In the last two years, the nail industry’s lust for innovation mirrored that of the technology field.

Crackle was brought back in a sleeker formula. Magnetic nail lacquer, big-time glitter, velvet texture and neatly packaged “caviar” hit the shelves. Premade nail art baked into real polish strips debuted. Gel that only requires cuticle oil for removal lent a gentler alternative for this cured option. And the list goes on.

With nail product research and development at an all-time high to meet newfound consumer demand, we asked in-the-know pros what they think will be the next big thing on hand. Their answers, from nano nails to negative-space techniques, very well may lead to the tips of tomorrow.

Pattie Yankee, director of education and brand consultant for Dashing Diva nail salons

“I see nanotechnology being used for nails. My son’s friend [works in nanotechnology] and told me that the technology could be used to extend nails: The nano cells could be deposited onto the nail plate and extended beyond to create a free edge. However, this would require a certain—probably expensive—machine. But the result would be an extremely durable nail extension that would mimic the thinness of a natural nail. The process would be quick and require no filing whatsoever!”

Simcha Whitehill, creator of Get Nailed With Miss Pop and Makeup.com contributor

“The collective of women making nail art is influencing the nail brands to innovate more than the products are influencing nail art. Nail artists today are working outside of the system—they’re using different tools (for instance, makeup sponges) to create work that’s taking a fine arts direction. That being said, I think nail art’s biggest hurdle will be what drives new tools: Brands need to make applying nail art consumer-friendly for people who aren’t ambidextrous.

“Additionally, technology in polish will continue to evolve. We’ve seen a lot of innovation in the past six months in the U.S., but much has flown under the radar: hologram, mood-changing, 3D metal effects. But in the end, whatever technology we see going forward really should focus on getting simple nail art techniques to a place where everyone can do them.”

Tracylee, Sally Hansen nail ambassador  

“I think that we’ll be seeing more pro services and products being offered to the at-home market. Consumers have become quite savvy when it comes to DIY nails, and the demand for pro-quality products and tools is there. I also believe nail brands will be taking nail health into consideration in enhancement products (read: gels and acrylics), with easier application and removal processes.

“As for nail art: I’ve seen a huge switch from laminate film-type stickers to nail polish strips. Brands will begin packaging gel top coat with nail polish strips to increase longevity, allowing for longer wear and high shine, taking this product to another level!”

Gina Viviano, Chanel celebrity manicurist 

“I believe the next big thing in nails will be at-home gel manicures. They don’t require a lot of practice to become good at the application, whereas conventional nail polish starts to dry the minute the brush comes out of the bottle. Furthermore, improvements on gel polish kits have been happening at lightening speed. LED lights cure in half the time, allowing the user to paint one nail at a time and cure to set if they like.”

Deborah Lippmann, celebrity manicurist and founder of her eponymous line

“Chemists are working diligently to create products that will give you the high-shine, 360-degree brilliance that currently is only achieved with products that use an LED light [to cure]. We’ll start to see more at-home products to achieve the look, allowing for a quicker process without extra tools.”

Elle, celebrity manicurist and brand consultant

“People are becoming more savvy, and I think it’s increasingly important to educate consumers about nail care. Safer technologies and chemistries—that is the wave of the future. I’m seeing nail brands formulating products to bolster the health of the nails, such as Dermelect nail polish, which incorporates anti-aging properties in its formulas.

“I also believe there will be advancements in how glitter is suspended in polishes. And, way down the road, I think it would be cool if you could go to a department store and bring a color swatch, and they mix the color for you right there on the spot, just like paint. I’m trademarking that idea!”

Tom Bachik, L’Oréal celebrity manicurist

“In the last few years alone, products have become increasingly technologically advanced. Even right now, technologies exist that can suspend nano particles that change direction based on frequency to show a particular color—though affordability is another story. I think the future for nails will continue to bring more innovation, especially in ingredient safety as well as ease of application.”

Sam Biddle, creator of Be Inspired and brand consultant

“I think we’ll see more color-changing technology, giving the user increased control and options for what they wear. Right now we’ve been working on some new collections that enhance and change color. For example, pigments that can be incorporated into a top coat, and then applied over a dark color to morph the color or create an effect or shimmer, but if you placed it over a pale color, you’d get a very different effect.”

Fleury Rose, U.S. Illamasqua nail ambassador 

“The next big thing in nail art is playing with textures and negative space. Using negative space means that portions of the natural nail are left free of polish. Try painting nails so that there are little squares left in the center of each nail, or paint micro-dots all over bare nails and seal with a top coat. For texture, I’m really loving the latex feel and look of Illamasqua’s new Rubber Bright Varnishes. I like layering them with panels of top coat to create designs that are understated, yet fashion-forward.”

Beth Fricke, celebrity nail tech for OPI

“I have to say, for me, it’s all about the appliqués. Of course I still love polish, especially when I am manicuring someone else. But for my personal application, I love the appliqué strips! They’re so easy to use—no smell, no dry time, easy to correct with an orangewood stick and come in really fun designs and colors. I know these are currently available and easy to find, but I think we will see more and more of this in the future.”

Photo: Getty Images