Cannot afford the latest It bags and accessories? Never mind, just paint your nails.
As celebrities and fashion designers show off ever more fanciful manicures, do-it-yourself nail art has become a top beauty trend in recent years as it is a quick and affordable way to flaunt your fashion credentials.
For example, Beyonce was recently spotted with metallic gold talons in her Mrs Carter Show World Tour trailer. The nails reportedly cost her £560 (S$1,048).
The star, along with Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Kelly Osbourne and Zooey Deschanel, are fans of elaborate nail art. Osbourne and Deschanel regularly post their favourite nail designs on social media platforms such as Twitter.
In the last two years, fashion labels such as Roland Mouret, Vivienne Westwood and Prabal Gurung have also been using fancy nails that are easy to create backstage to add a special finishing touch to their outfits.
Both runway and celebrity manicures have inspired women around the world to emulate the designs, fuelling the trend of DIY nail art.
For quick visual references or tutorials, they only have to go online or click on the apps on their Android phones: Scores of beauty junkies are helping to promote the DIY trend by sharing their inspirations and nail designs on social sites such as Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest.
It is no wonder then that sales of nail polish have skyrocketed.
In January, trade journal Women's Wear Daily reported that nail polish sales in the United States hit a record US$768 million (S$952 million) last year, a 32 per cent jump from 2011.
The segment is also growing in Singapore. According to the latest Beauty and Personal Care survey from research market firm, Euromonitor International, nail polish sales here hit a record $8.7 million last year, up 11.5 per cent from $7.8 million in 2009.
To stay on top, nail lacquer brands are constantly tempting consumers with new and innovative products.
Mr Micheas Chan, the marketing and merchandising director of Watsons Singapore, points out that while DIY nail kits are popular, the designs are "fad-ish" as they keep evolving.
"The trend of magnetic and crackle nails have come and gone in the span of three to four months, and there is a continuous stream of new nail innovations," he says. "I just came out of a meeting where I was introduced to nail polish with fragrance."
One of the hottest nail news in recent months is the "caviar" trend started by nail polish brand Ciate.
British celebrity nail artist Charlotte Knight, who owns Ciate, came up with the polish that looks like caviar for a photoshoot.
Last year, she turned the idea into one of the brand's best-selling products. Caviar nails are created by sprinkling and pressing tiny beads onto wet polish (see page 15 to get the step-by-step instructions).
Another trendsetter is American brand, Red Carpet Manicure, which lets consumers create their own gel manicures - in 54 shades - at home with DIY kits.
Gel polish - which is thicker than regular polish and lasts for up to four weeks without chipping (at least three weeks longer than regular polish) - is cured (or set) under a UV or LED lamp. To get rid of it, the polish must be buffed and soaked in a chemical remover before it can be removed.
Red Carpet Manicure sells small, portable LED lights for curing the gel nails, gel polish and removers that are usually sold only to professionals.
Mr Calvin Goh, managing director of Ella International, which distributes professional nail products here, launched Red Carpet Manicure in the middle of last year. He wanted to cater to those who prefer the convenience and affordability of DIY gel nails - getting your nails done at a salon usually costs $90 per session. The Red Carpet Manicure set, $250 each, are now stocked at 15 retailers, including nail salons in Bugis Village and Far East Plaza.
Last year's memorable innovations included magnetic nail polish, where the formula's metallic bits let you create patterns when you hold a magnet over it; and machines which allow you to print any kind of picture on your digits.
This year, get set for equally, if not more, exciting designs.
The bold nails with a flash of metallic colour on the spring 2013 runways of designers such as Nicole Miller, DSquared2 and Monika Chiang inspired British brand Ciate to create thin foils that can be transferred onto nails, a big trend this year.
Also look out for nail polish that changes colour in the sun or gives nails a rugged leather effect. There are also 3-D nail stickers to glam up your fingers pronto.
INFLUX OF NEW BRANDS
To meet demand, beauty retailers have been falling over themselves to introduce new brands of nail polish.
Two years ago, Watsons carried only three brands of nail paint. It now stocks 12 brands of lacquer, 10 of which are exclusive to the chain. These include L'Oreal Paris Color Riche Le Nail Art nail stickers, American label Nicole by OPI, and BYS from Australia.
Later this month, it will also carry nail wraps from British brand, Rock Beauty.
The move to offer more varieties of nail polish was a no-brainer for the chain as the segment is clearly lucrative. It sold about 150,000 bottles of polish in 2010; last year, sales jumped 33 per cent with around 200,000 bottles sold.
Sasa, too, carried only five brands of nail polish two years ago; now it sells almost 30 brands, such as Japanese brand Arezia and its own label, Sasatinnie. The chain declines, however, to reveal sales figures.
Variety is also the name of the game at Sephora.The French beauty supermart, which carries about 10 brands of polish, declines to reveal sales figures but says it has identified nail polish as one of its fastest growing segments.
One of the new fixtures in its Ion Orchard store - following a revamp last October - is a 2m-tall permanent centrepiece which showcases a dazzling array of nail colours.
Later this month, it will launch another three British brands exclusive to the store: Butter London, Ciate and Nails Inc. The last two are famous for their easy-to-use DIY sets.
Mr Afif Haddar, general manager of Sephora Singapore and Malaysia, notes that while women here "like a classic look in their dressing, they like to add a touch of originality to their style with their nails".
"So we wanted to offer innovative nail products with special effects," he adds.
Manicures may be an easy way to stay on trend, but experts and doctors advise caution when doing your own nails.
Ms Catherine Wong, a nail artist and trainer, says nail art enthusiasts should always apply a layer of base coat before their nail polish to protect the nail bed from being stained.
One should not wear nail polish for more than two weeks at a stretch as the base coat is thin and the nail polish can seep through it to stain and weaken the nail. Associate Professor Giam Yoke Chin, senior consultant dermatologist at National Skin Centre, adds that cuticles should be left alone as they are a protective layer that seals the nail to the skin.
"Cuticles that have been cut too much can become inflamed when it is in contact with an irritant, such as harsh soap," she says.
The best way to fix jagged cuticles is to moisturise them with balms that contain glycerin.
"The cuticles will then grow back nicely even if you don't cut or push them back," she says.
This story was first published on March 01, 2013 on StraitsTimes.com. To read more: http://sph.straitstimes.com/supplements/urban/story/fashion-your-fingertips-20130301.