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Morgan A. Dixon of M.A.D. Nails shares tips and tricks to improve your manicure 

Elaborate designs turn manicures into works of art

click to enlarge A manicure by M.A.D. Nails, like this one, involves intricate designs and embellishments.
  • A manicure by M.A.D. Nails, like this one, involves intricate designs and embellishments.

from high-fashion runways to celebrity Instagram accounts, nail art is getting a lot of attention. Morgan A. Dixon, owner of M.A.D. Nails (631-938-6245; says her business has taken off because of social media and word of mouth.

  Dixon launched M.A.D. Nails in 2012 to help fund her degree in art history from University of North Florida. While she didn't initially see herself running a nail business, she says her appreciation for art helps her produce better work. After holding pop-ups at boutiques and salons throughout the city, she has close to 13,000 Instagram followers and a mobile nail salon that visits homes, businesses, hospitals and other locations.

  "I feel like it's grown gradually," Dixons says. "I've definitely worked hard to gain this exposure."

  Many clients have themes in mind for their manicures, but most trust Dixon to freestyle their design. Marbled designs and nail foil are popular, and her favorite trend is unpolished negative space. "It's a pretty smart idea. When the nails grow out, you don't notice as much," she says. "It's very practical but still really fun."

  Dixon uses chip-resistant gel nail polish. "I offer a two-week warranty on manicures because I'm so confident in the gel and in my method," she says. "I don't want [my clients] running around with busted nails."

click to enlarge Nail lacquers by LaPierre Cosmetics, $10 each at LaPierre Cosmetics.
  • Nail lacquers by LaPierre Cosmetics, $10 each at LaPierre Cosmetics.

  After shaping and buffing the nails, Dixon applies a base coat and begins the designs, layering several coats of polish to ensure opacity. She applies several layers of topcoat to seal in embellishments and prevent chipping. The gel polish is cured in UV light and emerges dry and hardened.

  Dixon's precision means appointments last one to two hours, depending on the design's intricacy. "I like to take my time, because I know how the traditional salon experience is, and that's not what I'm offering," says Dixon, who is looking for a studio space. "I don't like to rush, and I don't want my clients to feel rushed."

  When it comes to DIY nail art, Dixon recommends experimenting with different products. "You kind of have to play around with things because everyone is different," she says. "That was really important to learn in nail school. You have to find the brands that work for you."

  For manicures, Dixon uses OPI gel polish and local brand LaPierre Cosmetics nail polish. "I use lots of different products," she says. "You can find brushes and little nail art polishes at Walgreen's and Sally [Beauty Supply]. You can go to Amazon to find products."

  Anything from drugstore beauty products to craft supplies are fair game when it comes to embellishments. "If you go to Michael's and find something that fits on your nail, you can use it," Dixon says.

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