Are Re-Wearable Press-On Nails A Sustainable Manicure Alternative?

The beauty market staggered its way through 2020, with a lot of businesses being closed across the UK. Before the pandemic, the industry was a healthy aspect of the British economy. In particular, the boom in manicure and pedicures continued to grow since the spike in 2013. Consumer interest stemmed from the prominence of nails in the fashion industry and the availability of nail products in drugstores and high street retailers.

But our enthusiasm for monthly French tips is causing negative effects on the environment. To put it simply, gel and acrylic nails are non-degradable. Not to mention the nail polish and the removers used are categorised as hazardous waste as they are flammable and toxic. When disposed of in a landfill, they release toxins into the soil which will only have detrimental effects on the future of the planet.

Is there a sustainable alternative?

Soon into the lockdown, there was a rise in professionals who started producing bespoke press-on nails. The love for detailed nail designs could not be stopped by the health risk of entering nail salons. Even celebrities such as Chrissy Teigen and Ariana Grande posted on social media praising their manicurist’s personalised press-on sets. As more and more people opt for the at-home alternative, I wondered if it was a relatively more sustainable way to maintain our manicures.

Jess Tomlinson is the founder of The Holy Nail, a luxury handmade false nails company she created from her blog. The Holy Nail is an at-home nail kit, comprising of re-useable hand-painted press-on nails accompanied with nail adhesives and other nail care products. After dropping out of university, Jess moved back home where her blog-to-riches journey began.

“I felt lost. Then I came across a blog called The Nailasaurus and she was doing amazing nail art that I’d never seen before.”

Jess was inspired despite not being able to paint her nails successfully.

“I began painting my nails 5 times a day and eventually I became good at it. My friends started asking me to do their nails and I saw a gap in the market for me create a brand,” she said.

Officially launched in 2015, The Holy Nail landed on Etsy and eBay and became Jess’ side business while she kept her office job.

“After two years, I took the leap of leaving my job and going full time with my business. I returned to college to become a qualified nail technician. Since then, I moved the brand over to our own website which has been incredible.”

The small business became so successful, Jess had to close the online store last January as they hit their order capacity in two weeks.

She said:

“It’s a real shame that a lot of people have jobs where they can’t have acrylics (false nails), or their nails painted day-to-day. The Holy Nail caters for people that desire glamorous nails, whether that’s for the weekend, one night or for weeks at a time.
“It can be quite time-consuming visiting the nail bar and expensive if you want to change the design frequently. Everyone can enjoy made-to-order nails. It’s more flexible with design changes and more affordable.”

Are they cost-effective without compromising on the quality?

Handmade press-on nails are not basic like the drugstore kits we’re acquainted with. Mass-produced DIY manicures have their common designs printed onto thin nails. This makes them un-reusable, easily damaged and more likely to wear away quickly. Whereas with custom kits like those from The Holy Nail, someone has poured their talents into every single nail. They are also thicker than those available at the drugstore as they use gel polish and optional overlay coating.

These nails are produced for multiple uses. Instead of paying £30 and up for one manicure that will last for a few weeks, you can buy an at-home kit for less, that you can use repeatedly. Nail’s made by The Holy Nail can be worn for around 3 weeks and re-applied 2 or 3 times, if handled with care.

Jess said: “If you’re wearing them day-to-day then there might be some wear and tear eventually. But, if you only want to wear them for a short period, I suggest using gel tab adhesives. They’re easier to take off and put back on and you can wear them for three to five uses.”

They’re available in custom sizes and personalised designs

The biggest difference between the two types of at-home nails is the sizes and shapes. Drugstore kits are typically one size fits all and the five basic shapes – coffin, stiletto, square, almond and round. However, handmade press-on nails are customised to fit every nail bed’s width and have a variety of shapes including Stiletto, Ballerina and Sculpted Coffin. Another positive is that press-on nails don’t chip, lose their shine or shape. And, you never have to worry if one falls off prematurely as they can be clean with an alcohol wipe, re-prepped and glued back on in 10 minutes.

But what about the plastic problem?

Of course, these products are made from plastic which is not sustainable. However, they are re-useable, and there are options available for eco-friendly nail polishes and glues that do not contain harsh chemicals.

Other sustainability factors include shipping, packaging and storage. Like with many online businesses, when purchasing items, our carbon footprint is affected by how many separate orders we make and how they are packaged. The best way to manage this is to only purchase when necessary and to buy bundles of nails so they get packaged and delivered together.

Jess believes that it is important to consider the environment when preparing her products for delivery. “For sustainability purposes, we think it's important to try and use as little plastic as possible. Especially in the process of shipping.

“Our nails are placed in a branded cardboard box and arrive in an envelope that can be re-used (to send to someone else). The boxes are recyclable and can be used as storage for the nails when you’re not wearing them,” she said.

So, in comparison to the in-salon monthly manicure, press-on nails are more sustainable. While there are still issues with plastic use and delivery affecting our carbon footprint, the positives outweigh the negatives. The best alternative would be for more eco-friendly nail salons to appear on the high street. Until then, at-home nails kit will act as the bridge between finding a completely plastic and chemical-free manicure.