Lacquerous: “Netflix for Nails” Polish-Sharing Service

A beauty startup offering shared bottles of high-end nail polish by subscription a la Netflix may actually be dealing in a product more naturally compatible with the model than Netflix itself.

What may very well be the dominant women’s fashion trend in recent years isn’t an item of clothing. It’s nail color. Evidence lines the displays of nail decals and gels and pens promising easy designs and quick-drying results populating drugstores around the country, as well as on the many fashion blogs that routinely satisfy the nerdiest of nail aficionados with breathless tutorials depicting how-tos for artfully painted digits. And, during the first half of the year, U.S. department store sales of nail color were up 70 percent, according to NPD Group findings. In fact, there’s probably a nail art shot followed by a picture of someone’s half-eaten lunch in your Instagram feed right this very second.

But rummage through the makeup stash of even your most product-addicted friend, and there is one beauty item that you’re unlikely to find: a nearly empty bottle of nail color. With an average bottle containing enough polish for thirty to fifty (and likely more) applications, depending on nail length and number of coats, it’s not surprising that a single hue would fall out of favor before the brush has a chance to reach the bottom.

Beauty startup Lacquerous is proposing to streamline and improve the process of polish acquisition with a Netflix-style model that charges subscribers $18 a month for a choice of three nail colors that can be returned and exchanged for new hues. Bottles in some 70 shades are available from “prestige” brands that normally retail anywhere from $14-$30 each, including Butter London, Chanel, Dior, MAC and Tom Ford.

“They’re pretty expensive as far as nail polishes go, and women don’t use everything that’s in a bottle,” says Liza Kindred, a New York fashion startup consultant who signed on to help launch the company after being approached by Co-Founder Ashlene Nand at an event.

Along with offering women a way to spend less for ongoing access to a wider variety of nail colors, Lacquerous has the advantage of dealing in a product that consumers are already trained to share. While Netflix at one time had to convince its subscribers that sharing films wouldn’t affect the quality of the viewing experience and companies that rent clothing online today have to wage a similar educational battle to convince their target audiences to embrace what are essentially secondhand goods, nail enamel is one product that many women already willingly share every time they head to a nail salon.

“Nail lacquer is one of the only things that can be shared,” says Kindred. “It’s similar to going to a salon, where you pull the bottle of polish off the wall and share it and put it back up.”

While some met Lacquerous’s launch last week with questions about hygiene, the company points to research that suggests it’s impossible for bacteria to grow in the chemical cocktail comprising most polishes. Along with that, Kindred says the company is taking additional steps that most salons don’t:

“We inspect [bottles] to make sure they’re uncontaminated, which is actually more than they do in the salon.”

While they do not chemically test returned polish, the company reports that it cleans each bottle and disinfects brushes before sending them onto the next member.

With a familiar business model that’s already been proven and the nail color’s current trendiness, the company has a waitlist in the thousands after launching last week.

Says Kindred:

“The idea is really easy for people to grasp, and there’s a huge demand out there.”

[Image: Flickr user Zitona]

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25 Comments

  • Sassy85

    Subscription boxes are popping up left and right.  You can get them for not only makeup, but also for your pets, your home, and your children's clothing.   In all of these, you get to keep what you are paying for.   Why would you want to rent?  It just doesn't make sense to me!  There are numerous nail polish subscriptions out there already (Julep, Color Me Monthly, etc) and only Lacquerous requires you to send the bottles back. 

  • Jessica 6

    Good article Fast Co.! I'm sure many women out there including myself
    appreciate knowing about this service and the option is offers. It may
    not be for everyone but it is invaluable for those who are interested.
    And I loove that it was created by women for women.. We need to support
    each other in a business world dominated by men instead of being catty
    and attacking each other.

    I trust the research that Fast Company conducts before publishing their
    articles/blog posts so I'm sure this will be a fantastic service much
    like described. Definitely gonna try it out and see for myself.

    Thanks for the info!

  • Kai

    My underpants sharing service launches next month. It's just like Netflix, only for underpants.

  • JessicaGottlieb

    OPI makes little bottles of polish. Four of those are $19 and you own them. 

    This just doesn't look like it'll be around in 6 months. 

  • Coralito

    Darling, ONE bottle of Tom Ford nail polish is $30, not to mention Chanel, Dior and all the other brands they carry. There are plenty of people who prefer luxury beauty but wouldn't invest in bottle after bottle of polish.

  • Judi Tierney

    You'd be surprised at how many women do invest in$30 nail polish. I myself have quite a collection of CHANEL polishes, not mention, Dior, YSL , Tom Ford, Illamasqua, Deborah Lippmann, Estée Lauder and too many more to list. Real women who prefer luxury nail polish have no problem paying $30 for a bottle of polish, sometimes, only to wear it once. It's not like it's a week's salary we're talking here.

  • JessicaGottlieb

    Okay darling... thanks for the info. 

    it still seems like the wrong product to subscribe to. If you have to have Tom Ford polish I'm guessing you'd like to reapply it or at least have it on hand so that people know you can afford a $30 polish (which is so weird...). I totally get things like Bag Borrow or Steal where people get to carry bags that they don't really want to afford but I'm just missing the allure of this. 

    Borrowing nail polish is odd. Nail polish (even luxury polish) is cheap, just buy it. 

  • Guest

    First you were stating irrelevant price facts and now you switched to simply your opinion. Luxury polish is not cheap,especially if there are a few different colors you want to try. Spending a hundred bucks on 3-4 colors of Tom Ford and Chanel is not pocket friendly and this service is a good alternative for those that are interested. End of story.

  • Nailingit78

    It's not 'odd', it's just innovative. It will definitely take time to get used to but there is no value in buying it if you don't use the whole bottle. Even cheap ones; it's a waste of money and not a very green way to live. Renting is environmentally friendly and you get the best. 

  • JessicaGottlieb

    It's not green. It's somewhat less wasteful but unless the polish is delivered via carrier pigeon the environmental impact is still there.

  • Sally45

    Damn why didn't I think of this? lol!! I heard from some people who use it and they love it so I signed up!!

  • Judi Tierney

    Thousands on the waiting list? I highly doubt that. The questions at launch were not about hygiene as lacquerous puts out there. The questions are about their Terms of Service, the limited usage, the lack of answers to valid questions, like how much additional will be charged if application was deemed inappropriate? What is inappropriate usage? If I use 2 coats like usual, then does that mean I only have one coat left for 2 bottles? The consumer is responsible for the polish one Lacquerous mails the package. If the package is received damaged by the consumer, it is up to the consumer to go to the post office file the claim for Lacquerous to be paid for the polish, and the member is still charged for the bottle plus loss of rental income.
    I was told they have a total of 40 bottles in stock, not 70 shades.
    Once you return the polish within the 30 day period, Lacquerous has 10-14 days to determine inappropriate usage, but the member still pays the $18 fee while waiting to hear about additional fees.
    So no, its not about the hygiene, it's about the spotty Terms of Service. They even say in their TOS that it is not finalized and they cannot be held to the TOS they published. When I asked them when they would have an applicable TOS they didn't answer the question.
    Lacquerous as NetFlix for nails? If I were NetFlix I'd want my name un-associated with this bunch.

  • Sam

    Also, you can use each nail polish 3 times. So you have 9 applications in total according to the TOS. I'm a member and there are over 70 shades. It is also 7 days to determine (if any) additional fees apply and you still have uninterrupted access to the lacquer. Great service if you ask me and very honest company!

  • Sam

    I read the TOS after your post... Many of the things you claim about the TOS are not accurate. Read the TOS for yourself before listening to Judi... 

  • Judi Tierney

    I read the TOS provided to me by the PR company. In paragraph 3 it states the TOS was ever evolving and please be patient as they are a new company. Obviously, your TOS was different than mine and maybe because of the questions I posed to them instigated the change in the number of applications and the number of days to determine inappropriate usage. The TOS I read said 10-14 days were needed to determine inappropriate use age. It would be nice if a company had one Terms of Service and stick with it, but don't assume I did not read it. I hope this service works out very well for you and I would like to touch base with you in 6 months to see if you still feel the same way or to see if you've broken up with them by then. I wished them well in my blog post and stated my main concern was for very young girls signing up for a program with hidden fees, such as inappropriate usage with no set guidelines as to the $$$ amount the inappropriate usage will cost a member. I also do t know why a member would pay for a damaged bottle plus pay the monthly fee plus pay Lacquerous for loss of rental income, but hey if you are happy with those terms then you sound like the perfect customer for Lacquerous.