Alice Sanderson's career as a successful online nail artist and award-winning beauty blogger began at the age of 15 for the simple reason that she needed to cure her nail-biting habit.
Today her self-taught skills are sought-after by beauty companies who want her to teach others how to use their products and she has amassed a following of 150,000 on social media.
But it all started with a set of nail art paints when she was a teenager.
“I was about to go to college,” says the 21-year-old from Holmfirth, “and I was embarrassed about meeting new people when I had such horrible, scruffy nails, so I decided to start painting them to stop me from biting them.”
The ploy worked, but only because Alice, a former student at Greenhead College, chose to give her nails an artistic makeover.
She explained: “My grandma bought me some nail art paint, so I started doing some designs. When I look back on it they were quite ambitious. But I knew that if I just painted them one colour it wouldn’t be enough motivation to leave them alone.”
A friend, impressed by what she saw, suggested that Alice start writing about her creations on the microblogging and social networking site Tumblr.
“I didn’t know people wrote about their nails,” said Alice, “but there are loads of nail blogs. So I started posting pictures as well and in 2011 I started a blogspot.”
After a few months Alice’s blog began to attract attention from the beauty industry. She said: “I started to get people wanting me to review products and then I was offered paid work making tutorials. In 2013 I won the Cosmopolitan Best New Beauty Blog award, shortlisted from 27,000 applicants, and last year I was shortlisted for the established beauty blog award.”
While Alice doesn’t feel that her nail blog, www.onenailtorulethemall.co.uk , can be a full-time career, she has earned enough to support her studies at Sheffield University, where she has just completed a three-year history degree, and it helped her to buy a car. Now back home she’s found a job working on the service desk of a Huddersfield car dealership.
Perhaps it’s not entirely surprising that Alice has such marketable design abilities. Her father Andrew is a professional photographer and her mother Debbie George is an artist.
Their rural home is brimming with artwork.
Her father’s photographic expertise has also been extremely useful, as Alice explains: “When I first started posting, the quality of my photographs was awful, but my dad built me a light box which I can stick my hand into to photograph my nails. It’s just made from a lined cardboard box with a camera taped to the top, but it works. You can buy them, but they’re £50 or more. I’m lucky to have a dad who can do things like that.”
over 1,000 nail polishes and products
Alice has also utilised the talents of her boyfriend Luke Smith, who designed a logo for One Nail to Rule Them All.
The practicalities of being a nail blogger mean that Alice paints and re-paints her own nails several times a week — although less in recent weeks as she has been studying for her finals.
She has a stock of over 1,000 nail polishes and products, filed in her student house in colour order, and regularly reviews new products.
She said: “If I’m reviewing, I’m saying how many coats a polish it will need and how it goes on, that sort of thing. Some companies approach me with a theme and ask me to do designs or online tutorials that they put on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.”
So far, Alice has worked for corporate giant Avon and popular brands such as Barry M, Rimmel, River Island and American online magazine Devine Caroline. She’s even been asked by Penguin books to design nails to complement book jackets and she is currently designing a range of false nails.
“You can get some really lucrative work from this,” says Alice, “but I can’t make a full-time job out of it because the work fluctuates constantly. I might get £200 for one job or £3,000, but then nothing much for a while. When I was at uni, it meant that I could run my car and go out for meals.
“I really enjoy it, it’s mini art.”
Alice taught herself to manicure and paint her nails by finding tutorials on YouTube and seeking out other nail bloggers, many of which she now counts as her friends. However, she has had some formal training after being invited by Gelish, a gel nail company, to travel to London for a one-day course that covered everything from nail care to using its products.
Unlike many in the nail art world, she keeps her nails short. But even so, a particularly complex design can take her up to five hours to complete. “I think short nails look so much better and they are less likely to break,” says Alice, whose likens the ideas she comes up with to ‘doodles’.
Fashions in nail art are constantly changing but she certainly has trends at her fingertips. “There are a lot of nude colours about at the moment,” says Alice, “and designs with negative space where you paint the design and leave a space to show the natural nail colour.”
Her top tips for nail care are: “Never peel off gel colours because they strip the nail. You have to soak them in acetone for 10 minutes. And don’t be impatient for nails to dry.
“I paint mine while I’m watching television so I can sit and watch the rest of the programme while they’re drying.”