How Social Distancing Has Brought About the Golden Age of Press-On Nails

When you think about it, sitting down for a manicure is an awfully personal experience. The thought of someone rubbing lotion onto our hands and painting our fingernails seems especially intimate now that we've been avoiding human contact and vigilantly washing our hands for so long. But with many of the world's nail salons temporarily closed (either voluntarily or by demand of local governments) professional manicures are no longer a possibility like they were before. And as a result, nail artists and technicians are left without much of the steady work — and thus, steady income — they had just a couple months ago.

To help supplement the work they've lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, nail artists have begun creating custom sets of press-on nails to sell to their regular clients and Instagram followers. For example, Kentucky-based artist Russia Barnett says the salon where she works has been shuttered by the state government for three weeks and counting. "Thankfully, I still have a full-time job that allows me to work from home. However, all nail business for me has ceased," she tells Allure.

Barnett has been selling custom press-on nails online for some time now. "I am a working mom, and I understand that sometimes you want to let your hair down and get fancy but also need to get back to the grind when you're done," she says. To her, press-on nails are the perfect solution for her clients who like having extravagant nail art but can't commit to gel manicures and extensions. "Plus, this lets my customers know that I care and want to keep them satisfied while I cannot directly service them... in business just as in life, you have to be able to roll with the punches to be successful."

English nail artist Nicola Walker was initially taken aback by how much the pandemic affected her salon, which is also closed for the time being. "I think I started this situation the same as many other nail techs, feeling it wouldn't really affect me," she says. "Obviously it was much more serious than anticipated, and we had a responsibility to keep our clients, family, and social circles safe."

By chance, she had already ordered a selection of plain press-on nails in various shapes and sizes and saw a perfect opportunity to make some extra money during her salon's shutdown. "I am looking after my parents and nana during this time, so I am lucky that I can combine posting and doorstep dropoffs with shopping and essential care for them," she explains.

Walker's press-on sales aren't just about making money, either. "I also feel lucky that I can still have a creative release and keep my Instagram page active and growing," she says. "I have loved creating the sets and am very grateful that I have more orders and more sets to create in-between home-schooling and entertaining my three children."

Los Angeles-based nail artist Sheila Cortez says she's fortunate that her business hasn't been affected as much as others in her community. Still, she's turned to creating custom nail sets to stay in touch with her client base. "I decided to start selling luxury Swarovski press-on nails for the people who want to get their nails done and may not be able to get a salon," she says. "Being that the press-on nails are all custom per client consultation, it gives me the opportunity to create a beautiful set that they will love and be able to re-use many times."

If you have a local nail artist you'd like to support, it's worth reaching out or looking at their social media pages to see if they're offering similar services. The fastest way to get more details on pricing, which varies greatly from artist to artist, is to ask in their Instagram DMs. The way each artist accepts payments also varies, depending on what digital banking and money transfer services you and your artist use. You both might agree upon payment via Venmo, PayPal, or something similar. Your artist might cover shipping costs, too, or add them to your fee.

Ordering a custom set from your local nail technician or any of the nail artists above can help you just as much as it can help them. "During times of stress and anxiety, self-care is important," Barnett says. "Taking five minutes to apply a gorgeous set of nails may make someone feel a little more confident and at ease." And isn't ease something we'd all like to feel more of right now?