The first nail-focused beauty blog

The Nail Files – Jin Soon Choi

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

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

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There Are 9 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Z' says:

    Great article, thank you! Makes me want to drive down for a mani with NARS Jungle Red, but instead it's off to work :-P

  2. Debbie says:

    Really like the shape of your nails in that pic, might give this a go on mine as they are needing some time of just being neat and short as the flaking is back big style! Not that they are ever more than 1 or 2mm of tip – unlike the guiness book of records lady with fearsome long nails (can I just say YAK? thanks!) bless her she broke them all of in a car crash and now just has 4.5inch talons.

  3. cidell says:

    Just wanted to tell you how much I'm enjoying these interviews!

  4. Lucy says:

    Great article On Jin Soon Choi. I only pray that these polishes will be permanent in the MAC collection. Do you know if they are?

  5. MissyPrissy says:

    Thank you for this article! That is excellent wear after 5 days. Did you notice anything different about her process that may have made the wear longer? Thanks in advance!

  6. gildedangel says:

    This is a great article, I learned so much!

  7. Lena says:

    Great article, Michelle!
    Hmm, that's actually my nail shape hahaha (dubbed locally as 'the Lena Lazy' hahaha).

  8. dicey1 says:

    Really enjoyed the article. Thank you! OMG your nails look like absolute perfection…I am sooooo jealous! Gorgeous mani.

  9. Sandi says:

    Don’t much care for that shape. Makes the tips look like toenails when they’re that short and square.