In the last decade, nail art has been elevated far above mere painted nails.
When it comes to adapting to fashion and beauty trends, size, shape and age definitely matter. Those parameters dictate what is flattering and what is not. Donning miniskirts past a certain age? Hmmm… Oversized garments on a petite frame? Perhaps not. Even seemingly shape and age-friendly accessories — shoes and handbags — aren’t always as inclusive of a style fit as one would imagine. There is, however, one fashion accessory that is wearable for virtually everyone: the artful manicure.
In the last decade, the manicure, or rather nail art, has been elevated far above mere painted nails. What started as a humble daisy rendering to accent one nail, or some faux jewels inset into the polish, has jettisoned far beyond. Technicians began creating intricate designs and minutely detailed paintings. Product innovations produced a dizzying range of textures, colours and finishes — all popularized through social media. “We’ve seen a plethora of cool stuff in the 2010s. A lot of DIY techniques happened. We witnessed trends like water marbling, mega bling nails, foils, glitters, and intricate hand-painted patterns,” says CND Global Ambassador Winnie Huang.
“Nail art,” adds Erica Nieuwenhuis, Canadian CEO of Bio Sculpture, “gained popularity with new products and techniques, and a more visible presence on catwalks and celebrities … It is a non-committal means to express your individuality and is definitely here to stay.”
One significant and consumer-friendly change in manicures has been with improvement in nail practices and a greater health awareness of not just hygiene but also of toxicity levels in products. “Nail products have become more health conscious, clean and free of parabens,” says Linh Khuu, owner of Varnish Nail Lounge & Varnish Beauty. “We have been more aware of harmful chemicals that can cause nail disorders and allergic reactions.” Khuu cites Bio Sculpture’s soak-off colour gel nail system as a healthier alternative to traditional gel polishes. “Bio Sculpture was the first at soak off gel, and soft gel nail sculptures that can be tailored to suit specific nail types.” She adds it was the first company in its class to have undergone an independent research trial, “and all products are vegan, animal cruelty free, and ‘10 free’ nontoxic.”
Huang says the nail industry is constantly evolving and has responded to consumer demand for more healthy options. “Consumers now turn to nail products that do not contain harmful chemicals like formaldehyde. There are supplements and lotions that claim to aide nail health … I think it is beneficial to keep the conversation going and maintain a level of awareness in the importance of nail health.” Nieuwenhuis says “it has been rewarding to see a shift in the industry (as well as with customers) where being a cruelty-free, vegan-friendly brand — some of our core principles since 1988 — is expected, rather than a rarity.” Nail care has also evolved to become, for many women, an integral part of their self-care routine — not just something for special occasions, says Huang. She adds that salons recognize that women want options too in service and wear. “A lot of salons converted from wet manicure to dry manicure to extend wear and prolong the longevity of service.”
Complementing the nail art advancements have been an array of different nail shapes: square, square-round, coffin, talon, and ballerina to name a few. Nieuwenhuis sees the “stiletto [making] room for a resurgence of the longer, square shape.” She says the classic shapes, like the squoval and the almond, are timeless because they’re flattering for most people and can be worn at different lengths. Huang concurs, “I truly believe that almond shape will remain a classic, and will always be in. I also have been seeing a lot of square nails popping up on my [social media] feed, I think this will be a huge trend in 2020!”
Nieuwenhuis adds that nail shape usually comes down to personal preference and lifestyle. “There are no rules with respect to age and most people are willing to give new styles a try.” Khuu says that along with new shape styles, some clients opt for a combination of shapes on each hand, such as coffin with just a few fingers shaped pointy.
For Huang, the next year, even the decade, looks intriguing with new trends. “We have a great decade ahead of us! Twenty-twenty is going to be the year where we embrace change, be daring, and step out of our comfort zones,” she enthuses. “I am seeing a lot of play on textures, more organic, and in touch with nature. This means marbling, animal print and textures, floral prints and recreating earthy elements.”
Individual colours will have their moment but rules for seasonal colour will no longer apply, says Nieuwenhuis. So, if you want to wear dark, jewel tones in summer, that’s your choice. The on-trend colours for the year, she says, are undoubtably Pantone’s 2020 Classic Blue, and “creamy shimmery, muted and brighter versions” of coral shades. “The classic French manicure will get an update,” Nieuwenhuis predicts. Nail stylists always find ways to keep this popular application relevant by re-imagining it and mixing in other popular finishes (eg. tone-on-tone treatments with a shiny-matte contrast).
Khuu is excited about nail printing machines that can airbrush any photo on nails. “Acrylic nails are making a comeback with more options for nail art and designs,” she explains. “I love watching and seeing all of the different ways [in which] acrylic is being used to create designs.” So, what’s on the way out and, maybe, won’t be missed? Huang says, “I would say goodbye to the duck nails — remember those? I can’t say I’ll miss it.” Not surprisingly says Nieuwenhuis, furry nails, jelly nails, water-filled nails proved to be short-lived fads.
If you’re looking for clues to upcoming nail trends beyond social media, the fashion weeks’ runways are good sources to check out. “There is a very strong correlation between runway styles and nail trends from colours, designs and textures,” says Nieuwenhuis. Huang agrees saying that “a lot more extravagant nail designs walk the runway which is amazing! Whether it be a certain shade or print, we have definitely seen them translated from runway to [a] real way on many occasions.”