A new generation of nail artists is harnessing social media to independently commodify their talent, offering custom press-on nail sets in addition to traditional appointment bookings. For many of them, pandemic lockdowns were the catalyst that propelled them into nail artistry, and their social media savvy has since allowed them to primp the nails of clients around the world — often from the comfort of their own homes. Here, six nail artists who are breaking barriers to entry while playing by nobody’s rules but their own.
- Rayah Naji, @frosteddtipss (Boston, Massachusetts)
Boston-based creative Rayah Naji made her first foray into nail art at the age of 10, following her family’s move to Lebanon, their motherland. “I was like, ‘Oh, I can’t move to a new country without starting a business,” Naji recalls, mid-laugh. Even as a fifth grader, Naji worked meticulously to perfect her craft de ella, so it was par for the course when she later obtained her bachelor’s degree in graphic design, wielding her dexterity in both competencies for the inception of her business de ella, Frosted Tips, in 2020.
A longtime lover of fashion and streetwear, Naji sources much of her inspiration from archival runway looks and accessories — but even the most unsuspecting sources can spark an idea. Says Naji, “Since I’ve been doing nails, my brain just sees things and thinks, ‘Ok, how can I put this on nails?’
On average, Naji spends around four hours crafting each hand-painted set, which usually cost around $150 or more. Clients can book her from her via Instagram DM, or through her from her newly launched web site from her, frostedtips.com.
2. Clementine Natali, @badgirlsgoodnails (Paris, France)
When a bout of COVID-19-induced boredom prompted Paris-based Clémentine Natali to place an order for an at-home nail kit, it didn’t take long for her to realize nail art was precisely the creative outlet she had long been seeking.
Pivoting from her web design background, Natali began booking appointments at her apartment once lockdown measures eased in Paris, and her skills flourished from there.
Now 18 years old, Natali only takes requests for what she describes as “complex” nail art, spending between three to six hours on average per set, which range in price from 80 to 180 euros. Upon being asked about her most fantastical creation, Natali replies with a grin, “They are all fantastical.”
No request is too outlandish for the entrepreneur, who said one of her favorite creations is a set of decked-out mussel shells she devised in April, adorning each carapace with faux pearls and other embellishments at a client’s behavior.
While Natali is fully booked through August, clients can book her for September and onward through Instagram DM.
3. Olivia Sabellico, @nailedbyliv___ (Detroit, Michigan)
The daughter of an artist, it wasn’t until she was in college that Olivia Sabellico realized unlocking her creative prowess was merely a matter of finding the right canvas. “I always kind of knew something was in me, I just never really liked painting, drawing, charcoal — stuff like that,” says Sabellico.
Shelling out for an Aprés Gel-X Nail Extension Kit that she stumbled upon during one fateful TikTok scroll, Sabellico began trying her hand (or, more accurately, her friends’ hands) at nail art in 2020. It was love at first polish swipe .
Sourcing inspiration from album covers, paintings and sculptures, Sabellico describes her design style as “girly, edgy and kind of funky.” In addition to having a chair at Faness Nail Salon in Detroit, she also offers press-ons on a made-to-order basis.
Sabellico spends between an hour and a half to two and a half hours per set, which cost between $40 to $120. She can be booked via the Acuity Scheduling link in her her Instagram bio.
4. Camilla Inge Volbert, @nailsvoninge (Berlin, Germany)
When her college closed its workshops once the pandemic hit, fashion design student Camilla Inge Volbert knew she’d need to find new stomping grounds to get her creative fix.
Thankfully, she had just the persistent itch to indulge when the time came. “I always loved having long nails,” says Volbert. “At first, I didn’t have any intention behind that, but when I tried [nail art] for the first time, I immediately became obsessed.”
As her own first client, Volbert describes her design MO as “organized chaos,” and says when it comes to just how much detail she’ll interpose onto a single nail — the limit does not exist. “My style is a little bit of everything mixed together,” Volbert says. “The more I do nails, the more layers I add to each design; there’s always a lot going on.”
On average, Volbert spends between three to five hours creating a set, which usually cost between 80 to 140 euros each. She can be booked via Instagram DM, or her email, email@example.com.
5. Eddie Sandoval, @nailbb_ (West Covina, California)
When Eddie Sandoval first took up nail art as a hobby in 2020, he didn’t anticipate it would become the burgeoning passion of his that it is today. Practicing weekly on his best friend to cultivate his skills, Sandoval quickly began growing a client base by uploading photos of his extravagant sets to Instagram.
“My style is very fun and crazy,” Sandoval says. “I like to think outside the box and always wow people.”
While sparkles and gemstone-clad designs were his signature when he started out, the rising nail artist now produces sets ranging from hand-painted to 3D-embellished, adding his own flair to contemporary, Kawaii and space-age influences.
On average, Sandoval spends between two to four hours per set, which range in price from $75 to $250 each. He can be booked via Instagram DM, and he uploads his monthly availability onto his Instagram Story Highlights.
6. Katelyn Edwards @nailsbykdxx (Fayetteville, Georgia)
Psycho Duckies, Bahama Mama, Cyber Fairy and Draculara — no, these aren’t comic book characters, but rather the names of Georgia-based nail artist Katelyn Edwards’ recent nail sets.
Sourcing inspiration from anything from petri dishes to Kanye West’s “Graduation” album cover, Edwards’ designs turn the bare easels of her clients’ nail beds into multidimensional masterpieces.
“I started the second week of quarantine, and it just really took off from there,” says Edwards. Most of her ella sets are a convergence of client recommendations and her ella own freestyling capabilities (she rarely creates the same set twice), and each takes between one-and-a-half to three hours to create.
Edwards can be booked via the link in her Instagram bio, while clients can order press-ons from her through Instagram DM. Her creations from ella range in cost from $55 and up for short sets, to $125 and up for extra-long sets.