Extending the Nail Care Category

By Joanna Cosgrove , Contributing Editor | January 30, 2017

Nail polish and treatment products pair exciting formulas with outstanding package designs.

Nail color is a statement of individualism that can be changed on a whim to match a mood or an outfit. Bolstered by social media trends, consumers are investing in treatment products and lacquers to help improve the quality of their nails and extend the duration of their manicures.

The global nail care market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 3.47% through 2019, according to market research firm Technavio. “Advances in technology have allowed for consumers to not have to go to nail bars and salons for nail care services, instead they can do it at home,” says Technavio’s Arushi Thakur, a lead cosmetics and toiletry research analyst. “The market is also flourishing due to its collaboration with various designers. Polish and cosmetics brands often tie up with fashion designers to develop new colors and patterns that are showcased in global fashion shows such as Milan, Italy, Paris and New York.”

Technavio points to three major drivers expected to boost the global nail care market: nails as affordable indulgence; the growing presence of nail bars and salons; and product innovation.

Affordably priced brands like Essie and OPI are giving younger consumers the ability to play with fashion-forward colors and finishes. At the same time, their long-wearing finishes also appeal to consumers in the 25-34 age bracket. With the launch of its Defy & Inspire brand, Target joined retailers like Sephora, Ulta, CVS and Rite Aid, all of whom are courting the affordable polish trend with their own in-house brands.

In terms of innovation, the shades aren’t the only things changing. Longer-wearing gel and gel-like formulas are increasingly popular. There’s also been an upswing in alternatives to specific chemicals, dubbed “Big 3/4/5”, which include dibutyl phthalate (DBP), formaldehyde and formaldehyde resin, methylene glycol/formalin, toluene and camphor.

An exciting trend in the nail category is nail art. Limited only by the reaches of the imagination, professionals and at-home nail artists alike are using nail polishes in combination with an array of brushes, stamping plates, dotting tools and decals to create a variety of signature looks. Sally Hansen, Essie and Jamberry nail wraps also help deliver the “wow” with minimal effort.

Swoon-Worthy Designs

Luxury brand nail lacquers represent the apex of premium packaging and first-class formulations, delivering on the sophisticated expectation that accompanies their higher price points. To that end, Guerlain’s recently-launched La Petite Robe Noir Nail Collection does not disappoint.

The eight-shade line features a bespoke, upside-down heart design inspired by Guerlain’s original, namesake fragrance bottle. A flat, wide brush deposits the polish onto the nail with ease and precision, and according to Guerlain, a “specific resin” in the formula guarantees long-wearing “elasticity and suppleness” with an ultra-shiny finish. The polish also delivers an aromatic surprise: a sweet gourmand fragrance with notes of red berries and petals that lingers for 24 hours. A layer of top coat can freshen the fragrance.

The house of Dior may be renowned for its fashion but in nail circles, its Vernis polish is prized for its wide paddle brush and flowy formula, which combine for a near effortless application. Last year Dior added to its standard nail line, Vernis, with the debut of Dior Vernis Gel Shine & Long Wear Nail Lacquer which uses a “high definition brush” to deliver a salon-grade, gel-like finish and extended wear. The 24 shades are inspired by the heritage of Dior Couture including the iconic red, Rouge #999, which made its debut at the first Dior runway collection in 1947 and Muguet #108 for Christian Dior’s favorite flower.

Dior’s nail care formula is Big 5 free, relying instead on pure resins, PVB polymers and coated pigments. It’s also formulated with ionic sicillium, which the company says strengthens the keratin network in the nails for a smooth surface, while PVB polymers enable the texture of the lacquer to fuse with the nail.

Dior also celebrated the holidays with an iconic Holiday 2016 Splendor Collection that included a range of nail enamels designed to look like beautiful gilded baubles. The series of four colors—gold, red, black and mother-of-pearl—are housed in gold and glass orbs that resemble luxurious holiday ornaments.

Last summer, Essie gave the mass category a “twist” to talk about when it debuted 42 new long-wearing Gel Couture shades. A companion line to Essie’s standard line of polishes, the new Gel Couture range is packaged in signature bottles inspired by a twirling runway dress. Essie’s patent-pending swirl stem brush with a tapered cut also ensures a precise color application. The two-step system features a proprietary top coat that helps ensure up to 14-days of glossy, no-chip wear without any salon-type curing.

Indie Spotlight

The independent (or “indie”) nail category has played an important change-maker role, jump-starting new color and finish trends. One brand that stands apart from the rest, thanks to its ethereally inspired colorways and distinctively elegant packaging, is Las Vegas, NV-based ILNP (an acronym for I Love Nail Polish). Created by Barbra Salet, ILNP sold its very first polish on Etsy in late 2012 and formally incorporated in 2013. Since then, the brand has undergone a stunning design evolution but remained true to its Indie roots.

ILNP began humbly, using round stock bottles and handwritten tags wrapped around the neck of the bottle. But, as Salet puts it, “good enough” wasn’t good enough for ILNP. “We’ve worked with designers from all over the world, spending a tremendous amount of time (and money through trial and error) getting our packaging just right,” she says, noting that she and her partner Jason are constantly and critically re-evaluating each detail of their brand to provide the best experience for their customer.

“Every detail matters and is carefully considered before moving forward—our logo, the shape of our custom bottle, our soft-touch cap, the typography we use, the width of our brushes and quality of the fibers, the thickness of the paper our product boxes are made of, and more.”

ILNP’s current packaging design is stylishly chic while at the same time, fashionably functional. “When designing our packaging, our aim was to present a sleek, high-end, quality boutique feel that also has a bit of a personal and fun element to it,” she says. “The moment a customer receives one of our packages, we want them to be impressed–before it’s even opened.”

Unlike mass brands, ILNP bottles are housed in matte black cartons embellished with silver foil text and a die-cut heart that perfectly frames the polish colorway inside. Its rectangular, thick-walled glass bottle is tastefully decorated with the black ILNP logo screened on the front panel. The bottle is topped off with a slim, rubberized handle that makes the brush both easy to hold and manipulate.

The primary packaging design isn’t the only aspect that’s been upgraded. Once shipped to mail order consumers in standard-issue bubble mailers, ILNP polishes now ship in sturdy cardboard mailers fitted with rugged black thermoformed trays that protect individual bottles from breakage during shipping. And each thermoformed tray is wrapped with custom, pastel ILNP tissue paper.

ILNP currently sells only through its online website, Etsy and Amazon. While partnering with high-end brick and mortar retailers is a future goal, Salet says she’s purposely put that plan on hold, choosing instead to continue refining the brand. As such, all brand management and order fulfillment is deliberately and personally handled in-house. “Eliminating as many third parties as possible and working directly with raw materials gives us the most flexibility as a true boutique manufacturer. We can react to trends quickly, address problems quickly, ensure quality assurance is to our standards, and always keep products in stock,” she says, acknowledging that she and her partner aren’t strangers to extraordinarily long work weeks to accommodate demand. “It’s difficult to manage but we’re not looking for the easy way out. We have tremendously high standards for our brand and are committed, regardless of how difficult, to putting in the necessary work to carve out our own lane in the industry.”

Packaging Insights

The initial three packaging considerations for any nail polish or treatment product are the bottle, the applicator brush and the cap.

Each nail brand on the market today has its own signature bottle shape. These bottles deliver a unique shelf presence by precisely framing polish colorways. Bottles also need to deliver functionality by encouraging ease of mixing and access during application. To this end, Baralan USA, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, recently introduced its multi-faceted Otty 15 bottle. Its sleek, tall applicator gives a high-end appearance and the bottle can be set on an angle to better access the contents when the level approaches empty.

Interest in bottle deco has also heightened. When Los Angeles, CA-based Bottle Coatings first introduced its glass bottle powder coating techniques, Shivie Dhillon, president, says the technology was used to protect gel products form UV exposure. Now the company is coating bottles for companies like L’Oréal, OPI and Nail Harmony who are seeking the colors and textures the coatings offer, including low gloss and frosted finishes that are achieved without the need for environmentally harmful chemicals.  

Caps and brushes might not be as sexy as bottles, but selecting the right combination is an equally weighty decision. “The cap should be a shape that is comfortable in the hand; much care and research has recently gone into finding the correct ergonomics. Width, length and weight all play into the choice as it should make the application of the polish comfortable,” explains Jim Slowey, vice president of sales and marketing, Baralan USA. “This becomes even more important to brands in the professional market where the manicurists will tend to use the brands with caps that fit their hands well and make their job effortless.”

Polychromatic, Gibbstown, NJ, works with leading producers of bottles and brushes to find the optimal package for its nail polish clients. “The brush is the most important consideration for nail lacquer because it controls the laydown of the product which directly affects the wear,” says Bill Boraczek, senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Rod length, bristle length and number of bristles all affect pick up. At-home consumers generally like wider, flat brushes because it can cover more of the nail with fewer strokes. Professionals generally like thinner brushes in case they have clients with smaller nail beds.”

Beyond polishes, brushes and applicators are important considerations for nail treatment products too. GCC Packaging Group, Tainan, Taiwan, offers twist or click pens with nylon brushes for higher-end nail care, especially for natural nail care products, as well as pens with replaceable nylon nibs for cuticle care items. GCC’s pens are primarily made of PP, and some feature aluminum shells for added shine. Capacity ranges from 1.5- to 2.5ml. 

And finally, dropper bottles are another type of convenient package for cuticle treatments and quick dry fluids. Barcelona-based Virospack offers a standard range of droppers specifically compatible to nail products that require precise application, whether they contain alcohols, silicones or oils.

“For nail treatment cosmetics, it is very important to ensure the compatibility and adaptability,” says Rosa Porras Mansilla, marketing and communications manager. “With a large market variety of nail bottles featuring standard 13/415 or 15/415 screw necks, the choice of droppers at Virospack is ample, from classic to push button, in standard white or black, custom colors from pastel to neon, with metal shells or fully metallized for luxury ranges.”

Virospack provided the push button dropper packages for Inglot’s Dry & Shine and Exit Damage, as well as the classic droppers, black rubber bulbs and glass pipettes for Instant Dry by Bourjois, Drop Dry by Nocibé and Sephora’s Express Drying Oil. 

Nail Swatches on Display

Qosmedix, Ronkonkoma, NY, recently unveiled two different nail polish swatch options for displaying nail polish colors and nail art designs. A 36-Tip Nail Color Display Palette features 25 nail tips on a 9.25in x 3in polypropylene palette, and a 50-Piece Nail Polish Swatch Sticks, which come packaged loose, can be purchased with a corresponding steel ring to keep the sticks organized. The steel ring can also be attached to a nail station for easy access.