What Makes Japanese Nail Art Unique? | CoolJapan

If you love nail art, then you’re probably familiar with several famous Japanese nail artists who have made a name for themselves in the beauty industry. They’re mostly known for 3D nail art designs and for pioneering innovative techniques. But what exactly makes Japanese nail art unique?

Japan’s nail care industry

Japan has a huge nail care industry, reportedly garnering up to more than JPY100 billion (approximately SGD960 million) in market size over the past couple of years. There’s also the Japan Nailist Association, a non-profit organisation founded in 1985 that ensures ‘nailists’ (their term for Japanese nail artists), along with other nail care practitioners and service providers, are up to date with the latest trends, techniques, and technologies related to nail care, both locally and abroad.

The history of Japanese nail art

Japanese nail art is a booming industry since the 1980s. (Photo from: Photo-AC)

The first-ever nail salon in Japan reportedly opened its doors in the 1980s, as inspired by the boom of artificial nails in Hollywood during the 1970s. By the 2000s, gel nails have become popular among Japanese women because gel manicures can last longer and endure a lot more than regular nail polish. Japanese gel nails are also preferable because of the many nail care benefits they have.

Harajuku fashion and its influence on the nail art industry

Harajuku is a district in Tokyo that is known for its fashion and beauty scene; it even inspired a subculture. But while ‘Harajuku fashion’ has changed in meaning over the years, with the likes of lolita and gyaru styles as two of the more popular looks, its influence over nail art is something that remains.

Japanese nail art trends to try

Japanese nail art can go from outlandish to dainty but usually has a common appeal: its kawaii (cute) nature. (Photo from: Photo-AC)

Nail designs with elaborate styling, 3D effects, and kawaii (cute) elements inspired by Harajuku fashion became synonymous with Japanese nail art. Eventually, even everyday people started getting into these nail art styles and it evolved into the trend we know today.

At present, with many nail artists, salons, and services growing more and more in demand in various countries, Japanese nail art with 3D and abstract elements continue to rise.

Japanese nail art elements to inspire your next manicure

Now that you’ve learned more about Japanese nail art, it's time to get inspiration for your next manicure. Here are some Japanese nail art elements from popular nailists you can take note of.

1. 3D bubble nails

This nail art features 3D designs made from gel polish. The design is cured into place for security. This is great for those who want cute, 3D nails but don’t want to use beads, gems, or other accessories on top of their manicure.

2. Dainty freehand florals

Japanese nail art is known for freehand designs that look easy to achieve but are actually very intricate and detailed. If you’re the type who wants a cute, subtle design, this style is the one to take inspiration from.

3. Chunky gems

Gems and jewels are popular Japanese nail art elements you can add to your next manicure. They can be added as accents or the pièce de résistance to your ‘tips.

4. Embossed accents

Similar to gems, embossed accents help level up your usual manicure. These can come in the form of several designs; celestial elements (like the sun, moon, and stars) and natural elements (like leaves and flowers) are among the most popular choices. These are also great to pair with more neutral or muted base colours.

5. Over-the-top add-ons

If minimalism isn’t in your vocabulary, over-the-top add-ons reminiscent of old-school Harajuku style are the way to go. We’re talking character-inspired 3D embellishments, beaded accents, bright-coloured freehanded designs — you name it.

Next, check out these Japanese beauty trends on TikTok that will surely level up your current routine.