How press-on nails exploded during the pandemic and helped nail techs stay in business

I could have chaos in every other part of my life, but if I have a fresh manicure, all feels right in my world.

So when the pandemic hit, and my monthly nail salon appointments were halted, my world was turned upside down. Us manicure-lovers around the world had two options—embrace the damaged, brittle, short, bare nails for the first time since high school, or get creative and channel their inner nail technician (which wasn’t pretty either).

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Coming up on a year later since America’s quarantine began, many brands selling at-home manicure options flourished, and people got the hang of manicuring their hands at home amidst the stresses of daily life. 

I was able to embrace my natural nails for a while (once I got past the brittle and broken stage, they actually looked kind of nice). But not long after, I started to really miss my once long, colorful, and perfectly manicured fingers. 

Thankfully, press on nails made a major comeback in 2020. I spoke with some press-on nail founders about their business startups launched mid-pandemic and why now is the perfect time for press-ons to make a comeback. 

NAILS OF LA and Bepeu Nails

Brittney Boyce is a gel extension specialist and the founder of NAILS OF LA. At the start of the pandemic, when she was in full lockdown, Brittney finally had the chance to follow an idea she had always dreamed of: she started creating customized press on nails for her clients, whom she had not been able to see. She was used to working 14 hour days, so then channeled that energy into creating NAILS OF LA.

 

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“I wanted press-on extensions that mimic actual gel extensions that I’m known for, and ones that made it possible for everyone to have amazing nails at any time,” Brittney tells Very Good Light.

“It was important for me that they were affordable as well. This way even if you don’t have enough time or money to get nails properly done, you can still enjoy having really chic, cool nails.”

Sooji Hwang is the creator of Bepeu Nails, a press-on line sold exclusively on Instagram and shipped out of London.

“I have always liked doing my own nails since I was younger and noticed every time how much of a mood booster it was,” says Sooji.

She also started her line during lockdown in the UK to utilize her time more productively and to channel her creative energy.

Sooji said that her Instagram was always filled with funky nail designs, but even pre-Covid, her local salons rarely offered that creativity. Even if they did, the price was out of her budget. 

“Nail art is so great because there are endless possibilities; it’s a tiny canvas and you can go in any direction you’re feeling,” she says.

Press-on nail designs

Both founders create and develop their own nail designs and art. Sooji takes orders via her Instagram DMs @bepeu.nails. Her press on nails are custom and tailored to personal taste, so customers will request for design or drop her an idea. She currently offers free shipping in the UK and her nails are also available to Europe, the US, and Canada.

“After planning the design with the customer, it starts with prepping the press ons, drawing the design with my tiny brushes, sealing with a top coat and finally packaging up the order to post,” says Sooji. “It can be a time consuming process with lots of little steps but the end result is worth it especially when I receive positive reviews from customers—it’s very motivating.”

Sooji said she absolutely loves seeing pictures of her designs on customers’ nails, and it really brings her product to life.

NAILS OF LA features very modern and chic designs that Brittney is known for, like modern French tips, geometric designs, and simple gold cuffs. 

As a working mom, she wanted to make sure her product was accessible and affordable. NAILS OF LA press-ons run for $16 per set.

“No matter what your budget is, you can elevate your nails,” says Brittney. “I think having nice nails really helps boost your self-esteem, too. I just see how happy my clients are after they get cool nail art done and I want to share that with everyone.”

 

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The evolution of press-on nails

Press-on nails had a bad rep pre-pandemic. Aside from at your high school prom, press-ons just weren’t something you would see people wearing.

For Brittney, it was important that the nails looked and felt like real gel extensions. She explained that they’re softer than most traditional press-ons, so they mold to your real nails’ natural curvature rather than look like plastic things you stuck on top of your nails. 

To her, press-ons in general have improved simply because the demand for them to be better is there. 

“I think there is an unexpected amount of joy in having pretty nails,” says Sooji. “It’s a fun way to do some self care. You do feel like you’re treating yourself- which everyone deserves! It’s a quick and unique way to switch up your personal style. It can really add a sense of togetherness to your overall look.”

“I always say that I would rather have no nails than bad nails,” Brittney said. “Amazing nails are not just a fun accessory, they really do help brighten your day. It completes outfits, it helps express yourself in a fun way, and it helps people just feel more confident. One of my private clients keep texting me about how guys at her local Starbucks are loving her nails and how it makes her day.”

Nails are such a fun form of self-expression, and everyone deserves to feel like the most manicured version of themselves. Whether it’s at a salon, at home with some drugstore polish, or trying a new brand of press-ons, don’t be afraid to give your nails some love and show ’em off to the world!