This French Nail Care Brand Makes a Plant-Based Gel Polish That Comes Off With Regular Remover
For Gaëlle Labrat Personnaz, natural beauty is a family business. Noticing an absence of nail salons in Paris, her mother started one of her own. And after 20 years of the salon business, she handed things over to Gaëlle in 2016, once a trip to the US inspired her to realize French women – admired around the world for their approach to beauty – could learn something from Americans: nail care.
Over the past few years, Gaëlle has transformed her mother's company from salons and direct-to-professionals sales, into Manucurist, a trailblazing brand in the world of green beauty.
Labrat Personnaz, who cut her teeth in the high fashion world of Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, and Louis Vuitton, relaunched Manucurist as the world's first plant-based gel nail polish brand that can be removed with regular polish remover (read: no soaking, scraping, or damaging your nails is involved). The line of natural polishes (84% of the ingredients are plant-based and extracted from renewable sources) enable long-lasting gel manicures from home, without any of the harsh chemicals or damaging processes we've come to accept when we step into a salon.
Manucurist reintroduced itself with a core collection of classic colors (a perfect red, white, pink, etc.) and experienced a surge in sales during the pandemic when women around the world weren't going to salons but still doing their nails at home and investing more in clean products that spoke to their personal ethos.
We caught up with Labrat Personnaz to chat about clean beauty, creating her brand, and the perfect shade of Parisian red.
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What inspired Manucurist?
I took over the family business at the beginning of 2016. I had a dream I could do something with the brand; I didn't want to let it die. I knew I could solve some problems I saw in the nail world. I saw my mom and all the customers in salons with gel on their nails and I thought, "Oh my god! there has to be something else." I'm a feminist and I thought it had to be possible to incorporate your natural self into your nail routine. Gel is such a disaster to remove, it's so damaging. It smells so strong when you want to remove it because you have to use acetone. I felt something new was necessary that could be healthier and easier. I wanted to make something that could dry instantly, last a long time, was easy to remove, and please, without any bad ingredients.
So I started to work with a laboratory. At the beginning, they were saying, no, no, no we can't create this with natural ingredients. We searched for a solution for a few years and finally found the beginning of this new natural formula. We launched on the French market in 2019.
Gel manicures haven't really evolved since they first hit salons. Why is it important for you to change that by providing an alternative product that's natural?
I think it's part of my heritage. I knew the industry and I knew how bad it was, how bad the ingredients were. I thought maybe I can try to change things. The nail world is small and niche compared to other parts of beauty. Nothing had really has been done since Shellac.
I come from the fashion world. Working in fashion was a great experience, a lot of responsibility, a lot the travel. But in fashion, especially in luxury, it's a little bit elitist. As a woman and as a feminist, I wanted to speak to every woman. When I used to travel a lot, I was so happy to go into small beauty shops, in Vietnam or Japan or Italy, for example. Everywhere in the world women love to speak about their beauty tips and routines. It's universal. I feel more comfortable to be in the cosmetic field than in the fashion field. It's more democratic in a way. With Manucurist, my dream was to propose a solution for all women. Something that doesn't cost so much and that you can use at home.
Growing up, what was your relationship like with natural beauty?
Growing up my mother used a lot of skincare products and was quite aware of what was good and bad for the skin. She would always teach me how to take care of my skin: remove your makeup every night, stay out of the sun, and drink water and only natural wine. I was quite lucky to have my mother teaching me to protect and take care of my skin. She would say wearing nice clothes is good, but please take care of your skin!
When I was young, I tried to do makeup and my mother would say, please don't put on too much. It's nice to have like a very natural makeup, and so on. So she would give me a lot of tips and it gave me the principles of natural beauty. I read beauty magazines. There was no Instagram. I was getting my tips from one kind of woman, in a way. I'm forty-nine now and have two daughters — one is sixteen and the other is thirteen. With every type of social network they have, they have a vision of so many different types of women and different types of beauty. They are more open to try things. Their notion of beauty comes from trends, from TikTok, from everything. So they're doing their beauty by themselves. I'm trying a little bit to help them but they don't necessarily want to follow me!
How do you choose Manucurist's colors?
It's a love story between colors and me. Working for many years in the fashion industry, colors were my world. I was always trying to understand what trends would be or what colors women really wanted. In thinking about the colors I wanted for Manucurist, I knew I didn't want too many. I think that too many choices kills the experience. I didn't want thirty reds, for example. I wanted one. I wanted basic colors, not very fashiony ones, but very classic. Colors that a woman would need and not have to put too much energy into it. So that was the basis for our core collection.
My team and I get color inspiration from everywhere because color is everywhere. It could be from nature, or from a piece of cloth or paper, or a pantone reference. We bring the idea to the color factory and they try to produce the color we have in mind. And most of the time we need to go back and forth many times before we really have the right color. Not only does it have to look nice, but it has to be very easy to apply.
What color would you choose for a quintessential Parisian manicure?
We created a red for Fouquet's (the iconic Parisian restaurant on the Champs-Élysées—a favorite of legends like Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich, and the annual host of the César Awards gala dinner). We were inspired by the red awning of the restaurant and the interiors. We went back and forth with the lab, maybe four times, and finally came up with the right shade. It's such a beautiful and classic red. It's very Parisian.
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