At SNSD’s favorite nail salon, you’ll see lots of cute decor, lots of celebrity autographs, and lots of girls getting their nails done. What you won’t see are any bottles of nail polish. Um, what? That’s because BUB Nail Salon specializes exclusively in soak-off gel polish. Gel polish is a special type of color that comes that comes in a pot. Like regular nail polish, it is painted on with a brush and can be applied to natural or artificial nails, but unlike regular polish, it is set with a special UV lamp. The UV light dries the polish completely within minutes, so there’s no worry about smudging or denting. But the real selling point is that gel polish lasts two to three weeks without chipping. So the SNSD ladies only needs to come in every three weeks (which they do), as opposed to every week. Oh, and we should mention that BUB isn’t just given the SNSD stamp of approval. As soon as you enter the salon, you’ll see pictures of BoA’s crazy nail art everywhere. And the celebrity autographs that adorn the wall include those of Jin Jae Young, Hwang Shin Hye, and LPG!
Celebrity nail care must be expensive, right? Well, it can be — owner Ai Shigeyama says that elaborate nail art can cost up to 300,000 won ($265 USD)! But a basic color-only manicure is much more affordable, ranging in between 30,000 to 50,000 won ($27-45 USD). I know, some of you are thinking, “Well, a regular nail polish manicure is cheaper!” But just remember that the gel manicure lasts at least twice as long as a regular manicure, so the additional cost may well be worth it. Plus, isn’t it an extra bonus if one of the SNSD members is getting her nails done right next to you? We’re not kidding! Ai doesn’t play favorites, and she laughed when we asked if celebrities were afforded special treatment. She told us that the girls will just sit down at the communal table like everyone else to get their nails done, while other clients look over and remark on how pretty they are. Sounds like the girls are pretty down-to-earth, then!
So if you were to sit down at BUB, and if you were to check out the girl next to you and realize that it’s Tiffany or YoonA or Hyoyeon, you’d probably notice that she’s not just getting a simple color manicure; she’s almost certainly getting some cute bling affixed to her nails. According to Ai, all the celebrities favor nail art. She says that the SNSD members prefer different styles, and that you can really see how their personalities come through in the styles they choose. She says that Hyoyeon prefers really cutesy designs, while Yuri goes for a clean look. There’s actually a case devoted to some of the exact styles the girls have worn recently, as well as some official photos from the BUB Nail blog. How would you describe their nail styles? Which girl has the your favorite look?
Gorgeous, right? But the woman behind these fantastic and intricate designs is totally modest about them. Just like her nail salon, Ai is totally down-to-earth! She’s an entrepreneurial mom who found herself with some free time once her daughters had grown up, and decided to fill the void by opening up a nail salon. She didn’t start out being a nail guru — in fact, the reason she first started getting into nail care was because she was a nail biter! She thought that if she got professional manicures, it would stop her from biting her nails. (No word on whether this tactic actually succeeded.) She observed the manicurists at work and thought that she could do it herself. So she trained at home in Japan and opened up two shops, one in Seoul and one in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. Currently she splits her time between both countries. Any differences between the shops? Ai says that her Japanese clients tend to favor outrageous and crazy nail art, while her Korean clients prefer more conservative designs. But the vogue in Korea may be changing: SNSD is usually eager to add more art to their nails, and of course, these girls are real trendsetters. Customers sometimes come in and request the same styles.
And if we may get in a word about the safety of gel manicures: We’ve done some research and it seems like there’s no official word on the safety of the UV light — some sources say that gel manicures are completely safe if done by a professional, while others advise people not to take risks. But one fact that’s confirmed is that some inferior salons do imitation gel manicures that has been shown to cause damage to the nerves. And a lesser worry is that the removal of the gel polish can take a temporary toll on the nail bed. Whatever choice you make, research your options thoroughly!
If you’re in Korea and you want to stop by, you can either drop in or you can make an appointment. Ai says it’s best to schedule ahead, as BUB can get busy, especially on the weekends. But if you’re not in Korea, there are always other options for SNSD-style nails! We’ve seen a lot of talented Soompiers displaying their awesome DIY nail art in our very own Nail Thread, and we bet that with a bit of practice, you can do it too!
BUB Nail Salon
1F, 657-22, Shinsa-dong