Picture of pink fingernails

In an era of face masks, nail polish may be the new lipstick.

Pro Paris Nails and Spa, located at 150 NW 13th St., became the closest nail salon to the UF campus after its Oct. 12 opening. The business has a steady flow of customers all day long, said manager John Nguyen. 

Nail polish has replaced lipstick as the new small luxury since lips are now hidden under masks. When COVID-19 hit in March, salons closed and people bought nail polish to use at home. 

Nguyen said he opened the salon to cater to students who didn’t want to go far from campus to get their nails done. 

“We just wanted to be here for the students,” Nguyen said. “Especially with COVID, they shouldn’t have to go so far to go to a salon.”

Alexa Zuckerman, a 20-year-old UF marketing junior, got a sparkly, light-pink gel manicure three days after the salon opened. 

“I was really excited to have a new nail salon so close to where I live,” Zuckerman said. “It was nice inside, also, and there was no wait at all when I got there.”

However, the new nail salon may face a growing challenge — competition with do-it-yourself, at-home nails. A concept called The Nail Polish Index shows a recent pandemic-related surge of nail polish sales while people were stuck at home and nail salons were closed.

In past recessions, economists referenced the lipstick index, an idea explaining that as economic conditions went down, lipstick sales went up. The term was coined by Leonard Lauder, chairman emeritus of Estée Lauder Companies, a multinational makeup manufacturer, in 2001. 

Ever since people started to wear masks, the opportunity to wear lipstick has decreased, said Kelly Dobos, a cosmetic chemist on the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy Advisory Board at the University of Cincinnati. The opportunity to be empowered through nail polish has increased. 

While Dobos said she still wears lipstick sometimes, she said now wears more bright, outgoing nail polish colors than before. She often does them herself at home. 

With the obstacle of face masks, the cosmetic field needed to find ways to innovate, she said. She said she foresees that chemists will craft durable lipstick that can be worn under masks in the near future. 

To Dobos, at the end of the day, cosmetics intend to make people feel good. Whether lipstick or nail polish, the goal is the same: self-confidence.

Sally Beauty, located at 25 NW 16th Ave, re-opened in September. Mackenzie Staley, a 24-year-old beauty advisor sales associate, said nail polish sales have kept the business afloat.

People are buying at-home gel manicure sets, Staley said. The sets include UV LED nail lamps, gel nail polish bottles and other supplies, such as nail files and clippers. 

“People are really trying to replicate the salon experience,” Staley said. “They’ve been buying out pretty much all of our nail polish.”