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Future-Proof Polish

Future-Proof Polish

The world of nail colour is constantly evolving. No longer are clients restricted lo enduring easy-chip colour, following advances in coloured acrylics and gels evolving into the current favourite of gel polishes and hybrid formulations. This has led many to question whether this could mark the end for the humble nail varnish?

Nail polish According to market research analysts Mintel the answer is no. Their latest research publlshed in September 2O13, shows that the Uk nail colour cosmetics market stood at a value of £229 million. What’s more, Mintel predicted that over the last 12 months the nail colour cosmetics sector was expected to increase by a further 17% This stuation is also reflected in product revolution, with a high number of up to date nail colour products joining the market in 2012, up four hundred percent compared to 2008.

While new nail colour product launches accounted for lO% out of total new launches in the colour cosmetics category in 2008, the percentage shot up to twenty-six percent in 2012.


Back in the day

Since the 17th century, it has been socially acceptable in western culture for women to manicure and care for their nails, but when it comes to colour we must delve further into history.

lt is thought that nail painting originates back five millennia to 3000BC China.Early wearers favoured precious metallic shades of gold and silver symbolising wealth and power, evolving to red and black, particularly favoured by the Zhou Dynasty who lived around 6O0BC. It is thought that early paints were a combination of egg whites, beeswax, gelatin and Gum Arabic, coloured with vegetable dyes created from flower petals.

The fashion for wearing coloured nails as an indication of power spread across the ancient civilisations of India, northern Africa and the Middle East. Even in the early days, there was a certain amount of snobbery surrounding the different hues of nail colour worn; high ranking ancient Egyptians preferred reds, likely due to the great cost of producing a highly pigmented colour from henna extract, whilst the lower order wore low pigment pale colours. Reports tell of Queen Nefertiti wearing ruby red nails whilst Cleopatra opted for a rust red.

Nail polish designsAfter the fall of the Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries, European access to the precious ingredients used to create nail paints was restricted. lt was not until new trade connections with Africa and the Middle East were established in the 17th century that European society began painting their nails.

The preference ofa ‘polished’ nail look came to the fore in the 19th and 20th centuries, where in the United States, Italy, France and England, oils were buffed into the nails.

The first nail polish is said to have been created by Cutuc in 191 7, as a refined version of automobile paint, and was used to cover unsightly grimy nails. By the early 20th century, manicure parlours began opening in France, establishing themselves as commonplace in the 1920s and ’30s with the fashion amongst flappers being the trend of painting just the central area of the nail plate, leaving the cuticle and tip colour free — known as the Moon Manicure.

The first commercial polish is said to have been invented by the Charles Revson Company — known today as Revlon – founded by Charles Revson, his brother Martin Revson and chemist Charles Lachman.They worked with French make-up artist Michelle Menard, who created a lacquer from nitrocellulose, used in the automative industry, dissolved in solvent to create a protective coloured layer than sat on top of the nail plate, rather than staining it as previous nail paints had done.

They discovered that if they bottled the product in sealed glass containers the solvents would not evaporate, and in 1932 they marketed their first nail varnish in department stores. Hollywood was to promote nail varnish to the masses, as the development of full colour movies showcased the polished red nails of glamorous movie stars.

Through the years of thrift and rationing that followed in the 1930s and 40s, nail polish, paired with matching red lipstick, provided an affordable way of women expressing their femininity and style — much like the austere times of today.


Polish today

Today’s polishes, lacquers or varnishes offer a more refined formulation, taking into account nail and skin health as well as respiratory concerns. Basic components include agents that form a film over the nail plate, adhesive polymers, plasticisers that link polymer chains making the lacquer flexible after drying, solvents and colouring agents. Most recent additions include pigments and glitter particles, such as Mica and natural pearl.Glitter particles are suspended in the formulations by thickening agents. Ultra-violet stabilisers ensure that the pigments resist colour change when exposed to sunlight.

In recent years, the leading lacquer brands have made conscious efforts to remove chemicals from their formulations that have been linked to cancers, foetal development concerns and respiratory issues, mainly Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Toluene and Formaldehyde (you’ll see this marketed as 3-Free). The European Union banned companies from using DBP in 2005. Some brands also formulate their lacquers tree from Formaldehyde Resin and Camohor, marketed as 5- Free.

Modern lacquers also offer enhanced nail care solutlons.Through an understanding that lacquer will adhere longer to healthier nails, today it’s not just about colour but care, with added hydrators and strengtheners. Plus, with consumers making purchases aligned with the moral consciousness, brands are also embracing vegan and cruelty free formulations.



In line with Mintels’conclusions that the nail cosmetics market is placing itself at the fore of the UK cosmetics sector, this is the time to maximise lacquer retailing in your salon. According to the research, nail polish is used by 59% of women in the UK — that means that more than half of your clients are in the market to purchase lacquer. As their nail expert you are perfectly placed to offer them the right advice over which lacquers will care for their nails, which will offer them longevity of wear and which are the must-wear shades ofthe season.


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