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.
“The idea is really easy for people to grasp, and there’s a huge demand out there.”
[Image: Flickr user Zitona ]