Like most women in other parts of the world, Polish women like to look good and take beauty seriously. After all, this is the country that gave birth to Max Factor, widely regarded as the father of modern makeup.
Stroll down the streets of any major Polish city, such as Krakow, and you’ll encounter more than one beauty salon offering a full range of beauty treatments, from skin care and nail services to massage and makeup application.
The country may have a high unemployment rate (it currently hovers around 20%), but its recent joining of the European Union has been positive, with the country reporting an increase in both exports and imports. And a stronger economy can only mean that women (and men) will have more disposable income to spend on beautifying themselves.
Though fairly young by American standards (nails only became popular in the last 12 years or so), the Polish nail industry is well on its way to becoming a bigger player in the international nail market. Currently, artificial services seem to be leaving more of a mark on the industry than natural nails.
“Natural nail services are less popular than before,” says Slawomir Wos of Euro Fashion, a nail distributor who also offers product training and nail competitions. “Many clients either go with artificial enhancements or permanent designs. They don’t want to spend a lot of time taking care of their nails, but they do want them to look beautiful.”
In fact, artificial enhancements have become such a mainstay in Poland that nail competitions are commonplace — and popular.
“In the last few years the range of nail designs in Poland has really grown,” says Wos. “We have great quality acrylic powders, gels, and nail art. Colored acrylic designs are popular and that has a lot to do with nail competitions.”
The Polish nail industry takes its cue largely from its American countterpart. Most of the products used by Polish nail technicians are American. Most nail services can be found in full-service salons. And most full-service salons are found in big cities like Warsaw and Krakow, although you are likely to find at least one good salon in smaller towns.
In the early days, you’d mostly find well-off Polish women getting their nails done. And while that’s still the case today, you’re also bound to see men, students, and a younger clientele getting nail services.
Businesswomen opt for more natural-looking styles, such as pink-and-whites. Younger women are more willing to experiment, gravitating toward colorful looks and different designs.
Nail technicians do not need a license to do nails, but many opt to take courses offered by manufacturers or by salon owners.
While being a salon owner can be profitable, doing nails can also pay well, but a nail tech’s skill and education levels must be high.
“There’s strong competition between salons,” says Wos. “Only the best salons and the most educated nail techs offering high-quality services prosper.”
POLISH NAIL INDUSTRY AT A GLANCE
Population: 39 million
Area: 121,000 square miles (slightly smaller than New Mexico)
Number of salons: 130,000 (est.)
Number of nail techs: 190,000 (est.)
Licensing: No licensing required for nail technicians
Average service prices: Manicure $5-$10 (USD), Pedicure $9-$15 (USD), Full set $20-$70 (USD), Fill $9-$15 (USD)
Popular services: Acrylics, colored acrylics
Nails in the native language: Paznokcie