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Essie Launching Professional Gel Service

The brand's goal is to increase its salon presence and step up the gel manicure experience.

Consumers may have their gripes with gel manicures, but according to Gerald Densk, Essie’s general manager for the professional products division of L’Oréal USA, the trend is far from slowing.

“Gels are growing double digits within the total nail polish category,” said Densk, citing a 2012 Kline & Co. report of the professional nail market. “It was not something we can ignore as we build this brand in the professional environment.”

With the goal of increasing its salon presence and stepping up the gel manicure experience, Essie will introduce its first professional gel service, Essie Gel, in October. “This is our first technology-driven launch into the professional market,” said Densk. “Gels are a significant market and they aren’t slowing down. To be a quality player, we have to be in the service that’s getting the most attention, the number-one service in the professional nail arena.”

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At the crux of the Essie Gel launch is its range of 36 gel polishes, which nod to classic Essie shades like Mademoiselle, Watermelon and Mint Candy Apple. Although they are not exactly the same hues as the traditional polishes (the gel formula does not allow for an identical match), Densk said they are as close as possible and are named with corresponding monikers, i.e. Ballet Slippers is Dance Class in its gel iteration. “Essie has unique colors, names and equity,” said Densk. “[We felt] consumers were looking for Essie in a gel service.”

Essie, which began as a salon brand in the Eighties, entered the mass channel in 2011, following the acquisition of the brand by L’Oréal.

According to Densk, Essie Gel is designed to offer the benefits of a gel manicure without the negative side effects, namely weakening the nail and a difficult removal process. “We did a lot of research and saw the number-one issue was that gel manicures leave nails in a poor condition,” said Densk. “As much as [Essie Gel] was about nail care and conditioning, it was also very much about our color authority.”

Promising 14 days of shine and color, the gel includes a keratin technology, which delivers pro-vitamin B5 and vitamin E for nail conditioning. The accompanying Essie professional LED light will come equipped with nine lights, designed to cure both hand and toenails quickly and evenly. “We believe our LED is the best around. It is 25 percent more powerful than its competitors and was designed to offer a consistent curing process across five fingers,” said Densk, of the L’Oréal-created machine. “We wanted a strong point of difference to propel the brand forward. It wasn’t just about flanking, it was about leapfrogging the competition with innovative technology.”

The $35 service, which can be utilized for both manicures and pedicures, will be available at all nail bars and full-service salons carrying the Essie brand nationally, including the key flagship salon in New York, the Samuel Shriqui Salon on East 65th Street. The service will consist of a pre-color nail cleanse and a base coat and top coat as well as a 15-minute gel remover. Although the brand would not share financials, industry sources believe the introduction of Essie Gel could generate between $6 million and $10 million in its first year in the salon sector.