Highly embellished nails have never been more popular. But our passion for all things sparkly goes deeper than Hailey Bieber causing a viral trend with glazed doughnut nails.
So often beauty is seen asfrivolous and unimportant, especially when it comes to manicures and nail art. But what if a set of immaculately painted sparkly talons were the key to getting through these trying times?
We spoke to two nail technicians and two psychologists to find out more about the link between our love of iridescent fingertips and our emotional wellbeing. Turns out, it makes complete sense that the two are linked.
The great chrome takeover
It’s fair to say that there's been a chrome takeover in the nail world. Every other manicure on Instagram has an iridescent glimmer topped with glitter embellishments, with experts creating more shimmering nails than ever before.
We of course have the aforementioned Hailey Bieber to thank for the glazed look, plus add on top of that the release of The Little Mermaid, and if you have perfect storm of shimmer. "There has been a noticeable increase in popularity of textured and special effect manicure styles," agrees session manicurist Ami Streets
But besides Hailey and Ariel-inspired manis, is there another reason that in these bleak financial times, we're booking in for bejewelled beauty appointments? History tells us that, yes, when it comes to beauty, in hard times, we turn to extravagance.
Even in recent years, there's been a shift in the way we live our lives and what we prioritise. With hybrid working and a move away from traditional corporate culture, there's more freedom to express ourselves through nail colour and design, explains Metta. "There's been a massive focus on trying to live a happy life and doing small things to increase positive vibrations and mood, including fun glitters and chrome looks."
How the cost-of-living crisis brightened our nails
It's fair to say we're going through a lot right now – including a cost of living crisis, global unrest and the climate crisis, and this is reflected in our nails.
When we're running low on funds, it can be tempting to cancel our manicures, but they're a key part of our happiness puzzle.
"We are in a particularly tough time when it comes to wellbeing,” says founder of The Beekeeper House, Robert Common. “That's a lot to contend with, even before you add in personal problems."
Extravagant nails come into play during tough times, to "push back against the negativity and embrace the joy of self-expression," according to Robert.
"Where glittery nails might not have been perceived as ‘serious’ enough for every day, people have had enough of being serious through the last few hard years and now want to embrace being more carefree and fun,” explains Robert.
Although being short on money means we might not be able to blow off steam with holidays or weekly dinners out, we can lean on an embellished manicure to inject some joy into the everyday.
Plus, nails go back to our simple need for control. “Opting for nails that give you joy is a small way to feel in control in a world that seems out of control,” explains hypnotherapist and host of The Calmer You Podcast, Chloe Brotheridge.
“Self-care enables you to take some ownership and control of your mental wellbeing, which is empowering and reassuring,” Robert adds. “Doing your nails may seem like a small thing, but if it gives you a mental boost, it’s a great wellbeing tool you can implement by yourself.”
How nails work in this psychological approach
Turns out, those of us turning to sparkly talons during dark times might be onto something. Robert explains that often when we hear about psychology, it’s about treating an unhealthy behaviour, but reversing that is sometimes where the magic happens.
“The field of positive psychology concentrates on discovering a deeper understanding of what makes people happy and how to help people find more meaning in their lives,” he says. And that can absolutely include something as simple as your fortnightly manicure.
"According to the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Centre, the focus of positive psychology is on identifying how to help us lead healthy and happy lives,” Robert explains. This is by discovering character strengths and behaviours that allow everyone to build a life of meaning and purpose.
Chloe notes that often clients who are struggling with their self-worth stop doing things such as wearing nice clothes and eating well, so leaning into looking after ourselves can have a profound impact.
“Giving yourself time to spend on your appearance can be a real act of self-love. We're affirming to ourselves that we deserve nice nails, a fresh haircut or to dress well,” she adds.
Although self-care is powerful and getting beauty treatments is a wonderful small joy, Robert stresses that if you’re experiencing depression, anxiety or another mental health issue, it’s important to seek help to understand and address the root cause.
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Is nail art the new mindfulness?
Not only does the psychological impact of having fun nails help brighten our mood, the physical act of doing our nails or getting them done can be just as powerful.
"Nail painting has the ability to make an immediate difference to our appearance and grooming, which satisfies our instant gratification,” says Ami.
Creativity and focus on a task have been shown to boost overall wellbeing and “act as a helpful distraction and coping mechanism whilst being calming and helping to alleviate stress,” she adds.
“You could bracket nail art into the realm of mindfulness, because it focuses the mind away from everyday stressors to thinking about the parts of our personality and traits we want to amplify, and how we communicate that to the outside world,” explains Robert.
Next time you think you’re wasting your time on nail art or money on that manicure you enjoy so much, remind yourself that there’s far more to our joyful chrome talons than just being a cool manicure. Here’s to a more is more approach when it comes to our nails.