2017 In Review: A Look at The Nail Industry

Last year we saw many “new” things hit the nail industry.  The year was full of new techniques and some that were reinvented.  Overall most of the new releases were focused on ease of use, service simplicity, and making the difficult easy for all skill levels.  This new trend of quick-and-easy not only applied to the professional space.  Some DIY trends even brought some interesting work-arounds like cornstarch and flour nails in place of professional dip systems.  Although not exactly safe or recommended, these cheap nail solutions are a solution to a drive to find quick and inexpensive ways to provide perfect nails even when the nail tech has limited skills.  This theme has spread throughout our industry, but it is yet to be determined how long it will stay. 

It’s well understood that being a great nail tech takes time, training, and focus.  Professionals take years to reach a level of advanced skill, and progress requires constant continuing education and hard work.  So why aren’t nail techs reaching this advanced level?  Why are they struggling in the salon and looking for easier ways to perform.  For many it starts with their finances.  Thousands of salons and independent techs are operating day-to-day, are fully booked, yet still can’t make ends meet.  They start out buying premium products because they want to offer the best, but within a short period of time have to switch to cheaper and cheaper products as their monthly cash dwindles. 

For others it’s the inability to access continuing education that will help them prosper.  Advanced classes and opportunities seem to be a mirage on the horizon for many beginners.  They are not well introduced to the industry outlets like this newspaper or other magazines or sites, and are therefore not aware of classes that are being offered regularly.  This issue is often also combined with the financial struggle, and techs who wish they could take classes simply can’t afford the time away from work, nor the expense of the class or travel. 

And finally for some it seems the path to expert level takes too much time, too much training, and too much focus or they’re just simply not sure how to get there so opt not to try at all.  With the influx of beginners and the experienced techs left to battle the requests of their clients it’s easy to see why many nail techs are hopping on the dip system, reverse molds, dual molds, and polygel bandwagons.  These products make services easier, quicker, and it’s a great stepping stone for nail techs who are still learning how to improve their skillsets.

With the new drive for faster, easier and cheaper from the nail tech populous, manufacturers have felt a pressure to create products and processes that all levels of nail techs can perform.  They have also seen a shift in the masses towards the more inexperienced and have responded by releasing products that are best suited for nail techs who lack the knowledge to perform. Their response has been judged to be both appropriate and detrimental depending on who you talk to, but it’s easy to see why they are responding with these easier options.  If the customer needs something simpler and more inexpensive, then as a business they are incentivized to create something that satisfies these needs.  And with both nail techs and manufacturers on the same page everything seems to be a win-win.  But the question that begs to be asked is;  Is our focus on time-saving simple service products costing us advancement in the long run?

It’s important to remember that a lot of these new quick-and-easy offerings also may have a negative effect.  With a fervent focus on the easy and quick we can easily deviate from our focus on skill, drive to improve, learning, and progress.  Easy work arounds are great for beginners but it can be sad to see advanced nail techs opting to stop doing more advanced techniques in an effort to make things faster or to respond to the demands of their clientele.  Competition tables that were once full at trade shows have dwindled a bit and not many techs are rising to the challenge.  Handpainting has been replaced by stamps.  Sculpting has been replaced by reverse molds or leave-on full coverage tips.  And both gel and L&P enhancements have been replaced by polygel. 

We must remember that to work hard to achieve an advanced skillset is something to still be desired.  Everyone starts out at the beginning.  In the beginning everyone does horrible nails that take hours upon hours to complete.  We strive to improve our businesses and ourselves through classes, involvement in industry events, and pure unadulterated experience in the chair.  But from that starting point we advance year-by-year until we are able to do beautiful enhancements and we master our product and determine our preferences.  Mastering our trade is an achievement that provides not only business success but also personal confidence that allows us to grow as individuals.  And to potentially take that away would be detrimental to our industry. 

Does using simpler techniques and these quick products really kill our drive?  Are there long-term consequences to this shift that we are not anticipating?  Only time will tell.