With the sudden rise of brush-on gel-polish bringing many new customers into salons, it seems nail techs are seeing fewer tried-and-true acrylic customers. With new products on the market, traditional acrylic users now have more options to choose from, but there is still a seat at the manicure table for them.
The Acrylic Faithful
Even with the exposure of gel-polish, it is important to note that a true acrylic customer who prefers the look, feel, and durability of acrylics will not find a parallel product in gel-polish or traditional gels. It is likely that the majority of the new gel-polish wearers were never acrylic customers to begin with.
For the client who prefers an extended nail bed with well-shaped free edges and a deep smile, and who needs a lot of strength because she is tough on her nails, acrylics will likely remain her preference. And with acrylics entrenched in the skill set of so many practicing nail technicians, it should continue to be a popular service in salons for some time.
“There will never be anything that takes the place of acrylic,” says Reams. “It is unmatched when it comes to strength. A flat, wide, thin, short nail can be sculpted into a slender, longer, curved nail that has nine other beautiful ones to match. I don’t think acrylic nails will be a thing of the past anytime soon.”
Many nail techs have embraced gel-polish to help increase their business. Accomplished acrylic artist Stacy Senecal, of Geneva, N.Y., has incorporated applying gel-polish on top of a sculpted acrylic. “Many nail techs are focusing on natural nail gel-polish services and underestimate the acrylic client’s potential desire for this add-on service,” she says. “Once they learn about how their color will wear longer and they can get out the door smudge-free, they won’t go back to regular polish again. The extra charge is well worth it to them.”
Keeping Acrylics Alive
The biggest foreseeable challenge that acrylic-loving nail techs will face in the future will be a decline in demand of acrylics from younger generations. Many acrylic-wearing clients have been wearing them for years — and they don’t plan to stop.
“I have a more conservative, professional clientele,” says Reams. “About 80% wear pink-and-whites exclusively. They come faithfully for their two-week standing appointments, and hopefully this will take me into retirement.”
To keep up with everything else out there, one of the biggest innovations in acrylic has been the popularity of flashier, more colorful acrylic powders with glitter. It shows that acrylics need not be restricted to the classic pink-and-white. CEO of NSI, Rick Slack, says that he has a seen an increase in the amount of colored acrylics he is selling because nail techs are incorporating more and more acrylic nail art into their salon services.
“We have seen an extremely large increase in the amount of colored acrylics being used for nail art in relation to pink-and-white colors,” says Slack. “NSI believes there is a strong future for acrylics and that they will continue to hold a secure share of the market.”
The true fate of acrylics ultimately lies in the hands of the nail tech and her ability to market the service to a new crop of customers who will turn into loyal clients. Through education and craftsmanship, nail techs can keep a healthy stream of acrylic clients walking through the doors. And with a touch of flair, a new generation of acrylic-lovers can be cultivated.
“Acrylic is still king here in the Central Valley (of California),” says Maggie Franklin, owner of Art of Nailz in Visalia, Calif. Franklin has held fast to her acrylic clientele, which make up about 50% of her services, even while gels have brought in even more customers.
Franklin notes that acrylics account for almost 75% of her total income, because glitter and rockstar add-ons are popular with her clients and she can charge more for them.
Rhonda Kibuk, owner of the Purple Pinkie in Ford City, Pa., is reporting a three-fold increase in her acrylic business since she’s started to actively promote it online.
“We photograph about every set we do and upload them daily to our Facebook page,” says Kibuk. “Clients love seeing their nails, and when we tag the clients it shows up on their Facebook news and all their friends can see, therefore opening the door to new clients.”
Julie Pecanty Perry, of JuJu Does Nails in Brookhaven, Miss., says she gets new acrylic customers through her clever “first-set-free” method. “I befriend some of the more popular girls at the high schools and colleges in my area and offer to do their first set for free in exchange for their advertisement via word of mouth. When they come back for a refill I don’t charge them for artwork. The artwork is what catches people’s eye. It’s like having a walking billboard with a built in ‘cool’ factor.” Perry offers referral discounts to clients to keep new acrylic clients coming in.
Education also plays a key role in the security of acrylics. It will be the educated tech who will be able to take her acrylic skills into the next generation. Young Nails CFO Habib Salo knows just how important education can be. Young Nails is one of the most ardent supporters of acrylics in the salon, enthusiastically educating its users on the importance of learning intricate nail art techniques to create a wide range of colorful and decorative designs.
“Continuing to innovate and create new techniques in education is the key to the success and growth of acrylic,” says Salo. “Our classes for acrylics continue to get a lot of heavy attendance.”
Acrylic will likely retain a strong presence in nail salons because of its deep history in the industry. It was the first nail enhancement product that enabled professionals to elongate and beautify a natural nail. And as technology progresses across the industry, so do acrylics with newer colors, glitters, and techniques.
Today’s nail techs have so many more product options than techs did 20 years ago. But with acrylics being a major portion of current nail school curriculums, with the strong amount of built-in acrylic wearing loyalists and skilled acrylic nail techs around, and with the continued support of manufacturers, acrylics will continue to live on.
Next page: Acrylic tech profiles