European Nail Vacation

After several years of urging from Swiss-born, California-based nail tech Elsbeth Schuetz, Editor Hannah Lee hopped on a plane and headed first to Zurich, Switzerland, and then to Dusseldorf, Germany, to attend two European beauty shows.

After several years of urging from Swiss-born, California-based nail tech Elsbeth Schuetz, I hopped on a plane and headed first to Zurich, Switzerland, and then to Dusseldorf, Germany, to attend two European beauty shows. With several stops along the way, I learned more about the developing nail industry in Switzerland and was in awe at the sheer size of the show in Dusseldorf.

First Stop: Switzerland

NAILS frequent cover tech and celebrity manicurist Elsbeth Schuetz might call California home, but she hails from Switzerland and travels to her motherland several times a year to work trade shows and teach classes. She’s been asking me to come with her for several years and everything finally aligned perfectly this year.

Our first stop was Beauty Forum Swiss, which took place March 3-4 at Messe Hallen Zurich. It’s a smaller-scale show than many of the beauty shows in the United States, but the professionalism and booth set-up rivals some of our largest shows. Nails and skin care were definitely the focus of this show (there were a few smaller hair care lines in a separate hall). The two-day show included a full class schedule, nail competitions, and plenty of interesting nail art.

Gels are still the top enhancement category in a lot of European countries, and while gel-polish was everywhere (much like in the United States), it seemed there was a lack of knowledge and understanding about how to use and market the service to clients. In the U.S., gel-polish hasn’t really taken the place of either gels or acrylics. Instead it’s often being requested by natural nail clients who would normally end their services with traditional polish.

In Switzerland, manicure and pedicure services aren’t as popular in salons. I heard from several nail techs in Zurich that gels are still their most popular service and they rarely do natural nail services. Manicures are thought of as home-care services, and enhancements are more of a professional salon service.

Prices are high in Switzerland (not just for nail services, but for everything) and manicures can run anywhere from $30-$50 (CHF). “Manicures just aren’t always worth it for nail techs in Switzerland,” said Marlise Kölliker, nail tech and owner of Swiss nail distributor Nail International by Marlise K. “Manicures are something you can do yourself at home. Nail techs can get $180 (CHF) for a set of pink-and-white gels. They can get $95 (CHF) for a gel fill. And they’re only getting about $40 (CHF) for a manicure.”

Likewise, pedicures are just starting to become popular as a regular salon service. Foot specialists actually do more of a clinical-type service, while regular nail salons rarely offer pedicures. I got a pedicure at Nails & Cosmetics in Grenchen, Switzerland, but owner Zekiya Demirkaya told me pedicures are usually just a spring and summer service. (I was there in March and there was still snow on the ground in some places.) But she said she is seeing pedicures become more of a year-round service with the growing popularity of gel-polish for the feet.

Like most European countries, Switzerland doesn’t offer licensing for nail techs. But that doesn’t stop them from seeking out continuing education (to help improve their skills) and quality products (to make their clients happy). Many nail manufacturers will only sell products to you if you’ve taken classes and received certifications with them.

Kölliker, who has been in the business for 30 years, has been instrumental in educating nail techs all over Switzerland. In addition to being one of the founders of the National Association of Nails, she also developed a “Q” rating for nail techs to post showing clients they have taken a certain amount of courses and have reached a higher level. The association has also been working toward a national nail exam, and Kölliker was hopeful that it will be implemented in the next year.

Click here to view Nail Snapshots from Switzerland.

Next page: Germany

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