Design Stars

Nail artSome beauty trends come and go (Think: black lipstick, ultra-thin eyebrows, and unnaturally long eyelash extensions, for instance), while others have staying power that keep them popular year after year. You’ve got to hand it to nail art for being one trend that seems to be gaining momentum, attracting clients of all ages and walks of life. “Nail art is a form of fashion and a growing trend, because it allows an individual to experiment with color, texture, and design,” says Albert Melby, lead nail technician at Canyon Ranch Salon at Canyon Ranch SpaClub (Las Vegas). “Even the most conservative people can express themselves creatively without the commitment of a permanent change like a tattoo or piercing. It’s fast becoming more widely accepted in corporate America’s dress codes. It’s being spotted on the runways at Fashion Week, and even the most popular fashion magazines publish the ‘It’ color seasonally.”

Art History

Nail art dates back to ancient times when it was used to display social class. It has since grown to be a widely requested service at spas and nail salons nationwide among women of all ages as a fashion statement and a way to express creativity. “Beauty trends, in general, are greatly influenced by today’s hottest music stars and fashion ‘It’ girls who frequent the red carpet,” says Deborah Lippmann, founder and creative director of Deborah Lippmann. “These cultural icons enjoy the freedom to try any look or design, which in a large part has led to the spread and growth of nail art’s popularity. The younger demographic has been especially taken with this creative endeavor, which has contributed to the high demand for art in the nail industry.” Celebrities and the media have had such a large impact on the popularity of nail art as wearable fashion, that on the red carpet at entertainment award shows, E! sets up a mani cam for celebrities to show off their perfectly manicured (many with elaborate nail art) fingers. “It has become a major accessory to people’s style and personality,” says Catherine Baek D’Ambrosia, director of global education at Orly and SpaRitual. “It’s chic and fun. It’s also a conversation-starter.”

Nail art

On the Menu

Because nail art is growing in popularity, it’s important to feature it on your menu. If it’s not available, clients are likely to go to another spa that offers it. According to Faina Ritz, cofounder, general partner, and vice president of Duri Cosmetics, spas benefit from adding nail art, as it helps attract new clients. It also allows nail technicians to be more creative and shows that the spa is staying current on trends and listening to what today’s spa-goers desire. “Offering nail art and style choices will help spas build their nail divisions and create additional revenue by attracting a larger demographic of guests,” says Shelena Robinson, education ambassador at CND. “Plus, art and style is also a valuable service that can be priced accordingly.”

While spas typically have a reputation for being meditative and quiet spaces, offering nail art proves that they can also be fun. “By adding the nail art design service to clients, it opens up a new dialogue and energy at the spa,” says D’Ambrosia. “People are being more communicative and showing that a spa can be hip and fun, too.”

What’s Trending

Nail art allows clients to express their unique personalities in a one-of-a-kind creation displayed on their fingernails or toes. “Nail art provides the opportunity for an additional layer of self-expression or styling to a woman’s look, and I think that in this day and age, women are keen to set themselves apart,” says Rita de Alencar Pinto, founder of Vanity Projects (Miami and New York City). “Our clients choose from decorative nail art ideas to minimal looks to outrageous complex designs.” Many elaborate forms of nail art are created on acrylic nails and then placed over the client’s natural nails, and others can be painted directly on the natural nail.

According to Melby, some of the most popular nail art trends today are glitter and unique textures, as well as high-gloss versus matte contrasting patterns, while Pinto is seeing an increase in metallic designs and glass nails, which are holographic origami pieces that are added to the top of a base color or natural nail. While many clients continue to opt for lavish designs, simpler nail art is fast becoming a trend among clients. “Most of the latest trends in nail art are more simplified than looks we’ve seen in the past,” says Alicia Torello, lead nail artist at OPI. “There’s a lot of use of negative space, where you incorporate the use of the bare nail as part of the art, or just pretty clean line work and graphic details.” Robinson predicts that a feminine and flirty look with soft shapes and shades will be hot this summer, as well as nails accented with fine filigree.

Basic Training

All nail technicians possess different talents, so it’s important to figure out what each can offer when it comes to nail art. “Some may be more inclined to do geometric patterns, whereas others may like more free-form designs,” says D’Ambrosia. “Identify who is actually good at what type of designs, and create simple easy-to-do looks that everyone can learn.”

There are also many educational opportunities available for nail technicians to learn different techniques and hone their skills, such as partnering with a manufacturer or distributer who can provide onsite educational opportunities, as well as attending fee-based nail art classes, demonstrations, and classes at major trade shows, and organizing in-house training sessions. “We have had local nail artists come to our spa and teach classes,” says Brenna Massa owner of The Nest Nail Spa (Lakewood, CO). “We also have our nail technicians teach new techniques they’ve learned to the entire staff. Whenever the technicians have a little downtime, they are encouraged to practice art on each other or on a nail art wheel.”

In today’s technology-dependent society, nail technicians can view tutorial videos on YouTube, blogs, and more to help them learn new techniques. Also, according to Torello, many fashion and beauty magazines include step-by-step directions to achieve different nail art designs. However, no matter the number or type of classes a nail technician attends, the best way to learn and grow in the nail art field is to practice, practice, practice, according to Lippmann. “Keep trying new things and painting on artificial nail tips,” she says. “Practice your craft, and be okay in knowing you won’t get it perfect the first time, but you’ll keep developing your skill. Find inspiration anywhere—from friends, colleagues, and social media. There are no rules when it comes to nail art, so find your own style and unique way of setting yourself apart.”

Experimenting with different looks can also help nail techs build their skill set and confidence, according to Gino Trunzo, director of education at Essie. “Two colors you may think just don’t work together can end up looking amazing when combined,” he says. He also recommends training in proper nailcare. “Any good nail art look requires proper care from start to finish, or the design—no matter how good—will just not look right,” says Trunzo. This includes cuticle care, such as a cuticle peel to create a foundation for the nail, neutralizing any yellowness in the nail before applying a design, and adding a topcoat like Essie’s Call It Even, which was specifically designed for nail art. It is a thick formula that evens the look out and does not smear the design, especially when glitter is involved.

Designed to Sell

Once technicians are trained and nail art is on the menu, it’s important you spread the word. Because of today’s tech-savvy clients, social media platforms are the best way to create buzz. “Marketing and advertising to clients today is so easy—tons of social media platforms are right at your fingertips,” says Lippmann. “Create an Instagram channel, and share examples of various designs your artists offer. Over time you’ll build a strong online presence that will translate to an increase in clientele.” According to Massa, The Nest Nail Spa has had huge success with promoting nail art on social media, especially Facebook and Instagram. “We have a spa camera, which the entire staff has access to, so we’re always getting photos of our technicians’ work,” she says. “We’ve had nail art contests where clients vote for their favorites on Facebook. This increases engagement and really excites the clients, as well as the technicians.”

Another way to attract clients and inspire them is to recruit the spa’s front desk staff as models. “They are the first to greet the client, and oftentimes, seeing the look on someone else’s nails inspires the client to try it out on themselves,” says Trunzo. It’s also important to create an up-to-date lookbook that includes beautiful examples of nail art options that the client can flip through for inspiration. And for those clients who are hesitant to try out nail art, D’Ambrosia suggests recommending it for one or two accent nails, which can enhance the manicure without being overwhelming. 

Whether a client chooses a lavish design or a more subtle option, nail art continues to grow and be a profitable source of revenue for spas—and a great way for clients to express themselves. “Nail art is here to stay, because more and more people are using it as a fashion accessory,” says Trunzo. “It’s inspiration on your fingertips. Beyond that, nail art makes a manicure more than just about color—it allows clients to experiment with different trends and have a little fun.”

Stroke of Genuis

Here are some of the most popular nail art techniques:

  • Freehand drawings The nail technician paints an image directly on the nail.
  • 3-D designs Flowers are among the most popular 3-D designs, because part of the petals or stem can actually point out, and small gemstones can be used to create a 3-D effect without the use of an acrylic nail.
  • Glitter Shimmering powder or dust can be added to nails to create a glamorous look.
  • Two-tone ombré This technique involves creating a color gradient using a brush or sponge.
  • Marble effect This style commonly incorporates the use of water to create a marbled look.
  • Airbrushing A small stencil is usually placed on the nail, and then an airbrush machine blows paint on the stencil to create the pattern.
  • Holographic This effect can be achieved by using special nail polishes with holographic particles in them or foils placed on the nails to create shimmers of various color that change when reflected in the light or the sun.
  • Stamping This technique involves creating nail decals from patterns on metal plates, then placing the finished decal directly on top of the nail.
  • Stickers Adhesive designs can be placed on the nail to quickly create a fun look.
  • Embellishments Small accents like crystals, rhinestones, and beads are placed on the nail and then cured under a UV light.

Creatively craft clients’ nails with these easy-to-use tools, polishes, and accents.—Darby Radcliff

1. China Glaze Stripe Rite: Create custom designs with this striper (Pixel-Ated Shown) featuring a super-thin brush that delivers a precise polish application.

2. CND Additives Fall 2016 Craft Culture Collection: This limited-edition set features customizable pigments and effects in dramatic colors from subtle glow to spectacular sparkle (Boho Beads shown). 

3. Color Club Nail Art Stripers: Designed to create detailed masterpieces, this kit includes seven shades with precision-tip brushes and one sealer.

4. Cuccio Glitter Overlay: Add a pop of sparkle with this pink jelly shade, which is coated with crystalline particles (Mood Alteration shown) and formulated with triple-pigmentation technology.

5. Deborah Lippmann Summer 2016 Happy Days Collection: This ’60s-inspired collection from the Gel Lab Pro line features pigmented cream shades (Happy Days shown) ideal for colorblocking.

6. Entity Nail Art Brushes: Define lines and master details with this four-piece set, which features three brushes and a dotting tool.

7. Essie Call It Even Top Coat: Specifically created for nail art, this cushioning clear coat seals designs and glitter appliqués.

8. EzFlow Nail Art Brushes: Create complex nail art masterpieces with these four tools specifically made to achieve different designs and details in a variety of mediums.

9. Gelish Harmony Dotting Marble Tools: Perfect for creating textured nail designs, these five double-sided tools feature a round end for etching and a pointed end for mixing or fading colors.

10. IBD Soft Touch Silicone Brush: This silicone-tipped tool is ideal for detailed work and intricate art designs using gels, gel polishes, acrylics, or lacquers.

11. Nail Bliss NailPop:Bling out nails with this design accent set that includes eight full-size nail appliqués and super-adhesive accent pieces. No glue is needed, allowing for a hassle-free application process.

12. SuperNail Professional 2-In-1 C-Curve & Dotting Tools: Create designs with these dual-ended tools, which sculpt acrylic and hard gel nail tips on one end and aid in designing nail art with the other.