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Nail Competitions at Nailympia

Nail Competitions Unveiled


Your Ultimate Guide to Success in the Nail World

Nail competitions are currently experiencing unprecedented popularity. Originating in the 1980s as a fixture in the global nail industry, these competitions have expanded both in scale and significance over the years. In response to evolving trends, product innovations, and techniques, nail competitions are continuously transforming, providing nail professionals with a plethora of options, challenges and ideas to push the boundaries of their artistic abilities and skill sets.

The advent of the pandemic unexpectedly opened new avenues, particularly in the realm of online nail competitions. This shift has empowered numerous nail professionals who may have lacked confidence or faced travel constraints to participate in competitions right from the comfort of their own salons. As a result, there’s a growing enthusiasm for competition within the nail industry worldwide, fuelled by the accessibility and convenience that online platforms offer.

Inside Nail Competitions

Often set inside beauty conventions and exhibitions, the nail competition arena offers a space where like-minded nail artists come together and share their love of nails whilst demonstrating skills and talent. A significant part of any industry that is keen to move onwards and upwards, competition arenas provide a platform where innovative ideas and techniques are showcased and industry figures are unveiled.

Untold networking opportunities are experienced and relationships cemented in the arena, as it’s a powerful representation of an industry, of who’s who, what’s trending and fashionable and the direction in which it’s moving. The arena allows the industry to see the emerging trends from all nail cultures right across the globe.

Just as witnessed in the make-up and hair industries over the course of decades, the competition arena serves as a space where imaginative visions come to life. With an extensive array of products at their disposal, competitions provide a canvas for creative expression, giving rise to extravagant and captivating nail designs. These creations span a spectrum of possibilities, ranging from fantastical structures – both grand and intricate- to flat art, extreme nail shapes, meticulously crafted traditional pink & whites, delicate one-stroke blends, 3D figurines and flawlessly applied red polish. The diverse landscape of nail competitions worldwide mirrors every facet and subtlety of the nail industry, offering a platform for artists to showcase their skills and push the boundaries of what’s possible in nail artistry.

Why Enter Nail Competitions?

Entering nail competitions is crucial for nail techs for several compelling reasons. Competing not only refines and expands their nail skills, which in turn benefits all in-salon services, but also serves as a platform for unleashing creativity beyond the confines of a salon. It provides a space where nail techs can break free from routine and create without limitations, showcasing their artistic potential to the world.

Competitions challenge technicians to step into uncharted territory, pushing them to think and express their artistry in novel ways. Beyond personal growth, participants gain industry recognition and often evolve into experts and mentors themselves. This acknowledgement reflects positively on their salon business, enhancing marketing efforts and potentially leading to increased clientele. Winning awards can elevate their status, allowing for menu expansion and justified price increases. Moreover, participation can open doors to diverse opportunities in the nail industry, including roles as brand ambassadors, educators, designers for posters and editorial shoots, contributors to advertising campaigns, expert articles and members of fashion week teams.

Nail professionals are drawn to competitions as a means of stretching and showcasing their skills in an environment where they can freely explore creative ideas. Unlike the salon, where constraints exist due to time and client requests, competitions provide a platform for unlimited artistic expression.

For those seeking to explore their creative avenues, competitions offer a chance to challenge themselves and discover global trends and innovations. Networking opportunities abound, leading to industry recognition and potential business growth through effective marketing strategies. Winning a medal not only adds prestige but also facilitates menu expansion and price adjustments.

First-Time Competitors: Navigating the Path to Success

First-time competitors are encouraged to seek guidance from experienced mentors, easily found on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Taking competition classes can provide valuable insights and shortcuts to success. Recognizing the distinction between competition nails and salon nails is crucial, as is selecting an ideal model with suitable nail beds, hands and personality.

Unleashing Your Potential: The Journey of Confidence, Passion, and Preparation in Nail Competitions

Maintaining confidence is key, staying focused on personal growth without being swayed by external opinions. Each competition is a unique experience, and enjoying the process adds excitement to one’s professional journey.

To motivate others, professionals are urged to reconnect with their love for nails, harness the passion, and share it in the competition arena. Surrounded by like-minded individuals, competitors can overcome self-imposed limitations and contribute to the collective elevation of the industry. A medal might be the outcome, offering a truly sensational feeling.

Preparation involves finding a mentor, extensive practice on salon clients, mastering various techniques, and participating in competition classes. The emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows during competitions adds flavour, intensity and exhilaration to the overall experience. In essence, engaging in nail competitions becomes a powerful and transformative journey for technicians who are genuinely passionate about their craft, an experience that is undoubtedly worth pursuing in their career.

A great example of how nail competitions can change your life and positively impact your career is to look at the success of past winners. For example, Nailympia, which is about to celebrate 20 years in the UK, and 25 years since its inception in the USA, has a wealth of success stories, as does its counterpart Nail Pro Competitions.

Stories of Sweet Nail Success

Madelene Wolf (Sweden), the inaugural Global Cup winner at Nailympia 2017, has expanded her horizons significantly since claiming the trophy. Following her victory, she embarked on a global journey, delivering training sessions worldwide and introducing her own nail brand, Wolf. Lena Kurach (Poland), the second champion, and the fourth and fifth global champion, Olena Oezman, (Germany), all share a parallel trajectory, using their titles as a springboard to international recognition and accomplishments.

Meanwhile, the third champion, Joanna Bandurska, has taken a slightly different path, leveraging her competition experience and knowledge to elevate her chosen nail brand’s educational offerings to new heights.

The allure of trophies, medals, and certificates is substantial, creating an atmosphere of success as well as industry recognition and elevation. As aspiring nail artists thirst for improvement, they follow in the footsteps of the champions who have gone before them, aiming to achieve similar accolades and recognition in their own journeys.

Nail Competition Winners 2023 – London Olympia

Prepare For Nail Competitions

When gearing up for a nail competition, thorough preparation is key. Here’s some advice to help nail technicians get ready for the exciting challenges ahead.

Research & Choose A Theme

The abundance of available competitions ensures there’s a perfect match for everyone. If you’re seeking inspiration, numerous nail art competitions with specific themes are readily accessible. Following a designated theme, many nail artists turn to search engines to broaden their understanding of it. This approach helps gather ideas for colour palettes and intricate details, bringing their artistic creations to vibrant life. Whether you’re a seasoned artist or a newcomer, the diverse range of competitions provides an ideal platform to explore, express creativity, and refine your skills in the world of nail art.

If you’re struggling to select a satisfying theme and your inspiration is waning, consider turning to your favourite things for a boost. Use a search engine or explore your preferences on Pinterest to spark new ideas. Alternatively, take a walk in nature and allow your mind to wander freely. By doing so, allow yourself to discover what naturally comes to the forefront of your mind.

For added inspiration, take a glance at the image galleries of previous competition winners. This provides valuable insight into what has been previously accomplished. Strive to be unique and aim for your artwork to be distinctive, ensuring that it stands out in a crowd.

Art on Nails Gallery 2022

Seek Guidance from Experienced Mentors & Take Competition Classes

Connect with past competitors or winners who have transitioned into mentors or consultants. Their invaluable insights can provide guidance and strategic advice. Nailympia Global, Euro and Americas Cup champions all offer intensive training and mentoring. A competition class led by a champion offers valuable tips and tricks, accelerating your progress and preparing you for the unique challenges ahead.

Practice Diligently

Hone your skills through consistent and focused practice. Take advantage of every opportunity to refine your techniques and perfect your timings. Consider practising on willing clients in the salon to simulate real competition conditions. The importance of time management cannot be stressed enough. Your timings need to be honed up to the closest minute to keep your pace during the arena event. Get in sync with your model and have them keep time for you during practice and then during the real-time event too.  

Engage a Supportive Network

Rally your clients’ support by involving them in your competition journey. Their encouragement can significantly boost your confidence and create a positive atmosphere.

Select an Ideal Model

Finding a suitable model is crucial. Look for someone with great nail beds, hands, and a relaxed and amenable personality. A good model enhances the overall presentation of your work. It’s a two-way relationship, in return keep your model warm, fed, hydrated and in beautiful nails.

Stay Updated on Rules & Score Sheets

Familiarise yourself with competition rules and score sheets. Understanding where points are awarded allows you to tailor your preparation to meet the specific criteria and maximise your chances of success.

Utilise Client Relationships

Leverage the relationships you’ve built with clients to create a supportive atmosphere. Share your competition goals with them and encourage their involvement in the process. Their backing can be a driving force behind your success. Let your clients keep you motivated as they champion your journey.

Refresh Your Skills

Take the time to refresh your skills, staying current with the latest trends and techniques in the nail industry. Continuous improvement and adaptation will set you apart in the competitive arena.

Network within the Industry

Build connections within the nail industry. Networking provides opportunities to exchange ideas, gather inspiration, make new friends/acquaintances and receive guidance from seasoned professionals.

Maintain a Positive Mindset

Cultivate a positive mindset throughout your preparation. Stay focused on your goals, believe in your abilities and approach the competition with confidence.

Nail Competition Rules & Judging Criteria

Every nail competition comes with a unique set of rules and criteria, making it essential for participants to thoroughly review these guidelines before initiating any preparation. Familiarising oneself with the rules is the initial and crucial step when venturing into a competitive career.

Most competitions will proffer a set of general arena rules, whereby some will request that hair is tied back and a uniform worn, whereas others may be lighter and more relaxed and simply request that you adhere to timings, touching models only when allowed and adhering to the location to store kits bags.

General rules will cover timings, kits bags, briefings, what’s allowed on the nail desk etc. There is then a set of specific rules for each competition, which outlines precise requirements to be followed during the event.

Specific rules will outline how many nails must be crafted, their length, style, application technique and their finish. It’s imperative that these rules are examined and digested before the event, as if they are not properly understood, easy points can be lost.

Likewise, to further break down the points and to see exactly where points can be gained and lost, take a look at the relevant score sheet. Every competition has a score sheet that can be analysed, which breaks down the competition into distinctive criteria, which have assigned points.

This detailed breakdown aids participants in maximizing their scores and ensuring a thorough grasp of the judging criteria.

What Judges Look For

It’s simple, judges are looking for ingenuity, originality, technical skill, innovation, creativity and fresh ideas with abundant artistic expression. Crisp lines, flawless finishes, a smooth surface (unless texture is part of the design), attention to detail and the mastery of sculpting, blending, shaping, filing and forming.

They want to see an original interpretation of the theme, that it’s apparent and been followed.

Exciting and clever colour palettes excite judges, as does thoughtful composition and arrangement of added elements and embellishments. Precision in the detailing is paramount with dots, lines and nail art elements all presented with meticulous care.

Competitions may differ in their specific focus, for example, Nailympia judgesexpect to see consistency in everything. This means in apex placing, depth of smile line, direction of upper and lower arches, length of free edge etc.

For the overall presentation and aesthetics of the nail work, judges will look for harmony, balance, neatness, cleanliness and visual appeal.

While walking the floor, judges enjoy seeing new ideas and products used. This is where industry innovation shines and new methods of working are brought into the mainstream.

Lastly, judges want to see trailblazers at work. To see the unconventional come to life, ground-breaking techniques explored, the introduction of fresh concepts in nail styling, showcasing and setting new trends, showing current styles and pushing the boundaries of forward-thinking finger fashion.

Nail Flat Art – Nail Competition Winners Gallery

Tips For Nailing Your Competition Entry

The key to creating a solid and successful nail art entry is to start with meticulous planning. Research ideas for your theme, or the theme given by the organiser, seek inspiration from the internet, and nature, even taking time out to meditate and see what ideas naturally flow.

Read the rules to make sure you have a precise understanding of what is required. For example, does the flat art competition allow the nail tips to be attached? Or must there be a distinct gap between each one, and does it require 5 different-sized tips? These are the details that can lose points if not correctly followed.

NB: One should note here, it’s quite shocking how many competitors do not read the rules thoroughly.

Simplicity rarely triumphs in a nail art competition. Detailed, accurate, minute work will catch the eye of the judges. Original, sharp, precise and crisp finishing showcasing technical excellence and artist prowess will gain attention. When working in miniature, judges want to see all elements created and crafted from nail products, not covered in product, but crafted.

Showcasing a variety of techniques is a super way to generate points. In the nail art genre displaying free-hand painting one-stroke, aquarelle, ombré, alcohol inks, airbrushing, character painting, in a variety of products such as gel paints and inks. Steer clear of stamping, decals and foils, as these are quick nail art options for the salon.

Playing with texture is another way to create attention-grabbing nail art and offer dimension to the entry. Using matte, gloss, chrome, velvet flocking powder or sugaring techniques will bring a texturised effect to the design, adding another element to attract the judge’s attention.

Exhibit a distinct style, think outside of the box, push boundaries and be daring to give your entry the edge in a nail art competition.

For more traditional pink & white competitions technical skill is key. From attaching nail forms or nail tips to applying the white, sculpting the smile line and building up the apex, each element is closely scrutinised. Each must be placed with precision and present structural integrity.

Nail professionals using liquid & powder products should be mindful of their system’s performance in different temperatures. In colder climates, the system’s curing/setting process may slow down, impacting timing and results. Consider utilising a competition system with a faster setting time, specially designed for competition environments with cooler temperatures compared to salon settings.

The Nail Competition Day

When preparing for a nail competition, it’s essential to come well-equipped. Ensure you have the following items:

·       Full kit: Review the rules and ensure you have all the necessary items in your kit. Most competitions only provide the nail desk, two chairs and two electric outlets. Make sure you travel with electric adaptors and extension leads/cords.

Create a checklist weeks beforehand, check you have all the necessary products, purchase what you need and pack it safely in your competition kit. For peace of mind, regularly check this kit as you mentally prepare to compete.

  •        Desk lamp and bin: Check if these are required and pack accordingly.
  •        Labelled products: Ensure all your products are clearly labelled. Some competitions allow you to write on the label, for decanted products such as acetone.
  •        Wrist rest, towel, cardigan and scarf: These items provide comfort for both you and your model.
  •        Clock or mobile phone: Keep track of time during the competition with your mobile phone if the rules allow. Having your model keep time is a great way to work together.
  •        Bottled water: Stay hydrated.
  •        Location: Be mindful of noise levels in the arena, sitting too close to spectators can be off-putting, unless that energy feeds your competition vibe and supports you.

Gel Polish – Nail Competition Winners Gallery

Managing Your Mindset

Bring a positive and focused mindset to the arena. Don’t let your nerves get in the way of your competition experience. Keep calm by using deep breathing techniques to centre and ground yourself. Keep a positive mindset by focusing on the competition itself and your immediate area. Set up your nail table to replicate your usual salon desk, to create a safe and comfortable zone.

Rescue Remedy is a fabulous calming remedy that can be beneficial. Simply dropped onto the tongue, it can bring instant, calming relief.

Avoid overthinking the competition or being intimidated by your surroundings. Do not compare yourself to anyone, you do not know their story. Chances are they too are nervous and hiding it. Remember, you’re not alone. Everyone, regardless of experience, has faced nerves in the competition setting and everyone has also at one time competed for the first time.

Take deep breaths, get into the flow and embrace the experience. Enjoy the journey, it’s a massive feat to be sitting in the arena. Now you’re there, drink in the moment.

Post Competition: Learning & Networking

A good nail competition will not only give out score sheets, but also provide feedback from judges immediately after the event. Since this is not always possible, competitors can contact the organiser post-event and, with a copy of the score sheet and photos, request feedback on their entry. For online competitions, feedback is often added to the score sheet during the judging. Again, feedback can be requested and is a brilliant way to discover strengths and weaknesses in preparation for the next stage of the competition journey, allowing a competitor to see exactly where their focus must be directed.

Once success is realised on the competition arena, it must be fully exploited for all its marketing worth. Winning or placing in the top three of a nail competition can afford great promotion opportunities and present a powerful boost for your business, your reputation and your industry persona.

Start by drafting a press release that is quick to the point. Highlight your win, emphasise the significance of the competition and its value to the industry and add a personal quote from you that reflects your response. Make sure it also displays a series of ways to contact you and presents all social media handles. Couple the release with a series of photos of you at the event and your entry. Send this PR to local newspapers, magazines, online media outlets, local radio and all beauty trade press including Scratch magazine.

Create social media posts for all your platforms using engaging visuals of the competition arena, you and your entry, then craft compelling captions to bring the posts to life. Make sure to also use video posts to get further reach and add to your IG Stories too. Careful planning of your competition journey with video and photos documenting the entire experience will proffer a multitude of content to draw from.

Find a place on your website to post the news. Add it to your home page, so potential clients are informed of your accolade and post a longer appraisal to your blog.

Hang your certificate with pride in your salon space, while presenting medals and trophies in a specified area as conversation starters. On creating any promotional material in the future make sure to highlight that you’re an award-winning nail professional and consider raising your prices to reflect this.

Most importantly, do not let the momentum wane. Let the placement power you up and drive you forward and right back onto the next competition arena.

As your competition career advances, you will emerge as a prominent figure in the nail industry – an influential voice and expert. Transitioning into the sphere of education becomes a compelling avenue for many. This involves not only sharing your knowledge but also demonstrating your skills at exhibitions. For some, it opens doors to international travel. Becoming a brand ambassador is a choice embraced by many, offering the opportunity to be an expert voice and columnist in industry publications. Collaborating with other industry experts for events, promoting products, and joining nail teams for fashion weeks and editorial campaigns are all possibilities.

When you feel prepared, stepping beyond the competition arena and into the judges’ booth is another industry accolade that brings huge dividends to your professional persona. It solidifies your standing as an expert and further enhances your influence within the nail industry.

Nail Competition Calendar

Nail competitions respond and reflect the shape and evolution of an industry. In response to industry innovations, fashion-fads and trends, the shape and style of nail competitions are continually changing. It’s exciting to see the wide array of nail competitions on offer and more importantly to see how the competitors interpret them. There’s a nail competition out there for everyone. From online categories to posters, boxed 3D art, flat art, designing and inventing shapes as well as monumental fantasy structures and delicate miniature-sized sculptures. Most competitions offer veteran, intermediate and beginner levels (divisions 1,2,3), so nail pros are competing fairly against similar skills.

If you’re not sure where to start, contact your nail industry association (for the UK it’s The Federation of Nail Professionals @the_fnp_), your local nail trade magazine or beauty expo.

Professional Beauty & FNP Nail Competitions- London, Dublin, Glasgow, Manchester

Pro Beauty ExCel London 3-4 March 2024

Pro Beauty & Hair Ireland – 21-22 April 2024

Pro Beauty SEC Glasgow – 9-10 June 2024

Pro Beauty North – 29-30 September 2024


NailproEdu Poland, 9-10 March, 2024 (for debutants)

Nailpro Bulgaria – May 2024
Nailpro Romania – June 2024
Nailpro Poland – 9-10 September,2024
Nailpro Czechia – October 2024
Nailpro Slovakia – November 2024
Nailpro Europe Finale Cup 2024 – 11-12 January, 2025

NAILPRO® Competitions Nailapalooza ASIA –

Nailympia Germany – 22-23-24 March 2024 –

Nailympia Vietnam – 10-11 April 2024 –

Nailympia Orlando – 2-3 June 2024 –

Nailympia Mexico – 28-29 June 2024 (TBA) @dafne_nail_art

Nailympia London – 13-14 October 2024 –

Oceania Nail Championships – Australia –

Japanese Nail Association – JNA Comps – Japan –

Scratch Stars Awards 2024

Vietnamese Nail Association UK – NVA – UK Next Top Nails  –

My Parting Nail Competition Message

I’ve been running nail competitions since January 2003 and have found them to be an incredible source of good, buzzing energy. It’s a very emotive place. I’ve loved watching people come into this industry, begin competing and I’ve watched them grow and become champions. I’ve then worked alongside them as judges. Many have become my friends over the years. I’ve met incredible people and loved every moment of building the Nailympia competition brand into the international beast that it is today. I’m thrilled that it holds its head up high on the global stage and is loved and respected all over the world. It is my passion and delight to provide this platform to the nail world and to watch those who participate get rich rewards from it. 

Nail competitions serve as an invaluable source of enrichment for creative nail professionals seeking to expand beyond salon work. These events provide a platform for building new friendships, seizing networking opportunities, exploring career advancements, and elevating skill levels. The competition arena becomes a boundless space for delving into creative channels, experimenting with techniques, and sparking innovative product ideas. Participating in nail competitions not only accelerates personal growth but also propels one’s career forward.

In the broader scope, nail competitions play a vital role in the growth and evolution of the nail industry. They foster a strong sense of community among professionals, encouraging a collaborative spirit. Additionally, these competitions inspire a commitment to continuous improvement and innovation in the realms of nail care, styling, and design. Overall, they contribute significantly to shaping the future landscape of the nail industry.

Follow Nailympia during 2024 in its 20th year, as it scales the globe presenting a series of online and turn-in competitions as well as arena events, where you too can drink in the competition electricity.

Email me to be added to the weekly newsletter updates on [email protected] or follow on IG @nailympiacompetitions or the official Nailympia Facebook page.

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