Technology is opening up new possibilities for nail art.
In recent years, nail art has rapidly evolved as social media sharing fuels a boom in fantastical designs. Now, innovators in the sector are looking to technology, including VR and AR, to add even more creativity.
Last week, L’Oréal announced the first five startups selected to take part in its accelerator program. Alongside beauty apps and ad tech was the Preemadonna Nailbot, a robotic printer that lets users print custom designs directly onto their nails. Pre-orders are open for the Nailbot, which will retail for $199.
The Nailbot is just one of several recent launches taking a high-tech approach to nail art. In London, Sharmadean Reid’s Wah Nails salon developed a VR app that lets customers try on nail art in real time, or create their own styles that can then be applied via the Wah Nails printer. Reid is committed to innovating in the nail art sector, where her social media-fueled designs have earned her a following of 427,000 Instagram followers and counting.
“Millennials grew up watching Clueless and The Fifth Element, and Hollywood has crafted a version of the future that hasn’t quite caught up with us yet,” Reid explained to the Evening Standard. “I didn’t want to use a gimmicky piece of tech that my customers would merely say ‘meh’ to. If we were going to use VR, it had to be something business-focused as well as a utility.”
Beyond the salon, Metaverse Nails creates “wearable holograms” with press-on nails that come to life in augmented reality through an app. Metaverse, which launched in 2015, has partnered with artists and designers to create collections of truly next-level nail art. In Singapore, Exquisite Nails is testing 3D-printed designs that affix to customer’s nails, hoping to spur new business through the unique and personalized experience.
Nail care already occupies a healthy corner of the beauty market. According to research group Mintel, the US nail care market is poised for an upswing, expected to be worth $2 billion by 2020. Globally, the market could be worth as much as $9 billion by 2019, according to Technavio, driven by the 91% of girls between the ages of nine and 17 that use nail products.
“The popularity of YouTube vloggers may increase interest in elaborate nail styles, as vloggers such as Cristine Rote showcase tutorials on more complex nail styles, encouraging women to try these styles themselves at home,” Margie Nanninga, a beauty analyst at Mintel, told the Innovation Group over email. “Apps can definitely help drive interest, particularly those that help women to find new colors or matching apps that allow them to match a nail polish to an outfit they’re wearing for a special occasion or event. Technology will also increasingly be used to create custom nail colors, allowing women to create their ideal shade.”
Tech-infused nails can even serve practical purposes. Last summer, a UK design student created a set of stick-on nails with an embedded chip that connected to London’s Oyster card, allowing the wearer to swipe in and out of the subway system. As embedded technology becomes more advanced, RFID nail chips could also be used for contactless payments, or to control other devices.
High-tech tools are a natural fit for the nail care sector, with its large gen Z and millennial consumer base. Nail tech could catch on quickly among this group, which is already eager for new creative tools to enhance their designs on Instagram and Snapchat.
For more, see #57 (New Nails) and #52 (Beauty tech) in our Future 100 report on trends to watch in 2017.