February 2013

Jaime Schrabeck

The Nail Extension | by Jaime Schrabeck


Nail Color Explosion

Nail color has become a powerful force in the beauty industry. Page through any beauty/fashion/lifestyle magazine or spend any time at all on the internet, and count the number of related advertisements. Some ads focus on the person wearing nail color (celebrities and models), while others focus on the product itself (bottle shots and color swatches on "fake fingers").

Regardless of the quality of the ads and their respective products, this proliferation wouldn't exist if these products weren't profitable. Reports of "explosive" growth in the nail color market means we should expect more colors, products and advertising in the future. 

As nail professionals, we might consider ourselves savvier and less vulnerable to advertising, but we're all consumers, exposed to and influenced by advertising to varying effect.

The target audience, primarily female, has not changed, but the line between "consumer/retail" and "professional/salon" has been blurred like never before. Consumers interested in doing their own nails (DIYers) have greater access to "professional" products, and/or they can experience nail color by receiving salon services.

Likewise, salons have new services to offer and products to retail. In fact, the renewed interest in nail color has been so powerful that many salon owners credit it, particularly in the form of soak-off gel polish, for their survival during this economic downturn. Rather than complain about DIYers and "professional" brands going retail, they've found a way to adapt and profit from this new reality.

Apparently, there's something for everyone, with shades ranging from soft and subtle to bold and garish in creams, shimmers, frosts, glitters and matte finishes. And yet, new color collections are introduced for every season, including holiday. It can be expensive to keep pace, and not all colors may be worth the investment.

Speaking from my own 20 plus years of experience as a salon owner and manicurist, I credit my continued success to loyal clients, and don't consider advertising nail products to consumers a threat to my professionalism. I cannot compete with national advertising, and don't have to because it raises awareness about nail care in general. Indirectly, it draws attention to the services offered at my salon and the products I've carefully selected based on performance, availability, pricing, etc. I welcome questions from potential and existing clients about professional services and product selection; it means they care.

While my salon services remain consistent (and do not include soak-off gel polish), the color options do evolve. I have my own preferences, but also understand what my clients prefer. Rather than feel overwhelmed by the choices, I limit myself to a wide selection within a few brands so that the colors complement and contrast with each other. After several months of working with the most recent collection, it's time for something new. I especially look forward to collection previews and swatching, and can predict which colors will be most popular among my clients. Those colors will make it into my ongoing collection, while unpopular or redundant colors will be eliminated.

The power of color cannot be denied and I don't need to study color psychology to appreciate that it goes beyond expressing yourself and influencing mood and behavior. The fact is nail color is decorative; it's not even necessary for the health and safety of nails, and yet it may be one of the primary reasons why clients seek professional nail care.

The emotional reaction to color is so personal; we all have our favorites, and while some choose to wear the same color for years, others want variety. As a service provider, it makes me feel good that clients of all ages will get excited about wearing their favorite color, whether an old favorite, a new one, or just new to them.

At this point, it may seem difficult to determine which is greater, the supply or the demand for nail color. How many colors/products do we need, and is there a "saturation point" at which the market cannot possibly absorb another brand? The answers may well be "As many as we can afford," and "Never!" That's the genius of producing and marketing nail color. Both consumers and professionals want choices and manufacturers can satisfy the demand, even while the formulation of the products remains essentially the same.

Given personal preferences, infinite possibilities, evolving trends and new technologies, we'll always be surrounded by the power and beauty of color. It's hard to resist.

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