Thursday, 7 March 2013

Fashion Nails. Nailympics: German and Lithuanian athletes. Fashion Designers and Celebrities. Nail Bars. MP, University of California and Health and Safety report on Risks. Hand and Nail fetishes.

German flags on beach volleyball player

Swimmer Ruta Meilutyte shows the Lithuanian colours
March 20, 1989. The Lithuanian flag since regaining independence from the Soviet Union. The  colours signify yellow for wheat, green for forests and red for patriotism.

Nails on athletes denoting their national flags became a hit at the London Olympics 2012: Minx and Max Factor created flag designs for nail bars in the Olympic Park, where nail technicians worked flat-out on manicures both athletes and spectators.

Women started painting their nails with beeswax, vegetable dyes and other concoctions in China as early as 3000 BC.  Cleopatra, 69 BC - 30 BC, had red nails coloured with henna, and Rita Hayworth years later made red nails popular in the 1940s. 

Nail polish as we know it today is a watered-down version of the paint made for cars in the 1920s, which was developed not to bubble or crack.  Nails in the 1920s and '30s were conservative: nails looked like nails and French manicures, which started in Paris, were all the rage: pink synthetic nail varnish was painted on the body of the nail and white on the tips. Forthright Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the first women to divert from French manicures with a positive colour.

Ladybird Toes

Squovals or square oval nails

Henrietta Almasi from Hungary: Winner Division 1 Nailympics 2011

Noemi Olah from Italy: Winner Division 2 Nailympics 2011
One hand shows an exaggerated French manicure
Sang Mi Seo from Korea: Winner Division 3 Nailympics 2011
The design is for the fantasy category.

Nowadays there are many designs and colours, nail bars proliferate and there is even a Nailympics, which started in the United States in 2001: nail technicians worldwide compete for three days in categories for nail embellishment, mixed media, fantasy, stiletto nails and soak-off gel manicures.  Last year the Nailympics at the Olympia Beauty Show in London had 328 competitors from 27 countries and over 22, 000 trade and other visitors.

Stiletto Nails by Vi
Nails can be shaped into ovals, square ovals called squovals, points, almonds, squares with rounded corners and straight shapes with rounded tips.  Rhinestones, studs, sequins, shells, 3D stickers and glitter can be attached to nails.  Fake nails cover real nails, especially bitten ones.  Hard-wearing UV-cured polishes are dried under a lamp.  Nail technicians, as manicurists are now called, prefer to use electric nail files which are faster than emery boards and give better results. The latest trend is for felt nails, lace designs, gel-texture, nail polish strips and magnetic polish, which is used to create patterns. 

Rihanna at the MTV Video Music Awards 2012

Fashion designers Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler, Vivienne Westwood and others have hired nail technicians in recent years for their fashion shows.  Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and other celebrities now have nail technicians in their entourages as a matter of course. According to Euromonitor International, nail polish was one of the fastest growing beauty products in 2011 with an 11% increase.

Lips and matching nails on latest cover of nail magazine Scratch 
If you grow your nails really long, you will need more nail varnish
The downside to the popularity of nail art is that nail technicians and clients are increasingly exposed to potentially toxic chemicals and vapours from products which are used. Some salons provide ventilation systems and even masks in nail bars so as to reduce the risks from exposure to chemicals. Respiratory symptoms, headaches and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are common among nail technicians. Some products contain methyl methacrylate (MMA), dibutyl phthalates, toluene and formaldehyde.  MMA is banned in nail bars in the US, Australia and New Zealand, but is used here in cheap glue to attach false nails. It gives off a strong smell which can cause allergies and damage to nails. Children are at risk, as they too go to nail bars.

In 2008 Milton Keynes South West Labour MP Dr Phyllis Starkey, a former biochemist, called for nail bars to be regulated and for a ban on MMA. "The chemical damages the nail bed, and is banned in the US. This issue is of great importance to women in my constituency and throughout the country, and it would be helpful to have a debate about its public health aspects as soon as possible." Health and Safety officers are powerless to act without the necessary regulations, but have also expressed their concerns

In 2007 the University of California carried out a Breast Cancer Risk Profile of Vietnamese Nail Salon Workers who make up 80% of 300,000 workers in that sector. Vietnamese women there suffer from breast cancer in particular. Conclusions: ..a sizeable proportion of the workers surveyed reported acute health effects and health concerns related to workplace chemicals. The combination of routine use of carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, prevalent health concerns about such chemicals, high level of acute health problems and the predominance of Vietnamese female immigrant workers underscore the need for further investigation into the breast cancer risk of this workforce”.

Another aspect of nail fashion is mentioned in a footnote by Wikipedia. “Nail fetish, hand fetishism or hand partialism is the sexual fetish for hands.  This may include the sexual attraction to a specific area such as the fingers, palm or nails, or the attraction to a specific action performed by the hands; which may otherwise be considered non-sexual—such as washing or drying dishes.  This fetish may manifest itself as a desire to experience physical interaction, or as a source of sexual fantasy”.

Phyllis Starkey MP Tel: 0207 219 6427.