May 2012

Jaime Schrabeck

The Nail Extension | by Jaime Schrabeck


Nails in the News

While browsing the home page of recently, I was surprised to find an article link containing the words "extreme manicure" at the top of the page.

Before proceeding to the article, I hesitated -- whenever reading or watching any news related to nails, I prepare myself to be disappointed and frustrated. I don't always expect the news to be positive; that would be remarkable and promising. 

There's a difference between journalism (investigating and reporting on current events, trends, etc.) and content marketing (providing information to alter consumer behavior and build brand loyalty).

I expect journalistic integrity from news, and hold the media accountable for what they present. When I read a news article I ask these questions. What's the purpose and relevance of the news report? Who's the source? Is the information (facts, quotes, etc.) accurate and objective? Has the context been adequately established? What are the qualifications of any contributors? How was the research conducted? What conclusions can be drawn? What impact does the information have? And on a more personal note, why should I care?

Some defend content marketing by claiming that consumers are sophisticated enough to distinguish between journalism and marketing. "Today's audiences are accustomed to filtering information from a great many sources and taking those sources into account." (When Worlds Collide by Peter Haapaniemi at

Really? If I were a consumer without any specialized knowledge about nail care (anatomy/physiology, infection control, product chemistry, etc.), I'd probably believe the following: 

Repeated often enough in the media, this information, whether true or not, makes consumers afraid of nail salons and nail products, both professional and retail. 

If having your nails done is dangerous, then doing nails must be very dangerous. Yet, manicurists don't even make this list of "The 15 Most Dangerous Jobs in America."(

That being said, it's interesting that when I Googled "nail polish death," I could document an actual death related to nail polish. But it had nothing to do with "toxic" chemicals as some might expect. In a tragic incident widely known as the "Nail Polish Crash," motorcyclist Anita Zaffke was killed by motorist Lora Hunt who was polishing her nails while behind the wheel. Hunt was subsequently convicted of reckless homicide and sentenced to 18 months. Meanwhile, Zaffke's son Greg honors his mother's memory with the Crash Coalition (, a non-profit organization advocating against DWD (driving while distracted). DWD is deliberate and avoidable, yet one of the leading causes of fatalities and injuries according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (

I digress. So back to the article I found on, A whole new gloss: Consumers buy into the "extreme manicure" trend by Martha C. White. The author and I have different perspectives on what constitutes "extreme" or even "new;" she briefly mentions the "crack" polish look and "press-on decals" as if they were revolutionary.

Within approximately 400 words, the word "bright" appears three times to emphasize the trend towards bolder and less traditional colors. White also cites some research from the NPD Group about increased polish sales at department stores (up 63 percent) and the popularity of blue polish, which accounts for 20 percent of the top 130 colors sold. (There's no data included on polish sales at salons or mass market retailers, like Target or Walmart.) 

White concludes that budget-minded, DIY shoppers are driving this low-cost trend. That's laughable because I would never refer to consumers who buy department store polish as "budget-conscious" or likely to DIY; Chanel's Le Vernis Nail Color, at $26 a bottle, is hardly "low-cost" when compared to professional polish available for about $8 a bottle.

So while the overall tone of the article is positive (no mention is made of the "toxicity" of nail polish ingredients), White ends her article by quoting a retail strategist: '"The customer that used to go get weekly manicures is probably doing her own nails," Levy said. That nail salon's loss is a beauty retailer's gain.'

Here's some news: we're gaining clients who prefer to have their nails done professionally, and we also retail polish, some of it blue.

Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D. owns Precision Nails, an exclusive nails-only salon in Carmel, California. She can be reached at