Among plenty of important subjects of debate amongst girl groups these days, probably none are quite as divisive as where you get your nails/lashes/brows done (and as satisfying too, when you do manage to persuade other people to try your salon of choice).
Rarely do nail salons in Hong Kong come without caveats — and that was what Tinted founders Carmen Lau and Carroll Lee, an interior designer and a luxury hospitality executive respectively, had to say when they met over two years ago, and bonded over their favourite places to get their nails done.
The friends struggled with Hong Kong nail bars that either did passable attempts with nice surroundings, or hole-in-the-wall gems where they would discover incredible, though anonymous nail talents. When nothing ticked all the boxes on their list, they began to dream up their own salon, finally securing the perfect location in Causeway Bay just at the height of Hong Kong’s political unrest last year.
With the coronavirus pandemic tossing a spanner in the works, you could say the salon opened during an untimely period early this year. But with social distancing in place, Tinted was able to create a calm and personalised oasis with only two bookings at a time, working somewhat in the salon’s favour. We can only imagine its booming reservation schedule once CoViD-19 subsides.
Located in an old commercialised tong lau on Causeway Bay’s Pak Sha Road, Tinted is a slice of pink paradise in prime hipster haven, just a stone’s throw from the Leica cafe and the Nikelab store. Awash in sunset hues, neon artwork, leafy houseplants and plenty of natural sunlight, the clean and photogenic space aligns itself perfectly with the aesthetic of the Instagram generation, exuding the air of year-round summers spent vacationing in SoCal or Miami. We’re kind of obsessed.
The L-shaped salon features a rose terrazzo manicure bar flanked by two outdoor terraces, and an area lined with tangerine-hued armchairs for pedicures. On that end of the salon you’ll also find a single recliner that can be curtained off for lash extension appointments.
The whole space was designed by Lau, whose CV runs the gamut of high-end residences, hospitality interiors and yachts. Little details are worth admiring throughout the salon, such as the delicate lighting fixtures and tool stations that can be cleared away at the manicure bar to make way for social gatherings. The height of the bar itself is just right — so ladies won’t have to feel awkward hopping up onto a bar stool while wearing a skirt.
Don’t let Tinted’s polished branding fool you — its founders are incessantly passionate about supporting the local art scene. On its walls you’ll find neon pieces by Hong Kong artist Emily Eldridge and photographer Victor Cheng (featuring content creator Samantha Wong, or better known as @samishome), and they hope to exhibit revolving pieces as they amass a collection of collaborators. In a similar vein, Tinted’s owners sought to spotlight talented Hong Kong nail technicians at the salon, hoping to showcase their works and to get them more recognition as true artists — albeit just on tinier canvases.
We checked in for Tinted’s signature service, which includes cuticle care, shaping, a gel manicure with simple designs on four fingers, and a hand massage at the end. I was paired with Kat, a nail artist praised for her still hands and uncanny ability to paint incredibly detailed designs.
She calmly cleaned up my frayed cuticles with surgical accuracy, never maiming or cutting way too close as some technicians are wont to do — especially when overworked on a tight schedule. Employing Japanese manicure methodology, all of the nail artists at Tinted take into account the curvature and apex of each nail so that the gel sits right and the nail ends up growing out correctly.
The shaping itself — including soft gel extensions on my two fourth fingers to balance out the nail length — took more than an hour due to her exhaustive effort, though I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever seen my nails filed to such perfection.
About almost an hour and a half in, it was finally time for the paint. Tinted uses predominantly 7-Free and bio-seaweed gel from NCLA, while hand care products are all from a pregnancy-safe Japanese brand. Warning me whenever the gel would feel extra hot, or benignly chatting about different nail designs, Kat was seemingly effortlessly able to replicate the Tarot card-inspired design I wanted from a photo on my phone — one that other hole-in-the-wall nail salons had previously rejected for its intricacy. When I asked for an extra portrait of my cat on my thumb, she complied — with astoundingly adorable results.
After the finishing touches of top coat, it was coming close to three hours spent in my chair, but I happily admired my new nail art as she massaged my knuckles with a Japanese hand serum.
For an extra design on my thumb, plus a soft gel extension on two fingers, I paid HK$70 on top of the HK$580 signature service (additional nail art starts from HK$30 per design), which totals the whole package to HK$650. Where other nail salons in the past have left me feeling swindled for a mere swipe of glitter that cost the same, I marveled at the value and quality of the real art drawn on my fingers, even though it took much longer than your typical drop-in nail appointment.
For those in a rush, there’s also the Essential nail service, priced at HK$460 and capped at an hour or so, targeted at the OLs sneaking out to get their nails fixed during their lunch break.
All things considered, with a gorgeous, peaceful environment and true talent at your fingertips (literally), I’d happily muster up another idle afternoon to return again for the whole shebang.