Murfreesboro native Dr. Cary Gannon is a doctor by trade. She earned her undergrad degree from Auburn University, where she was a competitive member of the school’s track and cross country teams. It was that experience that led her to a career in medicine, earning her Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree from Ohio College. She eventually returned to Middle Tennessee, where she currently resides in Williamson County with her two daughters. In addition to her key role at University Foot & Ankle Centers, Dr. Gannon is also nurturing a second career now, that of founder of AILA Cosmetics, a line of all-natural nail lacquers and nail care products that are both beautiful and healthy. Today, we learn more about AILA and the woman behind the brand. Welcome Dr. Gannon as today’s FACES of Williamson County profile!
Why did you dip your toe (pun intended) into the world of cosmetics and nail polish?
AILA is the result of what I call my “awakening.” My life was in desperate need of a system reboot. I was overfunctioning on a dangerously high level — the trap being that I was actually getting a lot done — and I literally woke up one morning and was just done. I had to overhaul every area of my life. I was in an unhappy marriage, I had odd health issues, my daughter was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, I was a surgeon, managing my medical practice, running myself into the ground and I was not taking care of myself. I was so busy, I had forgotten who I was. I finally acknowledged how miserable I was and decided to fix it.
I eliminated things — and people — in my life that were not healthy for me. Taking care of my body and eliminating toxic ingredients were at the top of my list. I started nourishing my body with the right foods instead of restricting calories. But I focused not only on what I put into my body, but also what I put on my body.
It was during this time that I discovered the truth about many of the products in my industry, and I was determined to make a difference. I launched AILA Cosmetics to address the industry demand for healthy beauty products. AILA Cosmetics is for women who want it all: beauty, health and function.
As a doctor, do you see patients who are adversely impacted by nail products?
Yes. Every day, I see women with nails that are discolored, weakened and infested with fungus, bacteria or yeast from nail products with harmful chemicals. These products destroy nails. Women remove their polishes and come to the office in a panic because their nails are yellow or are pitted where the products have damaged the nails. They all want their nails to return to normal immediately, and nails just don’t work that way. We have to completely regenerate the nail to regain nail health, and the process of regeneration takes between nine and 12 months. There is no magic pill or topical product we can use to repair the damage. The damaged nail has to be completely replaced by a new, healthy nail.
What processes did you participate in when testing the products?
Testing is the best part! I test everything from start to finish. Our brand tenet is Beauty, Health and Function, so every product must meet those three standards. If I don’t like a texture or the color is not perfect, I don’t use the product. If the product is not effective, we make changes to the formula. The nail lacquers are the most challenging product to test, because color is so beautiful … I can never decide which colors to wear!
Can you explain a little bit about the AILA product line?
The AILA Cosmetics product line includes 18 (and growing) vegan, 5-Free, gluten-free and paraben-free nail lacquer colors (and really cool color stories associated with each one), as well as our primer base coat, our super shiny top coat, our organic lacquer remover and our coconut cuticle oil. Our product line also includes our Better Than Gel top coat. It’s truly phenomenal. We call it “liquid gold.”
Where can we buy the products?
Do you think you will produce more safe, effective cosmetic options for women?
Absolutely! I believe product diversity is critical to continued growth and success. Having said that, I would rather release one superior product at a time, so, for now, I am concentrating on doing this one thing well.
Share a bit about the AILA Gives program.
When my daughter Aila was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, I was both motivated to help heal her and relieved to finally have an answer about what was wrong. I know the frustrations associated with caring for someone with this disorder, so AILA Gives was really a natural philanthropic extension of AILA Cosmetics. It is my hope that the portion of proceeds from Aila’s signature color, 5 Senses, will help people in the SPD Foundation family in some meaningful way. Our color Ms. Martin is named for my friend Michelle who unexpectedly lost her brother in 2014. His wife and three young children survive him, so she established a fund for them, and AILA Gives contributes a portion of proceeds from that color. AILA Gives will continue to support various organizations we believe are fighting the good fight for humanity, the environment and the animal kingdom.
How did you come up with the color selection for AILA?
I have a loose selection process. I give some seasonal consideration and thought to industry trends, but mostly I just chose colors I like. Once I choose the color, it sort of names itself. Each color is named for someone I treasure, some funny story or even a mistake I have made. Each color story is on our website. Some of the stories are very personal (My 2 Jeffs, Room 212, 5 Senses). Other stories are just funny (I’m Naked! I’m Naked!, Pffff Ugggh, Ginger, The Blue Lagoon). There are colors named for people I love (MacKenna, Ms. Martin, House of Paine), but all of the stories have meaning.
I am inspired by relationships, successes and even failure. I am putting it all out there so that people see more than just nail polish. I want people to laugh with me (or even at me) and feel good about what they are putting on their bodies. I want people to relate to me and not only be interested in what I am selling, but also why I am selling it.
And those names! Mister Pookies?
The names are my favorite part. The names are inspired by people I love or experiences I have had. Mister Pookies is very special. When my best friend met her now-husband, she didn’t like his name, so she started calling him Mister Pookies. Unfortunately for him, the name stuck. I’m not sure I even remember what his real name is at this point.
Are you a DIY mani/pedi woman or do you indulge in spa treatments?
I am definitely a DIY mani/pedi woman. Almost no one knows this, but I only have nine fingernails, so I wear a prosthetic nail on my right hand, and it’s just easier if I apply the nail myself. People are always asking me how I am able to do my own nails so well. I always say, “I’m a surgeon. If I can’t give myself a beautiful manicure and pedicure then we have a real problem!” That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a day at the spa. I treat myself to a monthly facial.
What are three things you can’t live without, aside from faith, family and friends?
I am embarrassed to say that the first thing that pops into my mind is coffee. I literally go to bed every night excited that I get to have a cup of coffee when I wake up! After that, it is my daily shot of wheatgrass and ginger, and if I’m being completely honest, I have a bit of a Nutella problem.
Thank you to Dr. Gannon for sharing the background of your beautiful line of nail products.
And thank you to Heather Sisemore for the beautiful images in today’s FACES article.