Nails and other high-tech tools, like nail polish, are becoming more accessible for women, with the number of women using them up in the United States increasing by roughly 2.7 million people a year.
But there’s a new study out of the University of Wisconsin that may shed some light on why.
According to the report, the gender disparity in the nail-piercing market is driven by women’s preferences for nail polish with higher concentrations of carmine, which is more pigmented and is known to be associated with more severe skin and nail irritation.
“Women’s preference for the carmine-rich polish over those that use other colors or are more matte makes sense because it is less likely that the nails will get broken,” said study co-author Dr. Kristi Pascual, who is also the director of the UW Department of Anthropology and is a researcher with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Pascual and her colleagues found that, in 2011, women were about 10 percent more likely than men to purchase nail polish containing carmine.
They also found that women were twice as likely to purchase a nail polish that contained the chemical oxybenzone, which can increase the likelihood of the nails becoming scratched, which, in turn, can increase their chances of a nail-related injury.
In a study released last month, a University of California, Berkeley, researcher found that men and women who purchased nail polish made with a carmine or oxybenzone product had different skin characteristics and that these differences increased the likelihood that they would suffer a skin injury from nail polish.
According the study, the majority of women who used the products were between the ages of 25 and 49.
Women who were younger, but still using nail polish or oxyenzone products, were about 3.5 times more likely.
And in the new study, Pascu said she and her team looked at a number of factors that affect the makeup and product choice of women and women of color.
Women who are younger and younger in their teens and 20s were much more likely, Piscu said, to buy nail polish than women of the same age who were older.
This was true whether they were using a natural-based polish or a high-end product made with the chemical.
In addition, younger women were much less likely to buy natural-derived polish than their older counterparts, and they were about two times more apt to purchase synthetic or other products made with oxybenzoates.
According Pascua’s study, these differences in the makeup of women of different age groups may have something to do with the fact that some women prefer products made from natural-type ingredients over the synthetic ones.
For example, in Pascul’s study that looked at the makeup choices of the more than 12,000 women who were surveyed in 2011 in the U.S., the most common natural- and synthetic-type nail polish brands were Avon, Nivea, Nubar, Zoya and Glamour.
The synthetic-products were made by Avon.
But in the study of the women who responded to the survey, a majority of those who purchased natural-quality products were women of colour.
According To Pascue, “these results highlight the need for more research to understand the makeup preferences of different racial, ethnic and gender groups and the ways they differ from those of their peers.”
The study was published in the March issue of the Journal of Cosmetic Science and was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.