Celebrities are helping, too.
At Sunday night's Golden Globes, "nail cams" - where women can walk their nails down mini-red carpets - captured fingertips of actress Jennifer Lawrence (blush pink) and singer Adele (copper penny). It was actress Zooey Deschanel's digits that popped the most: The opaque white nails were decorated with images of movie cameras and film.
Although nail polish always had good characteristics for easy home application (portable, simple to use) drugstore nail products - unlike the gamut of high-definition, lash-curling mascara - hadn't kept up with the latest in nail technology. Finally, companies like Sally Hansen and SensatioNail have introduced a slew of new nail products to the market: home gel nail systems, as well as other enhancers. People have responded.
At the end of last year, a report by NPD Group showed that department store products including color enamel, base/top coats, and nail treatment products like cuticle removers grew 49 percent from 2011 to 2012.
"In light of the weakened economy, retailers are finding a lot of success with these products - especially nail polishes," said Antoinette Alexander, senior beauty editor for New York-based Drugstore News. "Nail beauty products are experiencing double-digit growth. The category is on fire."
Unlike a salon gel manicure, which costs about $40, you can buy a kit for $75 to $200. So even if you buy a high-end kit, it will pay for itself after five uses. As for whether the quality is comparable, as long as you have a steady hand, you should have similar results.
According to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm, total sales of nail products in U.S. drugstores, big box chains, supermarkets, and club stores grew about 19 percent, from $1.32 billion in 2011 to nearly $1.6 billion in 2012. These numbers include not just nail polish, removers, and treatments, but also the gel systems.
In November CVS bulked up its nail offerings with nail bars - end-of-aisle kiosks displaying shiny decals (Minx knock-offs), French manicure sets, and zebra-striped decorations.
And tomorrow, QVC will host a 25-hour beauty broadcast that will sell lip, skin care, and nail products, including the network's version of a gel manicure system - the Mally 17-piece gel polish system with LED light.
Nail products have a broad allure: Crazy colors can be worn by any age, said Claudia Lucas, director of merchandising for QVC.
"If you are an older consumer and you can't wear bright orange lipstick or emerald green eye shadow, you can always wear it on your nails. It is really such a fun category."
Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at ewellingtonphl.