Beauty bloggers are already creating coronavirus inspired nail looks

COVID-19 works hard but Instagram MUAs work harder, I guess.

by Roisin Lanigan
10 March 2020, 5:00pm

Imagery via Sassy Nails and Tropicana Naillab

We’ve never before had a pandemic in the internet age. When Spanish Flu hit in 1918, nobody knew what a meme was. Even during the SARS outbreak of 2003, the digital world as we know it today was in its infancy, still just a place you went for a couple of hours a day to talk to your cousins on MSN or dress up paper dolls on a Geocities site. With coronavirus, things are very different. Our constant news cycle means an almost never-ending stream of bad news regarding the spread of illness across borders. Online resellers have sent prices for facemasks and hand sanitisers skyrocketing. And of course, there have been endless memes trying to preserve our collective sanity by lending some levity to the situation. But you know who’s been suspiciously quiet so far? Beauty bloggers.

Now, two months since the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, beauty influencers are finally getting in on the coronavirus hype. And they’ve gone for a decidedly different type of viral look to what they’re used to doing. The nail art community in particular, known on Instagram for their increasingly elaborate designs, has jumped on the COVID-19 bandwagon with some truly inspired beauty looks.

A search for the hashtag #coronavirusnails turns up a small but growing number of images featuring tiny face-masks, cell clusters and even acrylics painted to depict Lysol disinfectant spray. One look, created by a Vietnamese salon based in Hanoi, depicts the virus as seen under a microscope, painted in relief on short black gel nails. In a video showing off the work, a hand clutches a surgical mask. “I just wanted to do something different,” says salon owner Huyền Xian, who created the look on herself.

Another set of acrylics featuring the coronavirus cells is the handiwork of Tommy Le, an artist based in Fredricksburg, VA. “They’re nice”, says Rebecca Williams, proud recipient of the coronavirus nails, which she says were the idea from the artist. “Everyone who sees them thinks they’re hilarious.” But despite the apparent levity, Rebecca is all too aware of the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak across the world. “We’ve had a few presumptive cases here in Virginia in the past few days,” she says. “We’re still waiting for the CDC to confirm, but we’re very worried to be honest.”

For Huyền, the situation is even more dire. Despite a relatively low amount of cases -- at present, only 34 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Vietnam, 16 of which have recovered -- the Vietnamese government have introduced strict preventative measures to try to avoid an epidemic. “Maybe people in Europe still don’t care about the virus,” the artist and illustrator says over Instagram. “But in Vietnam now, it’s a very important problem. All schools have closed for five weeks, and my nail shop is closed.”

Creating coronavirus themed nail art then, for both, is an outlet, a break from a constant bad news cycle and growing fear over the pandemic. It’s a way to make it more manageable, something that can be laughed at, something less scary. “Everything is bad enough,” says Huyền. “I think people want to see something funny.”

They also look fire, can’t lie.

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