Each week our no-holds-barred contributor Grace Gold picks apart a hot beauty topic. It’s our version of an op-ed—with hair, eyeliner and lipstick.
When Kelly Osbourne flashed a $250,000 manicure at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards, fans were outraged. They questioned the use of 267 carats of black diamonds embedded on her nails.
For the record, she didn't pay for it. The manicure was cleverly donated by jeweler Azature. But the reality star later tweeted, "Please forgive me for not regretting it. It made me feel like a queen!"
Osbourne is not alone. While most have come nowhere near dropping $250,000 on a polish job, women are going maniacal over manicures and there is no tipping point in site.
Today you can get a genuine python skin fitted to each nail bed and placed between a gel base and a clear sealant for between $200 to $300. Or you could try the stiletto talon manicure—popularized by celebrities like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Rihanna—that features elaborate lacquer designs on long, severely pointy claws for $120 and up.
If you're more of the DIY type, there's the Ciaté Caviar Manicure kit for $25, which provides you with pearlescent beads that you layer onto your nails with a funnel. You end up with a three-dimensional look that appears dipped in black fish eggs.
Even popular crafting site Etsy can indulge you in nail art heaven. Search the site and you can find sets of premade tips featuring anything from Lilliputian Harajuku scenes to miniscule watermelon slices, ice cream cones, flowers and animal prints that range in price from a couple dollars for each tip to $65 for a set of 10.
The more obscure the design, the more the cost. It's no wonder Marina of the Makeup Loves Me blog recently tweeted, "Taking the subway, cause I've got a nail budget."
"I trace the obsession back to Tumblr's begginings," says Karie Frost, a Makeup.com contributor and longtime editor at beauty trade publication Nailpro. "Beauty obsessives who weren't in the nail industry flocked to Tumblogs devoted to nail art images like it was beauty porn. Now Pinterest boards are filled with photos to take to salons or that instruct on how to try the look at home, and it all just continues to snowball from there."
Frost recently spent $150 and two-and-a-half hours getting Calgel in 10 different designs at her favorite Sakura nail salon on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. While she admits nail art was once considered tacky, she says it's now as fashion-forward as you can get and the demand for more eye-catching options will only grow in spite of the escalating cost.
Miss Pop, also a Makeup.com contributor and founder of the Get Nailed With Miss Pop blog, says nail art is as much for the wearer as it is for the spectator, which may explain the money-is-of-no-concern attitude toward the trend.
"Once you step away from the mirror, you don't see your hair, makeup or most of your outfit," she explains. "But you do see your hands all day. You can instantly wear your mood, your personality, your current obsession."
Frost agrees. "When my nails are decked out, I always receive compliments," she says. "And who doesn't love that?"
What do you think of over-the-top nails? Is it overkill, or a creative form of self-expression?