Chipped nails are a thing of the past. Heck, painted nails (and the nearly unavoidable smudges) are a thing of the past, too.
The first electric tattoo machine was patented in 1891. And 127 years later, society has moved from permanently inking the skin to semi-permanently inking nails. Yes, fingernails.
The minimalist trend started popping up on Instagram earlier this year with celeb tattoo artist JonBoy, who has tattooed everyone from Kendall Jenner to Hailey Baldwin and Post Malone.
Then, Manhattan-based tattoo artist Christian Boyd tattooed “Love” in script on Ambie Stapleton’s nails and the trend exploded. Boyd mentioned nail tattoos to Stapleton, and she asked him to do it on her. “I didn’t care if I was the guinea pig,” says Stapleton. “I took them to London and Paris and realized what a conversation starter it was.”
Needle Nails, co-founded by Boyd and Stapleton, launched at the beginning of 2018, quickly gaining steam and status. And the tattoo pop-up shop — they do not have a storefront and currently only do appointments and events — has become “a sensation of sorts,” she says.
Nail tattoos are the antithesis of real tattoos and the perfect solution for commitment-phobes. “I really love it,” says Stapleton, “you don’t have to commit to one design like a tattoo. It is [an] ever-changing canvas.”
The tattoo only lasts for as long as it takes the full nail to grow out.
Stapleton’s first one lasted for six to eight weeks, but she has seen friend’s nail tattoos that have lasted for up to 12. And, the best part? There is no pain. Stapleton says that is the biggest misconception. According to Stapleton, it is simply a vibration on the surface of the nail.
Needle Nails only sticks to black ink for aesthetic reasons, says Stapleton. But, it is the same nontoxic ink as a normal tattoo. Boyd lightly scratches the surface of the nail to ink the designs. Nail tattoos are not for everyone, though. “You need to have strong healthy nails,” says Stapleton, “If you have compromised nails from acrylic nails or polish on your nails for too long, I would avoid it.”
If you are lucky enough to snag an appointment with Boyd — they are based in New York City and are bookable by appointment only with the occasional travel as well — the designs can be a simple as a dot or as intricate as Mehndi. Stapleton’s favorites have ranged from the personal touch of daughter’s names to a Cy Twombly flower to I Ching hexagrams and simple equal signs.
The cost starts at $50 per nail, but the more you get, the less it is, says Stapleton. And, for Stapleton, it is worth it. “I prefer the nail tattoos to polish,” she says. “It is impossible for me not to smudge a manicure. I can’t be precious with my nails.”
Take inspiration from these five tattoos Needle Nails currently has us drooling over.