Is the professional nail industry a leader or a follower when it comes to product innovation?

We spoke to nail experts to get their perspectives on where the professional industry stands in the realm of innovation.

Over the years, the nail industry has seen the development of many new innovations, including new product ingredients and new tools. But where are these innovations coming from? Is the professional beauty industry beating the consumer beauty market in terms of innovation, or vice versa?

We asked a nail tech, a distributor, and a manufacturer this very question. Taking into account the industries’ histories, recent innovations, and markets, they told us their perspectives on whether the professional industry is a leader or a follower.


Patricia Yankee Williams

Pattie's Place

N. Babylon, N.Y.

I think the professional nail industry both leads and follows when it comes to product innovation.

As far as the technical aspect of proper and healthy nail care, the nail industry is on the cutting edge of developing products that strengthen and improve the appearance of the natural nail or enhance the natural nail with extensions that look natural.

The nail industry is also constantly innovating methods for the nail technician to be creative and showcase her artistic side. As our clients’ nails become our canvas, we are able to create almost anything imaginable.

But, travelling across the world as a consultant, I see how popular “organic” and “natural” skin care lines are with consumers. Professional nail care lines are now carrying skin care items, which proves there is a demand for these types of products in our industry. With so much of the world focused on health and nature, it seems only natural the professional nail industry would also want to focus on seeking out natural ingredients.


President Armstrong McCall

Austin, Texas

To answer this question properly, you have to look at the industries historically and not just take a snapshot. I think the professional segment of the industry has very much been an innovator in terms of product and technique. Over the last five years, innovative leadership has plateaued somewhat, but that ebb and flow of innovation is characteristic for any industry and is not symptomatic of a decline. In terms of the overall nail industry, I think the professional industry leads in innovation.

The professional beauty industry, whether we’re talking about nails or hair, is always the innovator. The consumer industry follows. For example, tipping techniques and other innovations came out of the professional industry. I also think there is much more innovation still to come.

MANUFACTURER: Paul Bryson, Ph.D.

Director of Research and Development

OPI Products Inc.

North Hollywood, Calif.

I would say the professional beauty industry is definitely the leader, not the follower, in product innovation. Professional companies were the first to market sugar scrubs and enzyme exfoliators, just to name a couple of examples from recent years. Also, our industry pioneered the use of unique natural ingredients such as avocado and essential oils, years before these showed up in mass-market products.

There are at least two reasons for the innovative dominance of the professional industry. One is we are serving a much tougher market: the salon nail tech requires more out of her tools and products than does a consumer. For instance, a brush that speeds up application would be relatively unimportant for a consumer doing nails at home, but that small time margin adds up to a lot of money lost for the nail tech. The other factor is the retail side of the business has almost nothing to do with the professional “polymer-technology” products — acrylics, gels, and wraps.

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