland organised by Dutch company Pika Nails in their "Gel Polish" category and came third.

I fell in love with competing and since then I have entered more than 20 nail competitions, often as part of a team, and have reached the top three almost every time, which I am really proud of.

What do you love about entering nail competitions? 

DB: Competing in front of judges was terrifying but exhilarating. I pushed myself in so many ways and proved what I was capable of. Plus, meeting all of my nail idols was amazing.

So much advice is shared and the amount of kindness and warmth I have felt from my peers has driven me to be better.

Being given a design brief outside of the regular salon nail stimulates creativity and encourages you to think in new ways by developing new methods or incorporating old ones to create new ideas. You are encouraged to be unique and stand out, and you get feedback on where you can grow.

GM: Competing gives me the fire and drive to keep going. I learn something new every time I compete and have met some amazing people in the industry who have shown me new things and encouraged me. Connecting with like-minded, equally passionate people is a great motivator. 

Although it can be intense with one category after another, every competitor is in the same position and you can laugh with each other.

SL: I love that you have a chance to look at your work with an extra-critical eye, which has really helped me level up. I like to sculpt under pressure and the adrenaline rush that comes with it. 

The first few seconds are intense and I wonder why I keep putting myself through it but then I get into the flow and really start enjoying it. I love being part of a competition team. The cheering, group effort and togetherness is a great feeling.

What is your favourite memory from entering a competition?

DB: The best bit about everything that happened last year has been the connections I made with others in the industry. I feel like I’ve found my family.

GM: One of my favourite memories was competing in Kirsty Meakin’s "Learn a Skill" competition at one of the PB shows. Kirsty works live on stage creating a nail design and competitors are tasked with recreating it while putting our own spin on it. 

I loved this as a challenge as clients come into the salon and ask you to recreate designs every day. Plus the judges give great advice and honest feedback on where you can improve which has been vital for my growth.

Another great memory was placing first in the gel polish category at PB North. After months of preparation and anxiety, I was delighted to get recognition for my work.

SL: My favourite memory is from last year when I entered with a large team from LoveNess – a brand I am an ambassador and educator for. It was such a lovely warm team and I came first in the "Baby Boomer" competition. I was so proud and everyone was cheering - it was like everybody won.

What advice would you give to a nail tech thinking about entering a competition?

DB: I genuinely don’t believe it’s about winning; the whole process is about personal and creative growth.

I always tell my son, he has to believe in himself and that unless he tries he will never know what he is capable of, and I have to practise what I preach… this is the advice I would give to anyone thinking of competing.

GM: Go for it… don’t overthink it. There are categories for everybody, from nail art categories to the standard competition-style nail. I think every nail tech needs to be challenged, especially if you are feeling stuck in your career.

Set aside time to practise as much as you can. Competition training was a huge help for me. It taught me where to start, what to expect and how to manage the expectations of each competition. 

Always read the rules to make sure you understand everything that is required of you. Lastly, and most importantly, enjoy it and have fun – that’s what got me

through my first competition and kept me coming back for more.

SL:  I truly believe that even just entering is already a win because you are showing that you are deciding to grow by looking at your work more critically.

At the end of every competition, even if you didn't win, you will get marked for your work, which allows you to see which areas you need to improve in.

Want to make it as a mobile nail technician? Find out how here.

Kezia Parkins

Kezia Parkins

Published 02nd Jan 2024

Kezia Parkins is the deputy editor of Professional Beauty. She has a background in medical journalism and is also as trained nail tech. As such, she is particularly passionate about all thing nails, as well as the science behind beauty products and treatments. Contact her at [email protected]

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