A Show of Hands

March 15, 2012
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Nails are big business, not to mention an affordable way for women to express themselves

By Julie Davis

Manicures are a beauty ritual that began well before the 17th century. But it wasn’t until the early 1900s that color came along. Women would stain their nails, much like they did their cheeks, with tinted oils. It was a buzzing new trend that everyone wanted in on.

Designer Betsey Johnson joins the list of big names cashing in on nails.

Fast forward to today. Nail care has become the most booming—and breakthrough—category in beauty. Its popularity has skyrocketed over the past few years thanks to do-it-yourself nail art, creative effects (magnetic polish, shatter finishes, etc.), and interesting new colors. These inventive new products are giving women a newfound way to express themselves—beyond the usual red, burgundy or ballet slipper pink shades.

“We find many customers are taking more risks with their nails because it’s a temporary way to have some fun and go against your grain if even for a day. You can go a little crazy and go back to conservative in no time,” says Linda Martino, owner of Lux Beauty Store in Red Bank. “You can be expressive in the moment for a very small investment. And it can make you feel a little rebellious and edgy with no consequences.”

Every season, manufacturers create a host of new products and colors to keep up with the demand and continue to stir the frenzy. “The polish industry changes faster and more often than any other trend I’ve seen. Most companies have at least six collections a year and many times add in special edition collections in between,” says Martino.

OPI's spring collection, available at Lux Beauty Store, features some of the season's hottest shades.

This spring is sure to tip the bottle even further with fun, expressive and innovative new products. Topping the list are the season’s trendy new shades: bold orange, neon hues, beyond basic blues, pastels such as lilac and pistachio, and foundation shades (a.k.a. the new nudes).

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Unique effects, like last year’s popular shatter finish, are also hitting the nail. The newest innovation, notes Martino, is magnetic polish, where a special magnet is waved over the nail for a short period of time to create a specific design. Nails Inc. of London was among the first to create the magnetic effect, but other companies are catching on and quickly making it accessible to everyone. Glitter is regaining popularity due in part to more sophisticated formulas, which look less teen and more adult, and impart a 3D-like finish. Higher quality decals and nail art pens are also allowing women to make a bold, creative statement.

Kat Von D's new spring polish infuses microscopic shattered glass for a reflective finish.

Celebrity is yet another force in nails. The success of Katy Perry’s collaboration with OPI spawned a trend in star-studded collections. This spring, Kat Von D, the tattoo artist and TV personality, is launching a set of lacquers with tiny particles of shattered glass that deliver a never-before-seen, ultra-reflective finish. And fashion designer Betsey Johnson is teaming with Sephora and OPI to create a line that reflects her whimsical style. The “It’s My Pink” shade is even infused with the designer’s signature fragrance.

While newness and creativity are certainly fueling the nail business, Martino and other experts point the finger at the economy, too. “The economy has driven more people to buy their own polish that can be used multiple times, for less than a price of one manicure. It is a low ticket item and easily justifiable,” says Martino.

The cost of a bottle can be anywhere from $5 to $20.

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Women view their nails much like they do their face: a blank canvas begging to be painted. Adds Martino, “the only limit with nails is your imagination.


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