Beauty's Big New Money Maker: Nail Polish


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Like lipstick, nail polish is a quick, affordable way to change up your look–and that’s made it extremely popular to shoppers post-recession. As we reported in September, US sales for polish increased a staggering 11% in 2009 to $462.9 million. Along with colors and finishes of all sorts, nail art, a long-growing trend, is having a real moment right now.

“We actually started four-and-a-half years ago doing really, really intricate, Japanese-style nail art,” says Valley co-owner Julia Werman. “No one was doing it here and people didn’t understand it. But over the past two-and-a-half years, we’ve seen a real increase. It’s helped our business a great deal.”

Nail art from Valley

“Once the preserve of strippers and Dynasty’s Alexis Carrington, nail extensions varnished with (or without) nail art are now acceptable adornment for fashionable ladies about town,” writes Lucy Jones in the Telegraph. “The attractive thing about nail art is this: you can tailor it to a personality, an occasion or an outfit.”

“I feel like more people–from children to adults–are getting it. Business has definitely increased,” says Peter Huynh of L.A.’s popular CT Nails, a parlor that specializes in intricate airbrushed designs.

“Untraditional nail colors has been an emerging trend for past three years, slowly it has finally hit the mass market,” said Rescue Beauty Lounge owner Ji Baek to Women’s Wear Daily in May.

Industry giant O.P.I has even gotten in on the action with its “Chic Print for Nails” kit, which contains easily-to-apply nail patches in an array of eye-catching prints. O.P.I. has annual sales of $300 million, reports Businessweek–and that’s just 6% of the market.

Salons aren’t the only ones benefiting from the increased public interest in manicures. To expand their reach, beauty companies Coty and L’Oreal have recently scooped up polish brands O.P.I. and Essie, respectively.