During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, California nail salons were forced to close. There was a collective gasp as women across the State wondered how they would get manis and pedis. Sales of press-on nails and do-it-yourself nail kits skyrocketed as women tried to keep their hands and feet looking good. While everyone panicked, I picked up a bottle of nail polish and shrugged.
Many women love the visual appeal of a good mani but there is also an element of self-care and ritual associated with visiting the salon. A new set of nails in a beautiful shade is not just another way that women adorn their bodies but is a mood lifter and a self-esteem booster. Being pampered for an hour (for a relatively low price) gives women the chance to focus on themselves and leave their burdens behind. Losing that left women with bad nails, anxiety, and stress associated with COVID, work, and family.
Beauty runs in my blood. My maternal great-grandmother owned a beauty salon in South Central Los Angeles in the 1930s and my aunt had a small indie makeup brand that included nail polish. Their love of beauty passed down to me. I have vivid childhood memories of using my Orly French Manicure kit in the ‘80s and curved acrylic nails when I was a teen in the mid-'90s. By then, I was completely hooked on nail polish.
A few years ago, I got more intentional about doing my weekly manicure. It’s an opportunity to focus (my mind is usually a million places at once), be creative (I have ten tiny canvases to have fun with), and relax (I have to be still with wet nails). I immersed myself in nail art tutorials, shared my nail art on social media, and sought out Black indie nail polish brands. I was building my own self-care routine without even realizing it.
So, when the salons closed, I did not skip a beat. In fact, I took things to the next level. First, I created and sold nail-focused t-shirts, totes, and mugs with slogans like, “Nails Poppin’” and “Nails So Fly”. Last fall I hosted a “Nail Care is Self-Care” workshop where I taught 15 women how to paint their nails and integrate nail care as a self-care routine. I taught them how to carve out time to do their manicure, how to set up their space, and the tools needed to get started. We also focused on the improvements in mental health that come from the patience, focus, and mindfulness required to apply nail polish. Later that year I launched a nail care kit with all the tools needed to begin the self-care journey at home.
For women that are short on time and money, a nail care routine can be an important entry way into self-care that has tangible benefits to mental health and well-being.