The Lipstick Index is here. Meet the Nail Effect – Jing Daily | WHs Answers

As inflation worries mount and both the euro and pound sterling hit two-year lows, the return of the lipstick index – the business term and economic indicator of when sales of cheap and cheerful indulgences like lipstick picks up in times of economic hardship – is back on Beauty’s radar.

But a new indicator is on the rise in China: the nail effect. With the looming recession, there has been a surge in interest in eye-catching manicures among Generation Z, who increasingly see nails as a form of creativity and expression. Therefore, the lipstick effect is not only about lipsticks or even color cosmetics; it’s about lightening the mood cheaply. Stunning nail art or the ritual of going to the salon for perfectly manicured hands can have an often underestimated positive impact on those on a limited disposable income.

According to local consultancy iiMedia Research, China’s nail art industry was valued at US$27.5 billion (RMB185.5 billion) in 2021 and is projected to reach US$39.5 billion (RMB266.3 billion) by 2027. The Qichacha database showed that the number of newly registered nail art businesses increased from 161,000 in 2020 to 250,000 a year later.

The Beijing Winter Olympics in February was a key moment in kick-starting the nail craze of Chinese youth. Chinese-American Olympic Ski Champion and It Girl Eileen Gu was spotted wearing nails inspired by Olympic rings during an awards show. Her nails quickly inspired a social media hashtag with over 1 million likes and numerous mimic posts and tutorials on Douyin.

Eileen Gu’s Olympic ring-inspired nails during the Beijing Winter Olympics awards ceremony became a social media beauty trend. Photo: Weibo

Yang Qian, the Chinese Olympic shooting champion, is another nail fashion muse. Photos of her shiny, beaded nails during the shooting race went viral online, with netizens saying the female nails and traditionally male weapon created an empowering feminist image.

Sports shooter Yang Qian was spotted with shiny nails during a race. Photo: CCTV screenshot

Not for nothing are celebrities also a source of inspiration when it comes to nail art. From Blackpink star Jennie’s cloud-inspired From nails to Chinese singer Junyi’s theatrical extensions to famed beauty influencer Lin Yun’s stone-encrusted claws, the message is clear: the bolder and more creative, the better.

The trend towards bigger, bolder nails on social media feeds has given a boost to a number of c-beauty companies. Miss Candy, a Hangzhou-based nail polish brand founded in 2013, specializes in fragrance-free nail polishes to meet young consumers’ growing passion for health and wellness. In 2016, the brand’s Tmall sales overtook American nail giant OPI as the top label in the category.

Little Ondine, a C-Beauty brand founded in 2013, caters to Gen Z fashionistas by creating peel-off nail polishes inspired by streetwear and pop culture. Contrasting with the ultra-feminine look that used to dominate the space, Little Ondine’s “cool girl” aesthetic has become an instant draw for the fashion-conscious mainland youth. The brand has held a spot among the top 10 beauty brands of Alibaba’s Double 11 festivals since 2020.

C-Beauty brand Little Ondine has collaborated with candy brand Chupa Chups on a nail polish collection for 2020. Photo: @LittleOndine’s Weibo

The provision of products and services in line with the changing tastes of younger generations has carried over offline as well. For example, Yang Zuizui, a Beijing-based nail art chain, opened nail salons with cocktail bars to inject the brand into the city’s social scene. “We want to make manicure a social experience for customers,” said Cheng Yulin, the chain’s business partner Ying daily.

Besides the benefit of socializing, making experimentation easier for younger customers is also a key selling point for Yang Zuizui. “Traditional manicures usually mean clients either use the base colors or the crazy, expensive design nails, which are two extremes. Now, customers want to experiment, so we introduce base color price nail design services,” continued Cheng.

From celebrity-inspired nails to social nail salons, China’s nail market is changing rapidly. To connect with its discerning and style-savvy consumer, competing beauty brands need to rethink how they can be part of the conversation and entertain younger generations. It’s critical to offer both socially relevant, shareable content and products that align with consumer values ​​for healthier, stronger manicures and pedicures. Nailing the product alone is no longer enough.

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