New loves: Nail art in Korea

Lately, Korean beauty is taking the world by storm. In the country where BB cream and cushion compacts were born, many women (and men as well!) look to Korea for all the latest innovations, technology and trends in beauty. 

It was here in Korea where I really embraced nail art. Due to piano lessons and sports, I've always had unpolished short nails for much of my childhood and adolescence. I didn't regularly get manicures until I graduated from college as perfectly manicured nails were the standard in my consulting days.

Switching from regular nail polish to gel polish was mostly due to convenience rather than aesthetic. I initially balked at the cost, as gel manicures tend to cost two to three times more than my regular manicures. Unfortunately, my regular manicure didn't last more than a day due to my active lifestyle ranging from indoor climbing to snowboarding. On top of that, my erratic travel schedule made it incredibly difficult to maintain a weekly manicure regimen. 

I first discovered gel nail art when I worked in Korea in 2013. I was introduced to various styles, colors, designs and textures, and I became a little obsessed with poring over the Naver blogs for inspirations. In Korea, I was introduced to styles like the half moon (or reverse French manicure), gradation, gemstones and glass shard techniques. I often would bring them back to America and begged the nail technicians back home to replicate the designs. 

I came across Park Eun Kyeong's work on an Instagram feed. I found out that she was the one who created some of my favorite designs like glass shard, negative space and marbleization. She eventually opened her own salon in the chic Cheongdam neighborhood of Seoul. When I knew I was going back to Seoul in June, I decided to make an appointment and check out the space.

FYI, it is not cheap to get your nails done here, and you need to reserve at least two hours for your appointment. Koreans take their nails seriously, so they are very meticulous about cleaning and prepping your nails for the new designs. Most nail salons in Korea will charge you around ~US$30 to remove gel polish and ~US$15-20 for basic maintenance. Designs will set you back an additional US$40 or more, so you're looking to drop at least US$100. My final bill at Unistella was around US$110, but it included unlimited coffee, espresso drinks, tea and cold beverages. Also, the owner and staff are incredibly sweet and talented. In my experience, Unistella's gel manicures lasted at least 3 weeks, so the quality and durability are exceptional. My outfits tend to be neutral, and I don't wear a lot of jewelry and makeup. I found nail art to be a great way to accessorize and bring some "Pop!" to my outfit. 

In June, I selected negative space with glass shards for my nail art. In November, I went with a half moon white marble with gold accents. Check out the results below. If you love fashion and want a unique souvenir to bring back home, be sure to stop by!