"I personally really like nail polishes. It's been so long since I last spoke about nail polishes," quips South Korean nail artist Eun-Kyung Park, who goes by the Instagram handle @nail_unistella. On her account, Park regularly posts all sorts of newfangled nail designs — ones that eventually end up in fashion and beauty spreads in magazines, and in local and global nail salons.
More often than not, these designs are replicated in gel in stores. Park notes that the current consumer trend leans toward gel manicures, arguably displacing the traditional nail polish manicure. "Nowadays in South Korea, not many people will use nail polishes. Gel is more popular. I would say only five percent still use nail polishes."
Yet, in her own time, Park still uses the humble nail polish to design nail art."I personally prefer nail polish over gel. It's light, and I can do it quickly. With gel, you need to put it on, dry, the gel, put on the gel again. It takes a longer time." At work, Park's choice remains. "I use a lot of nail polishes because I do photo shoots for celebrities and models."
The bag of nail polish and accessories that South Korean nail artist, Eun-Kyung Park travels with.
Park's relationship with nail polish began when she was little. "Since young, I was interested in collecting them. And especially black, I really like the colour black. But when I was young, there weren't as many different nail polishes as there are now," she reminisces. She probably had less than a hundred bottles back then. "Now, I have... I can't even count. I even have a storage for it. Now I don't just collect black, I collect other colours too."
She has a dedicated storage room for her massive collection of nail polishes. "I can't get rid of them. There are so many colours, and every single colour is a little different." When designing nail art, Park turns to her collection for specific shades.
36-year-old South Korean nail artist, Eun-Kyung Park pictured on the left. Her seasonal collection of nail varnishes on display in her salon in Seoul, pictured on the right.
Yet, nail polishes have a notoriously short shelf life. Once opened, they should be chucked out after two years. Otherwise, the formula will thicken and harden, making it impossible for use. "I really hated it when it dries out. It hardens and cracks because you open the nail polish so often."
In her 18 years of experience, Park devised several methods to extend the lifespan of the nail polish. "I will prepare an empty nail polish bottle, from the ones I've finished. I'll wash it, open a new bottle of polish, and pour half into the empty bottle." Park will use the first half before moving on to the next. "In this case, I can use it for longer. It doesn't dry out that quickly since it's not open all the time."
Otherwise, when the varnish formula starts to thicken, Park pours some nail polish thinner into the bottle to reduce the formula's viscosity.
She also recommends that users clean their brushes regularly. "For nail polishes, they have a brush attached to the cap. Just use some nail polish remover to wipe the brush after use, and put it back in the bottle." Reason being, there will always be dust and nail debris collected on the surface of the fingernail. The brush catches all of these dirt deposits. "If you just put that back into the nail polish bottle then it's going to ruin the rest of the nail polish."
Park recommends that users regularly clean the nail brushes after use.
Nail polish aside, it is important to clean and "organise" the brush's bristles. Wiping down the brush creates a combing action, which leaves the bristles in a good condition. "When you use it the next time, it works better on the fingernails."
Park admits that she is still learning. The nail industry changes year on year — new techniques, new technologies. Even with the traditional nail polish, the formulations are constantly updated. In the nail industry, there is never a one-stop academy or handbook where artists can learn everything. "In the institutes, I learnt all the basic information, knowledge on nails. I've been doing it for many years, but I'm still learning."
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