At Your Fingertips : New Polishes Give Nails Added Protection From Sun, Stains, Chips

NAIL POLISH with sunscreen? At first, it sounds as though sunblock recommendations have gone too far.

But for many women, sunscreen polish is not as unnecessary as it sounds. Laque Protecteur from Lancome is the first clear top coat that absorbs ultraviolet light to stop nail enamel from fading in the sunlight--a problem, its maker says, that besets serious polish wearers every summer.

While other cosmetics, such as lipsticks and hair conditioners, can promise extra moisture or sun-protection in addition to enhancing beauty, nail products have been considered limited in what they can do. But, says Stephen Krawczyk, a Los Angeles-based consultant to the cosmetics industry, "women want more from a nail product than just beautiful nails. They've been hearing claims for years, and they've come to expect more than just good color."

Southern California women have gained a reputation for being especially demanding when it comes to their nails. "Women in Los Angeles are famous for driving down the street with one hand out the window, showing off their manicures," observes New Yorker Tony Michaels, vice president of marketing and advertising for Lancome. "They complain at the beauty counter when their nails fade in the sun. They complain if the color drains when they do dishes. We made Laque Protecteur with them in mind." Lancome sells more nail enamel in Southern California than anywhere else in the country, he reports.

But no matter where they live, women have always sought polishes that are easy to apply and chip-resistant. Manufacturers have promoted these features for years, but the products often haven't lived up to the claims. This year, though, more new polishes aim to solve the old problems. Max Factor's Diamond Hard Nail Enamel has recently been reformulated with powdered diamonds for an extra-strong anti-chip finish. Cover Girl's new Professional One Coat Nailcolor is thick enough to provide even color coverage in one application, yet is fast-drying.

Other new products are designed for specific needs. Revlon promotes Stainguard Anti-Stain Base Coat, for instance, as a base coat that not only prevents dark polishes from staining the natural nail but also creates a slightly textured surface that results in a longer-lasting manicure. And Revlon's Cuticle Check gel with ground pumice softens the cuticle and exfoliates dead skin. Max Factor's Nail Thick was developed after studies reported that many women complain about having "paper-thin nails, a problem they felt was separate from having weak nails," says Phyllis Klein, vice president of public relations at Max Factor.

To the millions of American women devoted to having well-groomed nails, new nail products--a top coat that controls color fading, an enamel with diamond dust and a base coat that prevents polish from staining the nails--are welcome improvements on a manicure. Quite likely, these women willingly spend $9.50 on nail color sold at a department store because the brush is superior to that of the $1.89 drugstore version. For them, little indulgences make a big difference.

Manicurist: Gail Gallant, Zenobia / L.A.; statue from Florentine Art Studio; backdrop by Brainworks.

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