The $10 billion at-home nail care business is booming as more consumers opt for DIY manis

More than a third of adults who did their nails at home during lockdown will continue to do so.

The pandemic led New York salon brands Painbox to up its at-home nail care game. (Photo: Paintbox)
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The pandemic forced many Americans to drastically change their grooming habits. From haircuts to facials, salon beauty treatments became off-limits, pushing consumers to try their hand at at-home solutions. One area of beauty that saw a major boost: at-home nail care.

Digital beauticians were on hand to help with DIY manis and pedis as consumers stayed at home. Olive & June, founded in 2013 as a salon before launching direct-to-consumer nail care products in 2019, says sales soared 1,500% in 2020. Chillhouse, a New York-based spa, debuted a collection of press-on nails called Chill Tips in June 2020, while nail salon Paintbox, also pivoted to focus on the digital side of its business, broadcasting nail care tutorials on Instagram Live and launching “The Paint Box,” an at-home nail art kit containing ultra-fine brushes and dotting tools.

Such launches have grown at-home offerings and propelled the nail care category to new heights, with sales expected to grow by a further $2.25 billion between 2020 and 2024, according to Technavio. The company estimates that in 2019, the nail care products business was worth $10.23 billion.

Healthy, happy nails

The pandemic didn’t just change where people did their nails — it also changed what they wanted them to look like. As more people got up-close and personal with their nail beds, and started realizing that a slick of polish could only cover up so much, the focus shifted from bright colors to overall nail health.

“[We] start to peel back the layers, because you’re not used to going out anymore,” Evelyn Lim, chief educator at Paintbox explains. “It was the same with manicures. You might have been someone who always had your nails painted because you went to a salon. Then during the pandemic, you’re seeing your nails bare, and you start to care about the nails being healthy and natural, rather than focusing just on how it looks.”

Seizing the moment, in May 2020 Bare Hands launched a minimal, easy-to-use manicure kit that contained a cuticle oil and a nail buff, but no polish. Meanwhile, Lim says that since returning to doing manicures in-person, customers have been asking more questions about how to keep their nails healthy at home. Last month, Paintbox started selling its cuticle oil so customers could keep using after their appointments.

“Before, we always applied cuticle oil at the end of the services and nobody really asked too many questions about how you use it,” says Lim. “[But now] a lot of people are coming in and asking how you use it, and how often.”

Is at-home nail care here to stay?

Chillhouse says it is now expecting 60% of its revenues to come from product sales versus salon sales. Meanwhile, Mintel’s Nail Color & Care report, published in February, found that 34% of adults who did their nails at home during lockdown will continue to do so.

Lim says that while people have started returning to salons to get their nails done, that doesn’t mean they are done buying products to use at home. “The main reason you’re getting a manicure is cuticle care,” she points out. And by looking after your nails at home, even if it’s between manicures, “you’re going to find that your products last longer on your nails.”

Happy, healthy, minimal nails are here to stay, Lim says. As for what’s next? She says to look no further than the resurgence of the French manicure.

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