Nail polish has become what lipstick used to be -- the accessory that women play up in bright hues and wild patterns, despite a volatile economy.
During a bad economy, women used to settle for a Chanel lipstick instead of a Chanel suit, says Michelle Mismas, founder and editor of the beauty blog All Lacquered Up. Now, women opt for a cheaper alternative to lipstick to satisfy their style needs -- nail polish or nail lacquer from makers such as Essie, OPI or Zoya.
The Lipstick Index, a phrase coined by Leonard Lauder that paired increases in cosmetic sales to a bad economy, no longer applies. Nail polish sales are growing in leaps and bounds, surpassing lipstick, because of its affordability, Mismas says. And bright bold colors are shouting over the more subdued pinks and neutrals.
"Nails are a creative outlet, and a great way to express yourself," Mismas says. "(Women) may dress conservatively, but they might want to carry a statement bag or wear a statement shoe, but that might not be affordable, so with nail polish, you can make a statement that is a lot more affordable."
Area salons are seeing this interest in bold and bright nails -- on hands and toes.
"When your nails are a fun color, it makes you smile," says Dorothy Andreas Tuel, president of The Sewickley Spa in Sewickley. "Bright, bold colors are an ideal way to liven up your mood with little investment. The colors this summer and fall are much bolder than in the past. I think this is people's way to express 'enough gloom and doom, let's celebrate the good things about life.'"
Ultra-pale pinks that have been around for years have been replaced with top sellers such as Essie's "Braziliant," a fabulous orange with a tropical island feel; "Smooth Sailing," a periwinkle blue that's still bright, but classy for all ages, and "Super Bossa Nova," a fuchsia shade, Andreas Tuel says.
"I have done some pretty crazy colors -- oranges and yellows," says client Rachael DelTondo of Aliquippa. "It's fun."
Colors this year are more refined, Andreas Tuel says, thanks to improvements in the pigments and technology.
"There is nothing nicer than well-groomed hands, on both men and women, to complement any outfit," Andreas Tuel says. "With the short length of nails today, the colors can be bolder."
It is acceptable to wear blue polish with a red dress or orange polish with a fuschia shirt, she says. And it is quick, easy and inexpensive to change your mind about your favorite color.
"We are also seeing less matching manicure and pedicure colors this year," Andreas Tuel says. "Choosing from the same color family works better than a total contrast between your hands and feet, but the most critical piece of all of this is NO chipped edges -- ever."
The nail craze started on the runways, says Heather Muir, beauty news editor for Allure magazine.
"I usually pick a few colors and then have my manicurist paint one nail so I see how it looks, because colors often look different on than in the bottle," Muir says, "And even if you do pick a color that you eventually don't like, it is not like you invested a lot of money."
Try wearing a hue in the year's most fashionable shade, coral, says Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, executive vice president and artistic director for OPI. She suggests a lacquer like "I Eat Mainely Lobster," which adds a bright pop of color to nails and toes.
Nail lacquer changes your look and your outlook, Weiss-Fischmann says.
"I strongly believe that a woman can make a new and different fashion statement simply based on the color and look of her nails," she says. "Since you can also change your nails as often as you'd like, they truly can reflect changing emotions and different aspects of your personality."
Weiss-Fischmann considers nail lacquer an accessory. Adding a bright shade of polish can transform a solid black dress or suit in the same way a scarf or purse can make over a look. Nails look professional and polished with the right length (shorter rather than longer), with cuticles in good shape (no hangnails, no dry patches) and with the right shape. She recommends "squoval" -- a combo square and oval.
"When the temperature soars, I embrace the heat as the perfect excuse to play with bold, fiery colors," says Essie Weingarten, founder and color director of Essie cosmetics. "Summer color should pop, sizzle and be brazenly alluring."
Bright is definitely in, says Alysha Kyes, nail technician at Dean of Shadyside Salon.
"But you don't have to go neon bright if you don't want to," she says. "You can go with a coral or a color that isn't as bold but that is still bright. A lot of the fall colors have brightness.
During summer, women like to have a nice bright color on their hands and toes, says Larissa DeWitt, salon supervisor at Woodlands Spa at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. "Bright and bold colors make you feel good," she says. "The past few weeks, I have done a lot of hot pink on nails. Women might have to dress more conservatively for work, so they like to add a little pop of color to nails or lips. The colors you choose show a little bit of your personality."
Longer-lasting nail polish options
With polishes such as Gelish and Shellac, manicures can last for 14 to 21 days. and pedicures even longer -- six to eight weeks.
"Women don't want to have to get a manicure every week," says Dean Panizzi, owner-manager of Dean of Shadyside Salon in Shadyside. "They want something that lasts and that looks good for a long time. And that is safe for their nails."
Shellac was created by Creative Nail Design and combines the ease of polish with high-gloss shine and extended wear. It is a hybrid of nail polish and gel. Shellac is cured by UV light, within minutes, and lasts for weeks.
Gelish is made by Hand & Nail Harmony. The gels apply like polish, but are cured in an LED lamp in 30 seconds, or in two minutes in traditional UV lamps, just like gels.
"The Shellac and Gelish have been very popular because they last two to three weeks," says Alysha Kyes, nail technician at Dean of Shadyside Salon. "It takes a little longer to put on, but it's worth it."
Doing one of these applications is safer than acrylic nails and doesn't damage the nail because there's no glue involved. The average price of a Shellac or Gelish manicure is $25 to $50. A regular manicure averages $20 to $25.