Celebrity Manicurist and Polished Beauty Bar Owner Susan Nam: A tFS Exclusive Interview

Susan Nam

The New York blizzard of 2010 was bad for a lot of people – travelers, drivers, Mayor Bloomberg – and while most businesses suffered because of the snow, for others, business was booming. In fact, if you wanted to get a manicure on the day of (or the days following) the blizzard, you would have been hard-pressed to find a spot in many of Manhattan’s salons which offered some much-needed shelter for women (and men!) seeking serenity. One such salon was Polished Beauty Bar, an Upper West Side spot known for two things: manicures that can last up to two weeks, and being a green salon. 

Susan Nam, owner of Polished Beauty Bar

We spoke to owner Susan Nam, a licensed aesthetician with a technical flair, about how to extend the life of your manicure, which fashion houses most influence nail trends, what to eat to strengthen your nails, what time of year nail maintenance is the most important, and more. 

The Fashion Spot: What are your go-to polish brands?  

Susan Nam: My go-to polish brand is Zoya because they are chemical free and have an enormous range of colors (over 300 colors), that last 50% longer then any other polish out there.  

tFS: Any you avoid? 

SN: I try to avoid any polish that is not triple-free (free of Toluene, Formaldehyde, and DBP). These are known carcinogens – and why tempt fate?

Polished Beauty Bar outside

tFS: Are there particular brands or polish textures you should go for if you’re looking to have a long lasting manicure/pedicure?  

SN: Go for the sparkles. The sparkles tend to stick to the nails more firmly than regular nail polish. 

tFS: Do you have any tips for getting off polishes with lots of sparkle particles? 

SN: There are two ways of doing this. The first way is to take cotton balls and soak them with acetone.  Place cotton balls on your nail bed and keep them there for about a minute or two. Do this to one hand and then the other. Once the cotton balls have been on the nail beds for a while, slide them down nails in a downward stroke. This should begin the process of ungluing the sparkles from nails.

The second way of doing this is to pour an entire bottle of (acetone) nail polish remover into a glass bowl and soak nails in it for about a minute or two. While soaking, use a cotton ball to help coax the sparkles off nails. Once you are done, leave the acetone in the bowl and let the glitter particles settle down to the bottom of the bowl. Then pour out the acetone, back into its bottle to use again at a later date. To keep the particles out of the remover, strain with a coffee filter. 

Polished Beauty Bar interior

tFS: Any tips for pulling off some of the season’s most daring shades? 

SN: Live for the moment!  Go for that color that you never thought you’d wear! But instead of going for an over-the-top shock color right off the bat, go for one that’s in the same color family, and slightly more subdued. This way you can ease yourself into that shocking shade, a little bit at a time.

tFS: Are there fashion designers whose runway polish choices are particularly influential on what women end up requesting? 

SN: Chanel seems to be the nail influencer on the fashion runway. Anytime they launch a new collection, or the models are wearing it, my clients want it. 

tFS: Why do you think that even when the going gets tough with the economy, women still splurge on their nails?   

SN: Even when money is tight, women tend to get their nails done. It may not be as frequent, they’ll extend time between appointments, but they won’t forego them entirely. Manicures are a form of pampering that women can feel good about, and that makes them feel put together, without breaking the bank. 

tFS: Is there a time of year that it’s especially important to pay attention to nail maintenance?  

SN: Yes, the winter months can be rough on nails, skin and hair – all of which need extra care and protection from the environment. With the weather being colder, windier, and bitter, you need to protect your skin from dryness, chapping and cracking. Heavier creams on hands and feet work great. Look for products with shea butter, vitamin E or jojoba oil (for naturalists), or petrolatum and glycerin (for conventionalists). On your nails, try to use a nail hardener or a base coat with protein.

Polished Beauty Bar pedicure stations

tFS: Is there anything you’ve found that one could eat to improve nail strength? 

SN: More then any other product out there, I have had the best results with a daily multi-mineral supplement that comes in liquid form. This seems to help with nail and hair growth. 

tFS: What made you opt for opening “a green salon”?  

SN: I feel like it’s every business owner’s responsibility to try to be environment-forward – or at least mindful in the decisions we make. At Polished Beauty Bar, we are still learning on a daily basis what to do, and what not to do, but we have tried very hard to minimize our footprint through the products we use, like Zoya and Pharmacopia body care. We wanted to create an environment that would be safe and clean and healthy – as much for our clients as our employees.  

tFS: With so many nail salons in Manhattan, how do you set yourself apart? 

SN: We set ourselves apart by caring for our clients, their health, the health of the environment, and delivering exceptional service. We want our clients to feel relaxed and comfortable when they come to our salon. We want them to WANT to be here. We work hard every single day to maintain an environment that is clean, friendly and relaxing – and by offering the very best products that will keep heir hands and feet looking smashing. We put a premium on health, safety and hygiene. Polished BB was among the first salons in NYC to autoclave its tools with a professional-grade autoclave (like the ones dentists use!); we have an air cleaning system to eliminate airborne chemicals and odor;  we put clients’ shoes in our Klenz Sanitizer while they’re pedicuring, to rid them of odor-causing bacteria; our pedicure stations are top of line, radiating LED light to eliminate bacteria and germs.  And of course, we offer Zoya chemical-free polishes and Pharmacopia organic skin care products for hands and feet.