Last year, NAILS took its readers on a tour of nails around the world, looking at popular services and styles and examining the life of nail technicians abroad. We explored commonalities and differences and discovered that most technicians face the same trials and tribulations the world over – and all have an identical thirst for education.

This year, to update you on the international scene, we talked to international technicians as well as Americans who have traveled overseas and manufacturers who do business internationally. While each has a unique point of view, it’s surprising how much all three agree upon.

One thing we discovered is that there are nations that are experiencing rapid growth in nail services and other countries that have been very slow to focus on nails. Which group any country falls into depends largely on the state of its economy and prevailing cultural attitudes.


In Italy, for instance, the economic foundation for nails exists, but Italian women have not demanded them in significant numbers. In a country where Roman law once decreed that yellow or blonde hair was to be worn by ‘women of the night,’ long or red nails are still viewed similarly.


Women in many South American countries, on the other hand would love to get nail services, if only they could afford them.

“In South America, women are very much into makeup and beauty services and are ripe for nail services, but political class separations have created wide divisions between the rich and the poor,” explains Susan Weiss-Fischmann, executive vice president of OPI Products. “A minute segment of the population can afford nail services. Also, unstable political environments and currencies make it a difficult environment in which to sell.”

Adds Lee Spelling, vice president of marketing for Develop 10, which does business in 30 countries, “Women in South American, Mexico, and the Caribbean want the nail services but find they’re very expensive. From our point of view, the currency is unstable and there’s no established distribution network for importing products.

Additionally, several manufacturer sources said experiencing with customs office ‘payola’ discourage them from entering such countries.

The former Soviet Union in another potential hotbed for nails, but there is no economic incentive. Younger women love the well-manicured look and bright colors, but since much commerce is done in trade – not hard currency – there’s been no way for American companies to do business there successfully.

In Asia, cultural attitudes and economies inhibit the growth of professional nail care. Women there favor subdued looks, and often the service price is prohibitive. But this is changing quickly among the young, particularly in Japan.

The opposite situation exists in Australia, where the economic climate and consumer demand for nails are strong. Longer nails are popular with the entire population. Jan Bragulla, president of Creative Nail Design, reports that local styles and tastes are very similar to those of California women.

But whether the strongest effect on the international nail business is cultural attitudes or economics, there are definite patterns in the growth of the nail industry. In certain countries, it’s booming; in others, it’s likely to remain dormant for a long time.


England, Ireland, Australia, Israel, Hong Kong, and parts of Europe are ripest for the advancement of nails. Since American manufacturers are the world leaders, it’s no surprise that it’s English-speaking countries, or those where English is widely known, where these nail companies are taking the lead. Reports on Germany vary widely. “Price in Germany are high,” explains Bragulla, “but the marketing is huge, competitive and sophisticated.

Australia and the United Kingdom represent the strongest overseas nail markets, where tips, sculptured nails, and acrylics have long received wide acceptance.

In Australia, Nancy Rosewall, who owns two Girl Talk Nails and Beauty salons, says nails are now becoming a beauty essential, mot just a fashion accessory.

“From a business point of view, nails have been almost recession-proof,” she reports. “The biggest change in the nail industry in the last year has been stricter health and government regulations, resulting in better training and elimination of poorly educated practitioners. Clients are demanding quality and they’re shopping about for good nail technicians, not just cheapest ones.”

Rosemary Pzieh of the London School of Manicuring and Nail Technicnology, Ltd. Says, “Nail technicians have now begun to maximize their profit from retailing. Technicians are now more aware of the chemicals use and are attuned to personal customer service. The nail industry will continue to grow steadily her, especially with the infrastructure of the International Nail Association in place. The United Kingdom now holds three nails-only events a year that offer education and motivation.”

In Ireland, where nails have been widely available for about 12 years, Dennis Hedderman of the Nail Care Company in Dublin reports that an increasing number of beauty salons are offering nail services.

“Awareness of nail care treatments in increasing, and some distributors stopped offering nail products because they could not back up their products with training,” he adds. “The most important issue for technicians in Ireland is education.”

The sole distributor for Star Nail Products in Ireland, Hedderman opened the first nail technician school in Ireland this year.

“For the first time, technicians can receive training and supplies for all systems, which will ensure the future develop0ment of nail treatments in Ireland,” he adds.

In most countries where nails are growing, it’s the technicians themselves who are becoming distributors for American companies and spreading the nail gospel. One such example is in Israel, where husband and wife team Mark and La Lane are the sole representatives for Alpha 9 in a country if five million. They employ eight technicians at Finger-trix in Gavaat Savyon and also operate a technician/customer hot line.

“Regular manicures and pedicures have been offered her since Moses was around,” says Mark lane. “There are eight to 10 nail salons in the center of Israel, and now hairdressing salons have started to offer nail services. Only we offer fully sculptured nails, tips, and overlays.”

In Hong Kong, thanks to the British influence, salons offer all types of nail services.

“In Japan, nails are offered primarily in hotel salons, but in Hong Kong, British girls work as nail technicians al around the city.” Said Alice Ghazarian of AuCourant salon in St. Louis. “Because of the British influence, consumers know all about the different services.

Ghazarian was part of a group of 57 National Cosmetology Association (NCA) members who travelled to Japan, China, and Hong Kong for the World Hairdressing Championships. A native of Baghdad, she’s had the opportunity to view the business from many places in the world.


“The last time I was n Baghdad was 20 years ago, but I imagine the nail business is the same as when I left – nothing,” notes Ghazarian. “All over the world, nails come in last when it comes to the beauty business. We need to educate women.”

In China, they have nothing going on in nails although we went to salons where the haircuts were good and they gave excellent facials. The Women’s Federation of China set up the tour and we gave classes there. They were fascinated by acrylics and a camera crew present to film us as students watched,” says Judith Hullinger of Nail Fashion Update in Fort Wayne, Ind., who also went on the NCA tour and demonstrate manicures and tip application in China.

She recalls, “We went to a hall owned by a school and salon owner. It was in a poor neighborhood and we were guarded front and back. The entrance was in an alley. About 200 students were there. People sat on the floor and I sat at a table with a white table cloth. The student I worked with had six nice nails and four short ones. I gave her a choice of getting a manicure or evening out the length with four tips. She chose the tips, and her face really lifts up when she got them! It surprised me that she selected red polish because everyone was dressed in navy or brown. But another student also asked for just one nail to be done in red, so she’s running around China somewhere with one red nail. Everyone there was incredibly receptive to nails.”

Despite the fascination with nails economic realities will prevent them from becoming a basic service for decades to come in China.

In Japan, too, the economy figures highly in limiting the growth of nail services. “A basic manicure in Japan is $50 [U.S.],” says Ghazarian. “It’s very simple, and the technician sits with a basket of her tools in her lap. There’s no sanitation equipment that I saw. The selection of polishes was very limited, too.”

And while Scandinavia boast salons and spas that offer nail services, an extremely high VAT tax stiff tariffs make getting the services and importing nail products prohibited.

Says Spelling, “Scandinavia is a very expensive place to do business.  A nail strengthener that we sell here for $7 foes for $40 [U.S.] there. That’s a big obstacle to trade.


Outside the United States, the overall trend is toward shorter, natural nails, cared-for cuticles, and light polish colors.

“Women in Israel are conservative, but you do see all nail shapes and lengths,” reports Lane.

“In Dublin, the most popular style is medium length and around,” says Hedderman. “There’s a mixture of polished and natural looks.”

Adds Ozieh, “At the moment nails in London are short, rounded, and natural.”

In Australia, the news is similar, but with an interesting-sounding twist. “The most fashionable style are what we call squound, which is square without corners, and rounded,” says Rosewall. “Pointy nails are out. The age of the client is the main factor in determining nail shape. Older clients seem to opt for rounded, if it suits the shape of their hands. Younger clients and teens like the squound or squared-off shape.

“Length is sport length to medium and the French manicure is very popular. Soft earth tones or lively pinks are in demand by older clients look for rich wine, grape, and rust colors in winter. In summer, the shades are brighter, clear, and sunny.

 In our Girl Talk Salons, nail art is very popular. For Christmas, all my technicians wore nail art and encourage clients to try it. We offer free nail art with every new set of nails.”

In France, Coco Channel’s view of style still prevails, but according to Bragulla, the short red nail has started to break through.

“Longer lengths and more expensive color are beginning to become more acceptable,” she reports. “They are cautious in the city of Paris because natural is very important. In the resort towns, more extreme nail expression is acceptable. Salons in Nice and in the entire French Riviera are booming with interest.

Adds Spelling “In France and throughout Europe, we sell a tremendous amount of polish in Mesa Beige and Alabaster, which is an off-white. You don’t see half as much Alabaster in the U.S.”

And in Germany, too, it’s color that matters most.

“Nails there are mostly natural, but some artificial are showing up,” says Spelling. “In the U.S., blue-reds, purples, and French manicures reign; in Germany, they like orange-reds and earthy shades with brownish overtones.”

Hot Services, High Tickets

Rosewall surveyed three other Australian salons about top-selling service. What she found is that tip0s with overlays edges out sculptured nails, but not by much.

“Service prices for sculptured nails range from $40 to $60 ($30-$46 U.S.); tips with overlays are from $25 to $55 ($19-$42 U.S.),” she adds. “Infills [fills] start at $ $25 ($19 U.S.). One salon I interviewed has not raised prices in three years. Others, including mine, have had slight increases yearly. With product prices going up all the time, I had to increase my price for new sets, but I’ve kept my infill price the same for about 18 months.”

While a basic manicure in Japan is $50 [U.S.], in Dublin, a full manicure with hand massage is just £6.95 ($10 U.S.). A Gent’s Manicure is £2 ($8 U.S.). Less, sculptured nails are £32 ($47 U.S.), and a set of wraps with tips is £35 ($51 U.S.). The most popular services are acrylics with tips, basic, manicures, and fiberglass and silk wraps. Interesting enough, The Nail Care Company’s menu also includes ‘Instant Nails,’ which is described as a full set of press-on nails for £12 ($18 U.S.). In Ireland, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Prices are a bit higher in England, where a set of tips is £30 to £40 ($44-$58 U.S.) and a manicure is £5 to £12 ($7-$18 U.S.). According to Ozieh, the most popular services are the basic manicure, tips with acrylic, and fiberglass overlays.

In Israel, it seems it’s much easier on the pocketbook to go natural. A manicure is 10 to 25 sheckles ($4-$10 U.S.); a set of sculptured nails is 80 to 150 sheckles  ($53-$60 U.S.) that basic manicure price beats out the cheapest price in midtown Manhattan, which is probably the lowest in the Un8ted States.


In many countries where nails are in their infancy and licenses aren’t required, education is either manufacturer-supplied ort through work experience, and salaries are the “getting by” level.

On the positive side, almost everyone we spoke to says that nail technicians take their art seriously and that the general public takes their professionalism seriously, too. Part of the reason for the latter may be that in Europe in particular, beauty care is very serious business, and nails are generally done n spas and complete care centers that emphasize skin care, grooming, and overall health.

Says Weiss-Fischmann, “In Europe, they have incredible-looking salons. In Japan, they’re so high-tech it’s like being in outer space. Beauty is a serious business.”

Adds Spelling, “Outside of the U.S., salons are set up for grooming. Body care centers offer nail and skin care services; haircutting is often done elsewhere. Overseas, the profession is taken more seriously and is more respected by the general public.”

Still, like their U.S. counterparts, technicians are struggling with ways to increase their income.

“Price of services is the most important issue,” says Ozieh. “Services need to be more affordable to masses, yet the technician needs to make enough to cover cost of living expenses – particularly in England, which is perceived to be one of the most expensive countries in the world.”

According to Ozieh, most technicians are self-employed and make £400 to £1000 ($584-$1,460 U.S.) a week. The high end represent those who apply extensions and do artificial nails.

In Ireland, Heddermann says the average income is £8,700 ($12,700 U.S.) plus tips. “We don’t give tips as you do in U.S., but technicians in general do quite well from tips,” he adds.

And in Australia and Israel, methods of payment and income vary widely. In Australia, some salon pay a flat wage, which is about equal to that of hairstylists; others use a base salary plus percentage approach. There are also booth renters.

“Incomes vary by method of payment,” says Rosewall. “My salon pays a percentage on product sold and I also give my staff a retainer.”

The Lanes say incomes for Israel technicians are difficult to estimate  because some technicians work on straight salary, other are self-employed, and others still are paid by percentage of turnover (work done).

“We can only guesstimate,” says Mark Lane, “but I’d say nail technicians make a salary above that of the average clerk.”

As technicians continue to look to the United States for leadership, issues such as education, sanitation, and professional representation will continue to take forefront in countries where the business is growing fast. And in wealthier nations where nails are making slower progress, client education is the biggest issue. Once demand increases, the state of the industry will change as well.

“Like everything else today, people travel and see what is available in the U.S.,” says Mark Lane. “Then, they want the same services at home.”

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