Not just a color; choose a design, too. From the simply chic to the fantastically whimsical, Korean nail artists offer you a wide array of choices to adorn your fingers and toes, giving a literal sense to the saying, “stylish from head to toe”. Even if you don’t run around in the trendiest fashions, being well groomed with a nice manicure and pedicure is always a plus, women and men alike. (Who says men can’t go to nail salons?)
As with any other kind of shop, there are various kinds of nail salons: the cozy neighborhood salon, the cornershop in a shopping mall, the adjoining section in a hair salon, the large glitzy independent salon, and the beauty spa. The larger shops require reservations (or you risk waiting a long time), and the more popular small shops might require them as well. Unless you want an extremely intricate design that requires you to seek out a particular artist, it’s more practical to stick to salons within easy vicinity, so take your time to observe the shop beforehand – a good shop will always be full of customers.
You can get full manicure and pedicure services in most of the salons. However, sometimes the tiny neighborhood salon might not offer pedicures, so it’s good to check. The more expensive salons will have lounging areas and other special customer services available (beverages, internet, etc.) so if you want to be fully pampered, that is where to go.
The manicure consists of full nail and handcare, but most importantly, the designs for applying nail polish. Of course, you have the option of applying a single color all over (“basic”) or just on the tips (“French”), but if you lugged yourself all the way to the salon instead of laboring over your hands at home, what’s the point of getting the simplest style when you can go for other catchy styles?
It seems like only those with conservative jobs paint all their 10 fingernails in a single color. (Or they don’t altogether.) For most, even with the simplest design, there’s always a twist, a “point” (Konglish for an accentuated characteristic) given. You paint 9 nails red and 1 black, for example. Bicolor and tricolor nails are quite the norm
Bejeweling has become quite common a trend as well. Most opt to bedazzle just a few nails, but you can see full bedazzled hands from time to time as well. When it’s done correctly (and not at home), the jewels/studs/stones/trinkets stay on for quite a long time. (I personally have never tried the large type – how do you wash your hair?)
Since Korea is a country full of “cute” (even the mascot for the police is cute), having cute and funny designs on your nails isn’t much of an oddity. People will think it whimsical and interesting (with the exception of the ultra-conservative, of course). Not all nail artists are capable of drawing specific subjects to your liking, but there would be samples of the more complicated designs they have to offer for you to choose.
You didn’t think that feet were going to get neglected, did you? Along with the fancy fingers come the fancy toes, although I do have to say many people go the simple one-color route when it comes to feet; it’s probably because not many people have pretty feet so they don’t want their feet to attract attention too much. Rule of thumb for pedicures from my personal experience: always get pedicures at shops that have proper pedicure stations, not the portable ones.
Polish is applied to your natural nails, acrylic or gel nails; these days the latest fad is nail stickers, although those are mostly done at home. The usual options for shaping are either squared or round, the length is totally up to you, although the manicurist will suggest what’s ideal is for your hands.
Costs. Although costs will vary from the cheap “basic” nailcare to the more complicated “nail art”, the average cost for a regular manicure (hand & nailcare + color) would set you back 12,000 won ~ 15,000 won, and a more detailed design or the application of artificial nails can cost up to 40,000 won or more. Upscale salons would definitely cost even more. A regular pedicure averages about 25,000 won. Like manicures, the more detailed the design, the higher the price.
Most salons have a “regular customer card” system where you can purchase 10 manicures in advance at a discount price, or get an additional manicure free of charge after a certain number. Many social commerce sites offer discount deals and coupons so if you’re shrewd shopper you’ll be able to get pretty hands and feet without burning a hole in your pocket.
If you think you’re just not the nail salon type, try going on special occasions, like before a sports game to get “cheering nails”. Who knows, your hometeam might do extra well and make you sport those nails for the entire season!