Style

Scratch this! Extreme nails are here to stay

For many years, the “in” nail polish shades centered around sheer pinks in the summer and dark reds in the winter. Essie alone must have had about two dozen different versions of pink, and a look in the widow of any nail salon would reveal women agonizing over which shade of basically-the-same-color to choose.

But seemingly out of nowhere, nails have stepped out of the shadows over the last two to three years and become the star of the show. From drugstores to fancy department stores, new products are everywhere, including glitter polishes, nail stickers and press-on nail art. These days, the only fashion rule that applies to nails is that no style is off-limits.

And the latest craze about to hit shelves? The caviar manicure.

The bead goes on
Designed by the small London-based polish company Ciate, the look is created by sticking tiny beads to two coats of base polish. This 3-D party on your nails lasts for about two days. The kit, complete with lacquer, beads, a tray and a funnel for pouring unused beads back into the bottle, will be sold exclusively at Sephora after the product's launch in April.

“We have been completely shocked by the amount of interest that the caviar mani has generated,” Betse Udofot, global brand manager at Ciate, told TODAY.com. “Before it's even been released, we have 20,000 people on the waiting list, and our website has gone from 6,000 hits a week to more than 100,000. This one product has taken us from a niche nail care brand to a company with customers around the world.”

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Ciate is not the only company benefiting from the popularity of nail care. Sales of luxury nail color sold in department stores were 63 percent higher in 2011 than the year before, according to NPD, a consumer research group. Even more surprising, nail care sales overall have surpassed sales of lip products by a wide margin.

“As the tough economic environment drags on, consumers flock to small purchases that give them a little joy,” Karen Grant, senior global industry analyst for beauty at NPD, told TODAY.com. “Nail polish is one of these categories where you can buy a treat that lasts for a while. Even the most luxury brands are rarely more than $30. Plus, new styles, colors and technologies like long-wearing and quick-drying polishes have engaged a younger crowd and grown the market.”

Magnetic mani
The caviar mani is just one in a long line of extreme trends in nail care over the last year or so. Custom snakeskin manicures using real snakeskin, nail polish-perfume, pre-designed nail polish strips by Sally Hansen and even magnetic lacquers have all gained devoted followings.

Luxury nail polish designer and celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann released her magnetic manicure kits ($36) last month, and said that every woman she has seen try it “squeals with delight.” The polish goes on like a normal lacquer, but it contains bits of iron powder that react when a magnet is held over the nail, creating unique designs.

Lippmann was encouraged to experiment with the magnetic manicure by her clients, who have been demanding ever more edgy colors and textures, including shimmer and glitter shades like this season’s Mermaid’s Dream, a light green blue shimmer with large specs of glitter.

“In the last year and a half, women have been more willing to take chances with their nails and try something different,” Lippmann told TODAY.com. “Shades of blue and matte finish neon colors will be particularly big in the coming months. Nail color is an accessory, and this is a great time for women to be freer with their individual style.”

So how can you pull off these edgy looks without going overboard? Stick to one big beauty trend at a time, advises Lippmann. If your nails are heavily decorated, choose a simpler hair style or lighter makeup.

And if glitter, magnetic manis, and beads aren’t really your thing, try experimenting with different colored polishes on each finger, or paint one nail on each hand a different shade. For a more coordinated look, check out Butter LONDON’s new LIPPY line of lip glosses that match its nail shades, set to launch in April and selling for $17 each.

“Less is always more, even if you are going for a 'more' look,” advised Lippmann. “Often the best place to experiment with a new trend is on your toes. At the end of the day, have fun with new trends. Nail polish doesn’t need to be a big commitment; it comes off.”

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