Nailed it: Making a trendy manicure without the salon

MCT Campus


 (MCT) LOS ANGELES – Whether it’s tiny Union Jacks, tuxedos, stripes, crystal flowers or caviar pearls, nail art has gone mainstream. No longer relegated to the subculture sidelines or the subject of mockery, nail art has become an everyday indulgence, and not just for flamboyant pop stars like Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga. It’s been sported by Britain’s Princess Eugenie, worn to the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner and shown up at the Golden Globe Awards. “Nail art has been around for years, but in kitschy ways, like a Santa Claus or a Christmas tree on your pinky nail,” says Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, creative director of OPI. “But in the last five years, the emphasis on nail design has been huge. … Nails are an accessory.” Nail art is part of a larger trend of individualized self-expression that includes tattooing, body piercing and wild, temporary hair color – all of which is being driven in no small part by our cultural compulsion to share-and-compare on YouTube, blogs and social media. 

The boom is due in part to nail technology advances. “People can do this at home,” Wells says. “It doesn’t require going to the salon for four hours. Maybe you can’t do Katy Perry’s 3-D flowers at home, but you can do other things. Sally Hansen has stick-ons that look good because they are not stickers; they are made of nail lacquer, and they are flexible.” OPI recently released its first nail decals. Called OPI Pure Lacquer Nail Apps, they come in 14 designs, including rattlesnake, lace and fishnet prints. Each kit contains 16 pre-cut appliques, which requires only trimming once they are stuck on the nails. Gel-color manicures, which are baked on using UV light and last two to three times longer than a regular manicure, allow for long-lasting decoration, including gradiated glitter and stripes, as well as crystal and charm appliques. 

The fashion world has embraced — and stoked — the nail art trend. Polish and cosmetics brands partner with fashion designers to create new colors and patterns that are presented during the fashion labels’ runway shows in global style capitals such as Milan, Italy, Paris and New York. At New York Fashion Week in February, for instance, MAC cosmetics created custom velvet-flocked nail tips for the Ruffian presentation. For the Kate Spade show, nail pro Deborah Lippmann designed polka dot nail art. 

“The fascination with highly decorative things, with miniaturization of detail — that has finally come here.” One of these new creative artists is Oakland, Calif.-based Liz Baca, a freelance stylist and vintage clothing dealer who never had any professional beauty training but was inspired by her love of fashion to create custom nail art designs to match designer accessories, such as Chanel sneakers and Tiffany & Co’s blue boxes. Nails “are like tiny canvases,” Baca says.