The United States may lag behind Japan in high technology, France in high fashion, and the Soviet Union in military weapons (high anxiety), but when it comes to nail care, the U.S. takes a backseat to no country. Nail technicians the world over emulate the popular style sand applications of Americans.
However, the challenges facing nail care professionals are the same from Peoria to Paris: Your French counterpart struggles just as you do to overcome poor training, lack of licensing, begrudging professional respect, and frustration with product manufacturers. Training and licensing requirements for nail technicians vary widely, from a three-year curriculum in Germany to a one-day seminar in Australia.
Sculptured nails, acrylic overlays, fiberglass wraps, and nail art are finding an international following, and the natural manicure is a cultural universal. By most accounts, the fastest growing overseas markets for artificial nail care are in Germany, England, France, and other parts of Western Europe. Australia is also showing tremendous growth. The Scandinavian countries, Eastern Europe, the Far East, and South America all have natural nail care, but currently do not do much artificial nail care.
NAILS recruited field reporters, salon owners, manufacturers, and international distributors to help put together this report. Follow us now for a round-the-world look at nail care as we peek into our international neighbors’ salons.
Nail extensions are rapidly gaining an international following, and the natural manicure is a cultural universal. Follow NAILS on a globe-trotting tour for a peek inside the salons of our international neighbors.
At the Nail Care Co. in Dublin, Ireland, the motto is “There are nails … and they’re our nails.” This full-service salon offers natural manicures, sculptured acrylics, a gel or fiberglass overlay called “capped nails,” and light-cured gels.
Managing director Dennis Hedderman says that professional natural manicures are very popular in Ireland and available in all beauty spas, skin care salons, and nail care salons, although only occasionally available in hair salons. He says, “Although most women and men look after their own nails at home, women in particular have a manicure in a salon every few weeks or months.”
Hedderman says the most popular nail extensions in Ireland are sculptured nails. Fiberglass and UV light-cured gels are available, though not widely. He says that women will often simply apply tips, called “instant nails,” at home. Clients in need of nail care supplies purchase them either in salons, department stores, or from chemists (pharmacies).
To become a manicurist, a professional who does manicures only, one must pass an exam. However, there are no requirements for applying extensions. Hedderrman estimates that manicurists make about £7,500 yearly (about $12,900 U.S.).
Swedish women, according to Swedish journalist Annika Ortmark, generally prefer doing their own manicures, and as a result, few manicurists in the country are able to make a living just doing nails. Manicurists usually work as skin therapists as well, often in larger health and beauty salons. Ortmark says nail artists do nails as a “hobby” or for extra income, and that most people who do work on nails do not do it full time. Says Suzanne Simms, co-owner of Scratch Nails and a Star Nail Products distributor, “Many work from home; others will rent a space for a few hours a week in a beauty salon.”
Part of what has hindered the Swedish service industry is a 25% value-added tax (VAT) on manicures. Since nail care is seen as a luxury, it is also seen as expendable. Sweden is currently suffering an economic recession, and Ortmark says nail care is a luxury item that is first to go. “Our clients give priority to things they cannot do themselves, like facials and pedicures,” says Marie Hallgren, a skin therapist at the lavish health spa called Sturebadet, where a few nail technicians work part time.
Sturebadet sees about 300 customers weekly, most of whom come for a massage. The most frequently requested services, in order of volume, are facials, pedicures, and last, manicures. The spa does retail a few items – shampoos and lotions – although retailing is considered primarily an extension of service more than a money-making venture.
Hallgren received her skin and nail training at Beauty Therapist School in Stockholm, Sweden, which is one of only two officially recognized educational centers for skin therapists in Sweden.
Ortmark says that new nail trends appear and spread slowly in Sweden. “The French style manicure is as popular today as ordinary polish. We have had it for at least two, three years, but it takes a long time before a new thing is established,” says Hallgren.
Scratch Nails’ Marie Houston, who also runs the Stockholm nail school, sums up Swedish women’s preferences, “Usually she will want very thin, strong nails. She wants to be discreet and natural. The time of clumsily built-up, obviously artificial nails is gone. This is why fiberglass is so popular – even without polish it looks perfectly natural.”
There is no licensing board and no governmental controls on nail salons, says Ortmark, and anyone can call herself a nail technician and set up shop to do nails. She says that the lack of licensing for nail technicians strikes her as “an unusual thing in this country normally so fond of rules and regulations. The fact that many do nails as a second or extra job makes it difficult to know how many nail technicians and manicurist there are. An estimate would be between 500 and 1,000 active technicians [in a country of eight million]. Add to that the manicurists in salons who are also giving facials, body treatments, and pedicures.”
Most of Sturebadet’s skin therapists (who do work as nail technicians) are trained at the Beauty Therapist School in Stockholm, which requires a year and a half curriculum ranging in subject from anatomy, physiology, and beauty history to economy and law.
Prices for nail services vary between urban areas and country side, but the Sturebadet charges 240 krona for a manicure ($40 U.S.)
Although Japanese fashion has been heavily influenced by Western styles since World War II, the trend today seems to be a compromise between the old and the new. Japanese women take their personal grooming seriously, although visits to the salon for polish or artificial nails are an activity reserved for the young and adventurous. OPI International Design Team director Susan Weiss says that it’s geisha girls and actresses who are into nails in Japan.
For a closer look at Japanese salon culture, Japanese reporter Enne Matsushita visited the Hatsuko Endo Beauty Parlor in Tokyo.
Founded 100 years ago by Tomozo and Hatsuko Endo and passed down through two generations, the salon specializes in formal dressing (kimono), such as bridal wear and traditional imperial court dress, and doing traditional coiffure.
Owned by Sada (Hatsuko) Endo, granddaughter of the founder and now managed by Miyuki Mizujiri, the salon has offered “Western-style beauty care” since World War II.
Today the salon serves nearly 700 clients a week, doing hair care and nail care. Nail care prices are very high, when compared with those in the United States: manicures are $22, pedicures $33, and a polish is almost $15. The salon retails take-home products, and the most popular items are shampoos. Retail accounts for about 4% of the salon’s total earnings.
Training for nail technicians is done in house. All nail technicians have a national license to practice nail care. There are very few requests for nail art or acrylics, says Matsushita, although the salon does see a surge in nail art requests around Christmastime. The most popular nail service is the natural manicure.
Endo reveals an interesting cultural sensitivity when she describes the salon’s selling features as “a relaxing atmosphere, good technique, and kindness.” Her own training consisted of nail specialist training for six months, then passing the National Exam for Beauticians. She enters occasional nail care contests to brush up on her skills. Anyone who passes the national exam can do any beauty service, and there is no specific nail care license.
Hatsuko Endo Beauty Parlor is open every day, from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Matsushita says that nails-only salons are much rarer than full-service beauty salons and charge considerably more for their service. As a rule, clients do not tip beauty professionals.
To ensure compliance with sanitation standards, the Japanese Public Health Department makes several inspections during the course of the year. Although salons are well-regulated, punishment for a bad inspection is not grave, generally only a warning unless the problem is severe.
A Nail & Hair Affaire (Private) Ltd. introduced acrylic nails to Zimbabwe in 1984, says Valerie Breedlove, managing director of the salon and a distributor for OPI Products. She says that from the introduction, artificial nails have been very popular and created a national demand for product. Women come from Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and the Ivory Coast for nail care at one of the four A Nail & Hair Affaire nail salons in Zimbabwe.
Although plastic tips have been popular for years before the introduction of acrylics in Africa, Breedlove says, “Ladies all over Africa favor artificial nails.”
The salon offers acrylic extensions, fiberglass, gels, and tips. Breedlove says her service business consists of 70% acrylic, 25% fiberglass and tips and 5% gel services.
Besides her salons, Breedlove estimates that there are only five other salons and a few individuals practicing artificial nails in Zimbabwe. Clients come from all nationalities and all occupations, she says, “from secretary/clerk to minister to top-flight businesswomen. We also do children and men who usually come in for treatment of nail biting.
“Many ladies come to us for a manicure and pedicure, and some do home manicures. Only a few men come for manicures, but we anticipate more men in the future as the women become more educated on nails and nail care. Our company has an ongoing program to ensure customer awareness and understanding so that such is maintained at the highest level.”
Breedlove received her training in the United Sates at A Nail Affaire in Falls Church, Va. Employees at her salons in the African nations have trained in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.
Nail technician certification and training is controlled by The Consumer Council. Nail technicians, says Breedlove, come from a cross section of society, “representing a working class and business class people.”
As for retail, salons offer specialty products for use on artificial or natural nails, such as non-acetone removers, gold nails, and files. She says that these items are considered an “extreme luxury in Zimbabwe and anywhere else in Africa. Of course, she says, women can purchase nail care items at almost any pharmacy or department store.
NAILS reporter Lisa Baget filed this report from France where she recently spent several months. Anne Guipier is a working mother and has been doing nails for five years. She completed the required manicuring certification program in France, finished an 11-week course, attended seminars to perfect her skills, and now works on her own.
Guipier lives in a Paris suburb where there are very few salons with full-time nail technicians. To support herself, she works at a health/sport complex as well as another suburban salon.
While she now has a steady clientele, she says convincing French women about the importance of nail care hasn’t been easy. One of her clients, Monique Mursiano, offered this explanation: “Most French women put more importance on their hair and skin care. Facials, hair removal, and a good haircut are very important. But nails? They’ll just clip or cut them short and maybe put some clear or light-colored polish on them.”
Guipier explains that the cost of artificial nails is partly why they’re a hard sell. She pays triple what an American salon would pay for products, because of the import taxes. As a consequence, her minimum full set price is 398 francs ($75 U.S.), making the service a luxury for many middle class French women.
Guipier currently uses an American-made acrylic product and treatment line. She is interested in trying odorless products but can’t find them in France. She had to teach herself how to do artificial nails and would like to see more education offered to European nail technicians. Guipier relies on L’Ongle, a magazine devoted to nail care, for her continuing education.
Unlike the U.S., France has no technicians association, although a group called the Federation des Cosmetique et Esthetiques (similar to a cosmetology association) does offer occasional seminars.
Contrary to the trouble that Guipier has had cultivating a business in the suburbs, Francoise Lartiguelongue and her partner Gisele Pommier have great success with their L’Onglerie franchise nails shops.
By the partners’ own estimates, the salons see nearly 50,000 clients a year. They attribute the success of their franchises (and their ability to win acceptance of artificial nails) to their high-quality workmanship, a clinical, but friendly, salon atmosphere, and well-trained technicians.
Like many successful franchise operations before them, L’Onglerie concentrates on providing clients uniform service no matter which salon they frequent. A recognizable color scheme, street-level shops, and uniformed technicians assure a client that service in a Bordeaux shop has the same high quality as in a Paris shop.
Hans Paulig, founder of Maha Nail, a Creative Nail Design distributor in Germany, says that natural-looking nails that are not too long and have a rounded shape seem to be the style of preference among salon clients in Germany.
“As the popularity of nails extends to reach the higher class people, nails become as inconspicuous as possible. People who love polish, though, mostly prefer bright, shining colors while nail art is very popular with young girls.” Paulig points out that one seldom sees long, square-shaped nails in Germany. OPI’s Weiss says that gels are enjoying great popularity in Germany; in fact, she says they’re becoming more popular than acrylics.
American nail technician Lesli Moser returned from Germany last year after spending a few years in a rural area near Stuttgart, where her husband was stationed. She says artificial nails were a rare sight in this part of Germany and where they were found they are extremely expensive. She says the limited supplies and high cost of product contribute to the lack of a burgeoning trend. Moser says the German nail industry struck her as similar to the U.S. several years ago. However, by all accounts, Germany is probably the biggest European market for nails.
Moser found that in Germany, as in France, natural manicures are most popular, but that the colors favored by German women were deeper, more intense colors, like reds and deep pinks.
Nail students must attend a cosmetology course and learn skin care and hairstyling as well as nails. The training program consists of a three-year apprenticeship, where one day a week is devoted to classroom instruction. At the course’s completion, students take a government-administered test. If they pass the exam they can do nails anywhere in Germany.
Lena White, the exclusive distributor for OPI Products in the United Kingdom, and Rosemary Ozieh of the London School of Manicuring & Nail Technology and the exclusive distributor for Creative Nail Design in the United Kingdom, share reports on life as a nail technician in the U.K. White says the most popular styles for nail extensions in the U.K. are short, tapered square shapes. “We do not wear our nails blunt square, but tend to round the corners off a little. Not only is this shape practical, but it is chic as well.”
Ozieh concurs, “The most popular nail styles and applications are a tip with an overlay of liquid and powder, fiberglass, or gel. Very few nail salons do sculptured nails with forms. Also, professional nail technicians are now realizing the importance of offering more than one nail service, and many are getting back to basics with natural care.”
As for polish, White says, “A lot of women prefer the French manicure look throughout the summer, but now that the autumn/winter nights start to draw in, we are seeing a turn toward vibrant reds and deep pinks.
“We generally recommend sculptured nails, keeping away from the normal sticking of tips. However, most clients only think of extensions and have not yet grasped the fact that there are different systems out there.
“Women in the U.K. are now slowly starting to be educated in the world of nails. Once they have tried nail extensions, they generally don’t turn back. However, we are still trying to combat the old-fashioned mentality of the woman feeling guilty if she spends both her time and money on herself instead of buying little Johnny a new pair of socks,” concludes White.
Ozieh laments the lack of extension services because, just as in the United Sates, there has been a lot of bad publicity about artificial nails. She says; “If you speak to almost any woman, they have at some time or another had artificial nails put on, either professionally or otherwise. Women who wear artificial nails are from all walks of life. A few years ago probably only affluent women could afford to wear nails and maintain them, but with more women now going out to work and more nail technicians providing the service, nail extensions are becoming more affordable.”
As for men in the salon, White says that on the whole, “They tend not to have manicures in the salon, thinking it rather ‘sissy’ to be seen there.’
There are currently no licensing requirements for nail care in England. Both White and Ozieh are advocates for better training and certification. Says White, “Too many nail technicians/manicurists set themselves up in business having been trained by another nail technician or by an unqualified instructor, then go out into the world and create a mess! This leads to the client believing that all nail treatments are the same. Then the reputation of the whole industry goes downhill. I think in 1992 we’ll have the examination laws revised and can look forward to stricter standards, which should rid us of the cowboys in our field.”
However, licensing or not, there is money to be made doing nails in England. White says, “The successful nail technician in the U.K. is often well off. Nail technicians are charging an average of £30-40 ($55-73 U.S.), and £60 per set ($110 U.S.) in central London and large cities. Infills (what the British call “fills”) are done every two weeks and cost half the amount of a full set of nails.”
Ozieh says the technicians who are making that kind of money are self-employed. “It is my opinion that over half of our nail techs in the U.K. are self-employed and make a good enough living to continue in the business.
“However, nail techs who are not self-employed will earn a very basic wage of, say, £100-150 ($184-276 U.S.) a week, plus commissions on services and retail. Due to the wide disparity in charges for full sets and other nail services, and the lack of retailing, the average nail tech is not maximizing her profits. That notwithstanding, it is not uncommon for nail technicians to regularly record weekly turnovers in excess of £400 ($735 U.S)
“Nail technicians are very proud of what they do. They are in great demand, although I suspect that if you spoke to the layman he would have no idea who or what a nail technician was.”
Most nail services are offered in nail and beauty salons. You can also find nail services in hair/toning/fitness salons, although there are a few nails-only salons. The effort to retail is growing in the U.K., as it is in the U.S. Says White, “General nail care items can be purchased over the counter from chemists [pharmacies]. However, we are trying to teach nail technicians that they can be salespeople too and retail products.”
Ozieh concurs, “Since the majority of women in the U.K. are unaware that they can buy professional quality nail care products at the salon, they usually purchase their supplies from the chemist, department store, or supermarket. Nail care items are still considered luxury items.”
Ozieh reports that she sees Germany as the largest nail market in Europe. The average consumer there, she says, is much more aware of her nails. The standards and training required to become a nail technician in Germany are much higher than in the U.K. Just from visiting German shows and talking to distributors, she sees that well-groomed German women see nail care as a part of their essential beauty budget.
Ozieh feels that the future for the U.K. market in professional nail care is very promising. The recent formation of the International Nail Association and the launch of the first International Nail Classic Show, held last April, can only help escalate the growth of the industry and increase consumer awareness. Just as we say here in the States, Ozieh says it too: “An educated consumer is the best customer.”
Alan Sporn, an OPI representative based in Hong Kong, reports from Kowloon, Hong Kong.
At present, basic manicures and pedicures that use the cuticle cutting technique are popular in Asian countries.
There are no prerequisites to become a nail technician, although most salons do require nail technicians to be trained by a local beauty school. The few schools that do exist teach nail anatomy, basic manicuring, pedicures, nail disease, tips with acrylic overlays, sculptured nails, refills (fills), and repairs.
The most popular styles and applications in Asia, says Sporn, are round and square shapes and the French manicure. Artificial nails are not too popular for most Asian women except to repair a broken nail. Women who do wear artificial nails primarily use tips with acrylic overlays or sculptured nails.
Sporn says that it is professional women (Asian and foreign) and women in the beauty and garment industries who you would find wearing artificial nails, and he estimates that 30% of women visit a manicurist regularly. A low percentage of men have manicures, although it is very common for men to go a sauna house for a sauna, massage, and a manicure.
Sporn reports that although nail technicians today enjoy a better social position than just a few years ago, they earn only about $10,000 Hong Kong a month ($1,360 U.S.).
Sporn says, “Women in Hong Kong purchase their nail care items in department stores, drugstores and nail salons, although these items are considered luxuries rather than essentials.
At BFS-Figurslank, Susanne BjØkmann does nails, and recently has been showing off her skills in nail art. She has been in the beauty business for 12 years. Her exclusive NAILS report:
Nail care services are not frequently asked for, and few hairstyling salons offer manicures. Some full beauty salons do offer manicures, but there are only five to 10 nails-only salons in the entire country.
Although there are no formal requirements to become a nail technician in Denmark, most technicians will take manufacturer sponsored seminars. These range in length from one day to four days.
BjØrkmann says very few women wear artificial nails. “In fact, it causes a sensation every time I spot one. Although it is hard to characterize what type of woman wears artificial nails. I would say she was a single working woman who wears classical clothes and is about 30 years old,” she says.
As for popular styles, BjØrkmann says the women who do wear artificial nails favor acrylics. Natural nails tend to be short and rounded or oval.
Nail technicians and Danish beauticians enjoy a very high social status, because working in the beauty industry is considered glamorous. Also, due to the great expense required to get a beautician’s diploma, only women with some money can get one.
Despite the social status, nail technicians do not make a lot of money. BjØrkmann says that they make less than the national average.
Essential nail care items such as files and polishes are usually purchased at supermarkets. Luxury nail care items are generally found in perfumeries.
The nail industry in Australia is quite similar to that in the United States. Artificial extensions are popular, and most products are plentiful. We talked to Australian nail technician and salon owner Nancy Rosewall from Queensland, and Lynette Kirsten, owner of the Le Nail franchise of salons.
Says Rosewall, “Our nail industry commenced in the 1970s. It is the fastest growing area of the beauty industry in Australia. In the early days, education was very limited and products could not be purchased unless you had trained at an establishment and then received products in unlabeled containers.
“Educational standards have been lifted in a lot of areas, but we do not have licensing yet. We have a problem getting everyone