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Nail Care Knows No Bounds

Nancy Jeffries

Anyone who says nail and hand care is the exclusive domain of the ladies who lunch will need to take another look at the state of the nail salon industry. Accessibility to salon services has increased as more and more women, and men, have taken their tired, lackluster extremities to the salon for some TLC.

The prestige nail category has undergone significant changes over the past few years, and the rise in popularity of the nail salon manicure has affected the perception and reality of the entire market. “The nail category in prestige has been in double digit declines for more than 10 years due to what I would consider the ease and relatively low cost of getting your nails done at the salon,” says Karen Grant of the NPD Group, a market information company. “If you consider a simple manicure in the average nail salon costs about $6 or a combination manicure/pedicure costs about $20, then why spend $10 to $20 to buy a polish and do it yourself?”

According to a 2005 Euromonitor report on cosmetics and toiletries in the United States, nail product sales declined by 8% in current value terms in 2004, after experiencing a decline of 3% in 2003. Following a high growth period in the mid-1990s, nail polish sales had started to decline in 1998. While Euromonitor’s forecast predicted a fall of more than 11% to $569 million at constant 2004 prices, sales also would be hurt by the growing number of women who choose to go to a salon for their nail treatment needs rather than purchasing suitable products themselves.

Nail treatment needs are increasingly met by salon services, whether in nail salon-specific venues or all-inclusive resort, destination or day spas. The popularity and accessibility of these services has spawned a new generation of innovative products, technological breakthroughs and value-added accoutrements that account for their popularity.

The Salon Mystique

Salon nail products further reinforce the experience of indulgence, and not necessarily at prohibitive price points. Thus, work-weary hands and less-than-rosy toes are readily rescued at neighborhood salons and spas.

Consider the spring 2006 collection from Essie Cosmetics, designed to capture the energy and culture of the Cayman Islands. With colors like Heavenly Sunset, a rosy mauve; My Private Cabana, semi-sheer blush; and Sandy Beach, a translucent toffee, paradise is as close as the nearest salon. In addition to polishes, treatments to moisturize the hands and feet now are infused with a variety of beautifully fragrant and naturally emollient ingredients that provide refreshment. Two new Essie Smoothies Hand and Body Lotions bring emollients plus treatment benefits to hand care. The Pear & Fig Smoothie has a clean scent of blossoming fig and pear, inspired by the southern gardens of France. The Aloe Rich & Fragrance Free Smoothie is an unscented lotion for men and women with delicate skin. Soothing aloe, plus oils and vitamins A and E to moisturize and oxygenize, are abetted by shea butter to heal, lubricate and protect. It also contains alpha hydroxy acids to exfoliate and increase cell turnover for smooth, radiant skin.

Mindful of the changing marketplace, Essie created a new treatment for men that is an all-in-one product designed to meet men’s nail care needs. The Man-e-Cure is a non-shiny, toluene and formaldehyde-free nail protector for men who care about the appearance of their nails. The matte finish protector may be used in combination with Essie’s cuticle pen for manicured hands and feet. The product allows men to have well-kept nails without the shine of clear polish or buffing.

Insider’s Perspective

While technology has assured the quality of on-trend products in nail salons, there are criteria that must be met unequivocally in this market. Polishes must be durable, long lasting, available in fashion-driven colors, and supported by innovative value-added treatments—often including massage, exfoliation and antioxidant emollients.

Essie Weingarten, president of Essie Cosmetics, Ltd., addressed some of the challenges salon formulators face in creating nail salon products. “Polish needs to be long-wearing, chip-resistant, and it should dry quickly (but not too quickly, so smudges can be fixed),” said Weingarten. “Often, nail salons are the source of trends and treatments that, as in the skin care arena, may begin at the spa and translate to the retail environment. Salon owners don’t aggressively retail the products that they use.

Consumers want to purchase the products that they use and like, so these products move over to retail.”

Salon formulations offer a variety of unique benefits for clients. Orly, from Grafton International, for example, began tailor-making products for customers according to their needs. The first Orly product was a liquid fiber wrap, followed by a Ridgefiller, to fill ridges in nails and smooth rough surfaces. Orly added a gripper cap made of soft rubber for easy gripping and control, resulting in a smooth brush stroke. Additionally, the company says its salon formulation nail polish contains a special resin that allows polish to adhere to nails without chipping or peeling, and contains a high pigment ratio to provide complete coverage without streaks. New products include the antiaging Three-Step Handspa, Vital Restorative Masque and Sheer Radiance finishing lotion to leave hands smooth and fragrant. Orly also offers Tough Cookie Nail Strengthener, Cuticle Oil + and a salon-centered 13-piece color stand, designed to fit at the end of the technician’s work station or be displayed in the salon’s retail area.

Formulation Challenges

According to Jan Arnold, co-founder of Creative Nail Design, “Some of the challenges we faced 25 years ago, and still today, involve the development of coatings and laminates for the natural nail. This technology is actually born from aerospace materials designed to coat rocket ships. These polymer coatings are now produced specifically for use on the nail; to protect it, without damage; to allow for moisture and oil to gravitate through the coating, as it would through a natural nail; and to safely adhere with a natural light feel.”

Arnold also notes, “Elimination of lifting of the coating depends not only on the excellence of the technology, but also on the proper preparation of the natural nail, correct application of the material and light finishing at the end of the process. The materials used are high-tech science, requiring an intense understanding of the human nail and how the coatings can beautifully adhere for trouble-free wear. The complexity of the science becomes apparent when you consider there are no two fingernails alike. Each has a unique configuration, different thickness, moisture level and impact level based on lifestyle.” The company’s laboratory has 17 scientists and biologists studying hands and feet, and each product is developed through an understanding of the substrate, which is the nail.

Creative Nail Design has been recognized for its sculpting liquids and powders, particularly Retention + Liquid—a sculpting liquid that forms covalent bonds to the keratin of the nail and requires no primer. “The bonds are permanent,” says Arnold. “And the coating grows out with the nail, only requiring a rebalance every two to three weeks. These coatings are now as thin as two to three coats of nail enamel.”

A nail professional custom blends the powders to complement a client’s skin tone, camouflage a problem or match a favorite color, and then coats the nail with the blend, for a chip-proof manicure lasting up to three weeks before a rebalance is needed.

Supply Side Innovation

Tom DiPietro, DayGlo Color Corporation’s product development manager noted the company’s newest nail technologies. “While fluorescent colors are not new to the world of special effect pigments, a line of colorants that can be utilized in cosmetic and personal products are entirely new,” he said. In the 1950s, Switzer Brothers Inc., the forerunner of DayGlo Color Corp., discovered that conventional fluorescent dyes dissolved in amorphous polymer glasses, which were then mechanically milled, resulted in polymer particles useful as fluorescent pigments. “A major breakthrough was the discovery of polymers of melamine, formaldehyde and toluene sulfonamide,” says DiPietro. “Condensation polymers of these monomers combined with fluorescent dyes produced pigments with exceptional brilliance.” Two aspects of this construction precluded the usage of these materials in cosmetic products. “The dyes employed in the manufacture of industrial fluorescent pigments are not listed on any international regulatory lists, and the use of formaldehyde-based polymers has been a cause of concern,” said DiPietro. “As it turns out, a large number of regulated dyes are fluorescent; and combining these dyes with polymers that have been fully characterized both physically and toxicologically is the basis for DayGlo’s DermaGlo Cosmetic Colorants.”

According to DiPietro, “Previously, due to the thermoplastic nature of the polyester matrix, the usage of DG products in traditional nitrocellulose nail lacquers was not possible.” The company now has developed a new technology suitable for solvent-based formulations. “The products are constructed using unique epoxy microsphere technology that eliminates the problems of matrix swelling and dissolution. The high molecular weight of this cross-linked polymer, combined with spherical particle morphology, make DGS pigments an ideal choice for nail enamels,” said DiPietro. Commercialization of the new six-color product range is projected for the summer of 2006.

Salon Specific

Color and treatment go hand-in-hand in a collection from Jessica Cosmetics. Jessica Vartoughian opened a nails-only salon on Sunset Boulevard in 1969, and now provides nail care treatments in salons and spas throughout the world. Her spring 2006 Get Nude Nail Collection contains Flexiseal™ formulations, designed to make nails strong and hard on the outside but flexible and resilient on the inside.

The formulation fuses two technologies to defend the nail and improve its health. Combinations of ingredients form a protective finish while allowing penetration of oxygen and hydration. Flexibase for Peeling Nails mixes Bio-Active Glass® and a concentrated calcium gel complex that bonds fragile layers together into a smoothed strengthened nail.

Nail salons have provided clients with viable alternatives to at-home polishing and an agreeable atmosphere featuring innovation and indulgence at your fingertips. As with so many things, however, what goes up, must come down. According to research done by the team at NAILS, at Bobit Business Media, although service prices remain strong and spa growth continues to fuel a robust segment, “the falloff in the number of salons, combined with a decline in the number of active technicians, has caused a decrease in projected growth.” While salon data and consumer habits change, the nail salon area remains a segment to be watched closely as demographics and buying habits continue to shift.

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