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Wednesday, June 21, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Artificial nails from tip to toe — literally

Newhouse News Service

They are changing people's lives. Fake toenails, that is.

Yes, artificial nails, aka "press ons," have migrated southward from fingers to toes.

And they're selling like crazy: During the 12 weeks that ended May 13, the artificial toenail segment of nail product sales was up 126 percent compared with the same period last year, according to market research company ACNielsen.

Legions of women and men — yes, men — are thrilled. Now sandal season brings cooling breezes to tootsies they had hidden for years because of missing or, well, icky nails.

All it takes is a $6 nail kit, a steady hand and about 15 minutes.

Dubious? Robin Holmes was too.

Holmes, of Little Rock, Ark., was on holiday with pals a few weeks back. "We were all in the hotel room, getting ready to go out, everyone shaving their legs and plucking their eyebrows. And I noticed a friend of mine had these weird little plastic nuggets."

Do-it-yourself


Here are tips for using artificial toenails safely, from Grace Tallon of Kiss Products, a manufacturer of the popular accessories:

• Be careful when applying the nails; the glue is strong. "Otherwise you'll end up with two fingers and a toenail glued together."

• Don't wear the toenails for longer than 10 days. Doing so increases chances of a fungal problem.

• Remove the nails correctly. Do not pick, peel or chip them off. Use acetone polish remover to soak the nail off. "We make specific artificial nail remover to help dissolve the toenails," Tallon said. "But we don't sell nearly as many as we do nail kits, which is a clear indication users may not be removing them correctly."

Those would be artificial toenails, pre-application.

"She was gluing on fake toenails — the most freakish thing I'd ever seen," Holmes said.

When Holmes awakened the next morning her friends had teasingly bought her some and placed them on her nightstand.

Now she's hooked.

Holmes is on her second set. She removed the original ones "because I got annoyed that I couldn't stop staring at my toes." They were suddenly so pretty a waitress complimented her.

That's what Grace Tallon likes to hear. She's vice president of marketing for Kiss Products, first to offer artificial toenails in the mass market — particularly Wal-Mart and CVS — in 2003.

"Sales have been phenomenal," said Tallon from Kiss headquarters in Port Washington, N.Y.

Kits include French manicure style, as well as bright pink and red. They retail for $5.99 and offer 12 sizes in each box, for especially large or teensy nails.

"It's surprising," she added, "the number of consumers who have written to talk about how we've changed their lives," such as the Florida gentleman whose chronically ingrown big toenail had been removed when he was a boy.

"He was very self-conscious until he bought these," Tallon said. "Now he can go out on his boat and feel comfortable."

Christian A. Robertozzi sees a downside to the nails. He's president-elect of the American Podiatric Medical Association, and treats a lot of toenail fungus in his Newton, N.J., practice. "When you block off the air and sun supply it increases the chance of fungus," Robertozzi cautioned. "That's exacerbated on your feet. Socks and shoes on acrylic toenails would make it worse."

He recommended wearing the artificial toenails only temporarily — perhaps a few days for a special occasion.

Kiss' Tallon said fake toenails shouldn't be worn for more than 10 days. "After that, the glue might begin to break down, and water may get underneath," which is when mold and fungus become a problem.

Lundy Wilder, of Gulf Shores, Ala., is happy to hear about fake toenails. For years she's had a tendency to lose her big toenail every so often, either by dropping a heavy object onto it or most recently, "due to slipping on my steps while loading my car and slamming my foot onto the concrete riser."

She's been using fake fingernails to create a new big toenail.That worked well — most of the time.

But there was that one unfortunate incident with her two friends and their "yappy little doggies."

Wilder was on a visit to admire their newly decorated home when she realized their dogs had been licking her toes.

"Before leaving I looked down and my fake toenail was gone!" she said. "I had to tell them in case one of the dogs had actually eaten the nail, or if they spotted it on the floor later."

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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