The first nail-focused beauty blog

The Nail Files

Meet Katie Cazorla star of the first nail reality show – Nail Files

Katie Cazorla star of Nail Files - TV Guide Network Katie Cazorla is small town girl who made dreams come true when she turned her passion for all things nails into owning her own salon, The Painted Nail. Not long after, reality tv came a knocking and now the nail world has its very own reality show, Nail Files, premiering Tuesday night at 10pm EST on the TV Guide Network.

Katie and a colorful cast of characters are bringing their larger-than-life personalities to the party and what a party it is. Katie is opening the doors to her salon and her life, putting all the drama, fun and day-to-day business headaches on display. We get to see what it’s like for someone, who started a nail salon from scratch, trying to keep it all together in a crazy town like Los Angeles.

Keep reading to learn more about Katie and what we can expect from Nail Files this season.

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The Nail Files – Jin Soon Choi

By on September 3, 2009
in Creme, NARS, Red, The Nail Files with 9 Comments

Last fall during a trip to NYC with a few of my beauty blogging buddies, I had the pleasure of meeting Jin Soon Choi at her eponymous Upper East Side salon for a mani/pedi and a little nail chat. We connected through our mutual friend, the MAC goddess and SeoulDiva herself, Heather Park. Little did I know, Jin was already at work collaborating on the Fall Nail Trend collection for MAC. She hinted at a future collection but couldn’t reveal details.

It wasn’t until last February when I saw Jin and Heather backstage at the Doo.Ri show that I got my first glimpse of Beyond Jealous and info on the rest of the collection. Needless to say, I was DYING over the blackened teal creme and thrilled for Jin’s success.

Learn more about Jin, which of her favorite NARS polishes I tried and hear how she earned the nickname “Bicycle Jin” after the jump!

In The Beginning
Jin came to the US from Seoul, Korea after working in fashion design. To hear Jin tell it, becoming a manicurist is just what you do when you come to the city but the passion in her voice as she talks about nails makes me believe it was her destiny. She started out in a small salon to gain experience but when she learned it was closing she took to her bicycle, riding to clients’ homes to tend to their nails. It was during this “Bicycle Jin” phase of her career that she met Andrea from Glamour who admired Jin’s work enough to help her get an agent and enter the editorial world.

The First Jin Soon Hand and Foot Spa
After gaining success working on photo shoots and with celebrities, Jin decided to open her first salon in the East Village. It was when she hired architect John Coughlan to design the space that she met her future husband. They found and refurbished old school desks and incorporated Jin’s style based on the scrapbook full of magazine clippings she collected. While the following West Village and Upper East Side locations each have their own distinct look, they both represent Jin’s simplistic, refined aesthetic.

Fast Forward To Today
With a chain of successful salons, Jin continues her editorial work alongside some of the greats in the fashion and beauty world. Famed photographer Steven Meisel books her for weeks at a time to work on all his shoots while he’s in NYC. She describes him as sweet and soft spoken and together they’ve made many a memorable Vogue cover. Highly skilled in nail art Jin creates some incredibly intricate designs including a fun spread for Teen Vogue last March.

Jin’s passion for education and proper manicuring techniques has led to a desire to impart her vast knowledge on the nail community. The number of poorly trained techs out there giving improper manicures is staggering and she hopes to find a way to teach them the basics you can’t learn in school. She personally trains her staff so that every guest at her salon receives the same high standard of service.

Jin Fun Facts and Favorites
Loves the PedEgg – That’s no joke. Even though regulations prevent her from using the popular infomercial tool in her salon, she’s a fan of it for home use. In the salon they use a scrub and pumice stone.

Is a film and architecture fan – When she’s not at work in her salons or on set, Jin likes to enjoy simple Korean food, see a movie and walk hand-in-hand with her hubby exploring the unique and diverse architecture of the city.

Has GORGEOUS nails – I experienced some serious nail bed envy with Jin. Despite the amount of work her hands go through, she has flawless, strong nails. She attributes them to genetics and Omega 3s. If only we could all be so lucky.

Reads to improve her English – Jin loves the challenge of deciphering new words to expand her grasp of the language.

The most flattering nail shape is The Jin Soon Shape – Jin warns against following the cuticle line or free edge when shaping nails. Her employees dubbed her signature filing style “The Jin Soon Shape” which is straight and a little rounded at the edge. Somewhere between squoval and flat. I’m modeling it wearing NARS Jungle Red. This was after 5 days. Just LOOK at that amazing wear.

Jin’s first TV appearance was on Tyra – She was brought on to talk about the “fish pedicure” but wasn’t familiar with the technique. After an early morning working with Reese Witherspoon she was rushed to the studio at the last minute and extremely nervous. Jin’s take on the treatment, it’s odd especially since “fish poop a lot!”

The 3 cornerstones of her business - Great music, great tea, great technique. It’s all about customer service and the experience with Jin. Her warm demeanor lends to an atmosphere that feels like you’re sitting amongst friends. During my time at the salon, her clients would just join in the convo, adding their two cents on nail color, the fish pedicure and the need for an Upper West Side locale.

Dark polishes belong on short nails, period – While long, dark talons may be OK in the editorial world, for the everyday wearer, dark polishes look best on short tips.

Loves the edgy, more editorial shades – I just call those “me” colors. Jin digs the greens, grays and funky taupes, like You Don’t Know Jacques, for their edge and sophistication. In fact she recently picked Barielle U-Concrete-Me as one of the “It” colors of the season in US Weekly alongside her creation, MAC Beyond Jealous.

Names Essie & NARS among her fave polish brands - While there are many brands on Jin’s shelves (Chanel, OPI, Zoya, etc) Essie Allure, for a natural look, and NARS Chinatown and Jungle Red are her go-to polishes.

Jin is one of Seche Vite’s legion of fans – The Fanatic Favorite is also Jin’s though when it comes to base coats it depends on condition of the client’s nails. She lists Duri Rejuvacoat and Essie base coats as staples.

The staff are her guinea pigs – Before any product is used on a client, Jin and her employees rigorously test it themselves.

I want to thank Jin for her time and congratulate her on the stunning MAC Nail Trend F/W09 collection. I wish her much happiness and success.

Peace, Love & Polish, Michelle

The Nail Files – Ji Baek of Rescue Beauty Lounge

the nail files, all lacquered up Ji Baek has been a beauty rebel since childhood when she would smuggle clothes and makeup out of the house and away from her conservative parents’ watchful eyes. She continues to buck the standard in the beauty industry as the founder of Rescue Beauty Lounge, the first nail focused luxury salon in New York City.

Originally, Ji was on the path to becoming a professional viola player. An injury cut that dream short, eventually leading her to the male dominated world of restaurant management. It was during those endless days in painful heels that the concept for Rescue Beauty Lounge came to fruition. With pedicures being the only reprieve for her aching feet, Ji was disgruntled with the nail options in NYC. Having to choose from dirty, cheap nail shops (I call them “chop shops”) or upscale salons where nails aren’t a priority, she set her sights on giving Manhattan women a hygienic, pampering destination that specializes in hands and feet.

ji baek, rescue beauty lounge I had the pleasure of meeting Ji at her Gansevoort St. location during my last trip to the city. Tucked in amongst the designer showrooms and trendy eateries is a very unassuming building with no visible signage, just a call box that lists Rescue Beauty Lounge. Up on the 2nd floor, I found Ji waiting for me. A most welcoming host, Ji is insanely chic and beautiful. She’s one of those women that probably takes five minutes to pull together an outfit that the rest of us would spend hours pondering. Wearing a layered gray ensemble and killer black leather boots with a perfectly placed slouchy knit cap resting upon her wavy black tresses, she’s the picture of effortless style (I’d show you but Ji’s camera shy).

Learn more about Ji, get the deets on my visit and see pics of the latest additions to my RBL arsenal after the jump.


rescue beauty lounge, manicure, pedicure, salon, spa My first impression of Rescue was of its clean, modern design, amazing skylight (what a find for NYC!) and of course, the polish. Ji says fate brought her to that space and well she must have amazing luck to find such a locale. With an obvious talent for interior design, Ji chose a muted, cool toned palette to outfit her salon. Very soothing.

Before proceeding to the “lounge” I made a stop at the polish display to decide on a color for my mani-pedi. I was like a kid in a candy store, perusing all the shades I’d been dying to see in person. When you see them, all lined up on crisp, white, minimalist shelves, it’s overwhelming. Needless to say, it was not an easy choice but I selected Dead Calm, a shade at the top of my lemming list.

Dead Calm in hand, I took up residence in one of the intimate lounges (pictured left) to receive my services. Each space is appointed with comfy couches and surrounded by high walls, providing peace and privacy. A few minutes later, Ji joined me for a chat and a fresh mani of No More War to replace her 9 day-old, but still acceptable, Teal tips.

Ji comes across very laid back and calm. Like she doesn’t have a care in the world. She’s not one of those chatty, mile-a-minute talkers (like me). She’s more reserved, with a twinkle in her eye that makes you think she is a keeper of great secrets. Though I will say that she’s very forthright when it comes to discussing the industry, her work ethic and style and personal passions. Here’s a bit of what I learned about Ji.

ji baek, rescue beauty lounge Ji is a punk at heart
As a teen she was restricted from any permanent beauty transformations due to her involvement in orchestra. As a former flautist, I know the pain of wearing those hideous black and white uniforms for concerts. It really is enough to make you want to dye your hair pink (something Ji would love to do someday). So she would don punk clothes and wear outrageous makeup as a way to express herself.

Her hair was once short and blonde
Can you imagine? That gorgeous mane cut off and bleached blonde? I guess we all go there once.

She is a hands on owner.
Ji works seven days a week. She didn’t grow her business to just sit back and drink in the success. You can usually find her at one of RBL’s two Manhattan locations.

Ji hand mixes new colors right in the salon
That’s right kids. On any given day you might find Ji at the front desk, mixing polishes, working on her next creation.

There is no RBL Warehouse
You heard me. When all of you go crazy, ordering new collections, they pull stock from right in house and package on site. Spending all weekend getting your orders out if necessary.

She’s a perfectionist
Every polish that joins the RBL lineup must withstand Ji’s rigorous testing. She will send a shade back to production over and over until it meets her standards. Each lacquer must last nine days when used with her treatment system and be perfectly pigmented, requiring only two coats.

Her inherent love of fashion influences the RBL collections
No More War, Teal, Yellow Fever, Recycle, Starfish Patrick, Bikini Bottom, Chinoise… they’re all straight from the runways. Ji takes inspiration from her favorite designers and translates it to nails.
rescue beauty lounge, lanvin, louis vuitton, burberry, spongebob square pants Chinoise is a man magnet and the perfect intro to bold nail color
One of Ji’s long time clients works in a law firm, opting for safe, office appropriate colors. Hearing that she had a date, Ji convinced her to step outside her comfort zone and try Chinoise, a sexy red. Not only did it impress the man but her client has been experimenting with the rainbow of RBL shades ever since.

Polish names can have multiple meanings
Ji revealed that some shade names aren’t as literal as they appear. While No More War is certainly a statement about our current political state, she says that Teal isn’t just a color descriptor. That it also references a state of calm.

Black Russian is ReVamp
We can put that question to bed, once and for all. For legal reasons it was renamed Black Russian.

Ji does what she wants, on her timeline
You’ll never see a RBL collection rushed in order to meet magazine deadlines. Ji refuses to conform to traditional release dates or industry standards. If that means releasing just one polish or giving us a double whammy with two fall collections, so be it. She answers only to herself.

She doesn’t pay attention to the competition
Not wanting to be influenced by other nails brands, Ji isolates herself from what they are doing.

Ji works hard and vacations even harder
With RBL being her main focus, Ji doesn’t have a ton of downtime. So when she takes a vacay, it’s for serious. We’re talking total relaxation. There’s no snorkeling trips or hiking excursions involved. In fact, she hardly ventures off property. A fave destination of her and the hubby, Cancun’s luxury resorts.

She’s childless by choice
Much like the boyfriend and I, Ji and her husband have made the decision to be child-free. And we both wish people would stop telling us we’ll change our mind. It’s not always different when it’s yours.

Now what kind of nail polish fanatic would I be if I didn’t bring home some RBL goodness to share with you. Here are my latest additions.

Square Pants – the perfect banana pudding yellow. It’s intended to be more sheer but I used three coats.
rescue beauty lounge, square pants, squarepants, nail polish, nail lacquer, nail color, colour Dead Calm – my new favorite blue. My 2008 wish of discovering the perfect blue creme came true when I met Dead Calm.
rescue beauty lounge, dead calm, squarepants, nail polish, nail lacquer, nail color, colour Chinoise – how could I not select “man magnet” red? Ji’s right, the boyfriend loved it. He digs red polish so I knew he’d be a sucker for this one.
rescue beauty lounge, chinoise, squarepants, nail polish, nail lacquer, nail color, colour In addition to the polishes, I snagged Rescue’s treatment system, it makes the polish wear like iron, and Citrus Vert hand lotion. If you love citrus scents, you’ll DIE over this. Though I forgot to pick up a copy of Ji’s book so I plan to get one while I’m in NYC next week.

I want to give a heartfelt thanks to Ji Baek for inviting me into her lovely world of polish. Be sure to visit RescueBeauty.com to satisfy all your RBL lemmings.

images: Ji Baek, Rescue Beauty Lounge, All Lacquered Up, Style.com

The Nail Files – Behind the Scenes at NYFW with CND – Part 3

In the third and final installment of our Nail Files journey with CND, we’ll be looking at custom blending. Or to you MUA nail board girls, the art of the Frankenpolish. If you missed the previous two segments, be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Custom blending is what intrigued me the most during my visit with CND Education Ambassadors Kristina Baume and Shelena Robinson at their production suite. Figuring out the perfect combination of colors to precisely match a swatch of fabric or Pantone shade is such an art form. Having a keen eye for color and a vivid imagination is key. Plus it just sounds like a lot of fun.

The process reminds me of mixing finger paints as a kid, learning about the color wheel and how yellow and blue make green. Of course for Kristina and Shelena, creating an ideal hue is serious work and they have time constraints to adhere to. So the pressure is intense even with all the tools they have on hand; a Pantone guide, various lighting options (fluorescent, incandescent and daylight) and a flow chart containing all the CND shades (including international exclusives).

What amazed me most is all the colors that go into the blends. Colors you wouldn’t even imagine. Like neon or orange in a soft gray. Glow-in-the-dark purple in a deep blue. Shimmer in a creme.

According to Kristina, a lot of times when a shimmer or micro-glitter polish is used in a blend, it doesn’t result in a sparkly shade. A shimmer based polish adds reflectiveness, depth and shine to the final hue. That even if a shade appears shimmery in the bottle, it can dry with a creme finish. This is the reason they present color options to designers on the nail and not in the bottle. The sparkle can be deceptive.

Get The Look – Nordic Grey Creme from Costello Tagliapietra F/W ’08

Mix 1/2 bottle Retro White with 22 drops Black Platinum, 10 drops Voodoo and 8 drops Hot Pop Blue.

Note: I only used 4 drops of Hot Pop Blue and substituted Color Club Black for Voodoo. CND does not recommend mixing brands so blend at your own risk.

Get The Look – Heather Grey at Catherine Malandrino F/W ’08

Mix 1/2 bottle of Nordic Grey Creme (above) with 1/2 bottle of G’listen

Adding G’listen to the blend creates a warmer, slightly shimmery gray.

Get The Look – Custom Blue at Karen Walker F/W ’08

Mix 1/2 bottle Blue Blood with 1/2 bottle Studio 54

Note: Blue Blood is discontinued but can still be found on eBay until CND decides to bring it back. PLEASE Bring It Back!!

While I don’t have an exact recipe for the shimmery violet gray shown at the Twinkle F/W ’08 show, it certainly has the most diverse color combination I’ve seen yet.

A mix of Voodoo, Hot Pop Yellow, Kumquat Dahlia, G’listen, Rock Royalty, Blue Nirvana

Finally, one of CND’s Spring collection shades is a custom blend used during NYFW for Spring/Summer 09

Get The Look – Fill a CND bottle with Retro White up to the bottom of the C. Add Voodoo to the top of the C plus 6 drops NFS, 6 drops Hotski to Tchotchke and 6 drops Hot Pop Blue.

Note: NFS is another discontinued color but you can find it on Goddess Within and eBay.

The result – a gorgeous cool toned, medium grey creme.

Bringing you this series about CND at NYFW has been so much fun. I hope you have enjoyed it. I want to thank CND, Kristina Baume and Shelena Robinson for granting me such amazing access and taking the time to share their passion with all of us. In closing, I’ll leave you with a quote from Kristina that really sums up why I am so fanatical about nails. “Nails are not just nails, they’re accessories.”

The Nail Files – Behind the Scenes at NYFW with CND – Part 2

Previously on the Nail Files, we looked at CND’s involvement in New York Fashion Week. The planning, prep and history. In this installment we’ll go in depth, talking about custom tips including the labor intensive design/production process and how to take these looks from the runway to the real world.

With no formal training in art, let alone nail art, it is the pure genius and creativity of CND Education Ambassadors Kristina Baume and Shelena Robinson that bring these amazing creations to life. Each season, the CND team meets with the designers to discuss their concept, inspiration and desired nail look. When custom tips are requested, it is up to Kristina and Shelena to take take those ideas back to the production suite and create multiple nail looks to present.

With a 1920s theme to inspire them, some of the concepts presented to Kimora Lee Simmons for her Baby Phat and KLS collections included black on black, textural designs (see right) and meticulously detailed stained glass tips (below right).

Get the look: Shiny Black on Matte Black. Apply two coats of CND Voodoo and one coat of matte top coat, CND Ridge Out or use gray side of nail buffer on dry CND Speedy. Use a thin nail art brush to apply CND Shiney in desired pattern.

The intricate designs on the stained glass nails took up to six hours to create. For just ONE nail. Though once chosen, the process is fine tuned to make production easier. After all, they have to create eighteen tips for each model to make sure the on site artists can find the right fit. No wonder they pull all-nighters.

The look Kimora chose – black, Swarovski encrusted, almond shaped tips that took ten hours to create. Though the image really doesn’t do them justice. In person, the reflectiveness and shine are captivating.

At The Blondes, the theme was the movie Legend. You know, the magical fantasy film from the 80s starring Tom Cruise (when he was still drool-worthy) and Mia Sara (Ferris Bueller’s girlfriend).

Examples of some of the extremely inventive designs CND presented include a unicorn horn, animal skins, fur, jewels, even a mini Lord of Darkness (pictured right).

Get the look: Distressed Leather. Apply two coats of gold lacquer as a base color. Dilute an Amber polish with a bit of acetone and use a sea sponge to apply it on top.

Get the Look: Leather-like Texture. Apply two coats of Voodoo. While tacky, press balled cellophane wrap gently onto the surface. Apply a thin layer of top coat after the polish has completely dried.

In the end, the designers chose glittery, blingtastic, jeweled tips to accompany their designs (see right). Pairing a different nail tip with each model.

Get the look – Jeweled & Glittery. Jeweled – apply small nail art stones along the smile line (between the pink & white part of the nail) or apply 1-2 stones at the tip. Glittery – ice tips in glitter polish or apply a thin layer as a wash. Try CND VIP Status, Pulse, Last Call or Disco Ball.

In Part 3 of this journey, I’ll show you some of the gorgeous custom blend polishes made just for the runway. You won’t believe the colors they use to get just the right look. You’ll find out how they’re made and how to re-create them at home.

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