“We love nails… and we know you love nails too!”
Well, as far as emails go, that’s definitely one to grab my attention!
Guys, I have found my nail soulmate in Hong Kong – and amazingly enough for me, she just happens to have started her very own nail salon too!
The sender of my email from the nail gods was in fact, the very lovely Ping Lam – owner and founder of The Nail Library, the first and only premium nail spa in Hong Kong. Forget ghetto mani places down dodgy back alleys or anonymous chain joints in bland commercial buildings, The Nail Library is a little piece of nail heaven hidden in the oh-so-hip Poho area of Sheung Wan.
I walked into the space and instantly fell in love… and that’s before I even saw what nail polishes they had! It’s a gorgeous high ceiling-ed New York style loft space, filled with quirky vintage knick-knacks and with an urban but uber-chilled vibe.
As for the polishes themselves – well, I could immediately tell from just a quick brand check that Ping is a total lacquerhead like myself. Boring old OPI and Essie are nowhere to be seen; instead, The Nail Library is home to the niche, the cult and the totally luxe. Butter LONDON, Ciaté, Illamasqua, Tom Ford, Deborah Lippmann, Chanel, ncLA… need I say more?!
On my first visit, I was booked in for The Nail Library Designer Collection Pedicure and Panpuri Foot Spa Treatment. What ensued was two hours of total pampering bliss. Seated in one of their comfy squishy armchairs with a heat pad wrapped around my neck, my therapist massaged my tired feet and legs to complete and utter supplication.
Ping has scoured Hong Kong for the best beauty therapists in town – saying goodbye to plenty of no-hopers along the way! – and I was extremely impressed with how mine worked with my crusty, infection-prone toenails (yep, I’m such a catch, right?!). Neither pruning my nails down to painful nubbins, nor jabbing, stabbing or clipping dangerously away at my cuticles, she instead cut my nails carefully, methodically and precisely, pushing the dampened cuticles away (the correct way to do things!) before buffing them to shiny pretty perfection (well, as perfect as my toenails are ever gonna get anyway!). Given that I’ve all but given up on cutting my toenails properly (they tend of break off before I even get the clippers anywhere close), I love treatments like this that are wonderfully relaxing yet still have some element of practicality to make me feel more virtuous about indulging myself!
Meanwhile, my legs were being treated to a whole array of Panpuri lotions and potions that had them looking the cleanest and smoothest they’ve been in years. Scrubs, wraps, massages, moisturisers… honestly, it was all a bit of blur, but in the best kind of way. I wasn’t previously familiar with Panpuri products but they’re pure quality through and through; the body lotions in particular were wonderful – cashmere creamy, rich without feeling like overkill, as light as clouds and divined fragranced.
A final lick of Ciaté glittery polishes – Dorothy’s ruby slippers in liquid form with Love Letter and a vintage multi-dimensional gold in Antique Brooch (and you’re going to have to believe me that these were GLORIOUS as feet are far too ewww to ever grace these pages) – and I was one very happy bunny.
Meanwhile, I’d volunteered my friend Kate (seen above with de rigeur glass of bubbly) for The Nail Library Designer Collection Manicure and Panpuri Hand Spa Treatment. She was similarly treated to a wonderful hand and arm massage, much longer and more targeted than the usual generic mild stroking of hands. Ping had also mentioned that The Nail Library was hot on nail art so I put them to the test with a simple but striking design for Kate – a standard mani in Butter London Slapper (a stunning shiny teal), with an accent nail in Butter London Keks (a bright summer blue) with gold chevrons courtesy of Butter London Marbs (a beautifully even gold foil). Having seen the fantastic results and the painstaking care Kare’s therapist took over her nails, I knew I needed a piece of the action for myself and booked in for another mani session immediately!
Let me explain that usually, the only person who touches my nails is… ME. Hong Kong nail salons seem obsessed with many things, and none of them particularly float my boat – namely, boring colours, gel nails, acrylics, UV lamps, Shellac, hard sells and crazy fake OTT nail art involving beads, wacky designs and stick-on decals. Remember how I said Ping was my nail soulmate? Well, that’s because she loves COLOUR (not just red… or pink… or beige), she loves niche but luxe brands (a shared interest my bank balance is all too sadly aware of!) and she loves stunning nail art done with real nail polish on real nails (which I drool over on blogs but am way too scared of attempting myself; come on, I can’t even draw decent looking stick men!). In light of this, Ping been encouraging her therapists to see themselves not just as nail technicians but as artists – and I was hugely impressed with their approach.
In need of more nail art guinea pigs, I brought along my friends Mirander and Iris, and came up with different designs for all of us. For Mirander, we went with an easy but awesome twist on a French mani – coral nails (Butter London Macbeth) with gold tips (Butter London Marbs… seriously, this gold is just amazing and, as a one-coater, perfectly suited to nail art).
I loved how Mirander’s mani ended up looking, classy but pretty (just like Mirander herself!) and utterly perfect for summer – and that coral was insanely deliciously shiny, like a boiled sweet! The Nail Library’s therapists did the tips totally freehand with a paintbrush; when Mir noticed one tip looked wider than the rest… well, they just took it all off and started again. Now that’s the kind of perfectionist I want in charge of my mani, for sure!
Ever since I saw my friend Elizabeth’s Ikat mani, I’ve been lusting after it – and going to The Nail Library meant I could finally have someone attempt it that knew what they were doing! I loved the colours Elizabeth used so why bother to re-invent a masterpiece?! As you can see, I’m pretty cock-a-hoop at having easy access to Butter London pretties so stuck with them again here, using Poole as a base (slightly dusty turquoise – needless to say, instant LOVE) with a peachy-pink (Trout Pout) splodged on too; the white and black were actual paints!
Given this was the first time my therapist had ever seen this design, I was stunned by how great this came out looking! She copied Elizabeth’s work meticulously, adapting it for my own nails (making the Ikat designs smaller), and using a thin paintbrush to daub on the designs themselves. They kind of look like ultra-chic peacock feathers and I honestly could not have been happier with the results; every time I looked at my nails, I did a combination of sighing and squealing and it was all I could do not to shove them into the face of every passerby. Beautiful.
Since I was running out of hands to experiment on, Iris ended up getting two manis for the price of one! I wanted to do something really fun and summery so ended up with these two multi-coloured numbers using Ciate Snow Virgin as a base (which I’d totally recommend as a great white given that Iris’ nails still seem to be going strong and chip-free around a week on). The other colours used here were Butter London Slapper (yes, again, sorry), Zoya Darcy (the sunshine yellow), Zoya Lo (the hot pink) and Butter London Molly Coddled (the lavender).
This design makes me think of picnics, deckchairs and pyjamas – three things that in various ways make me very happy indeed! Again, I simply pulled up a couple of designs from various nail blogs to show our therapists and adapted them with different colour combinations that I liked; The Nail Library girls are so quick and talented that they seem to be able to pick up anything and transfer it straight to the nail in record speed. People have NOT stopped talking to me about Iris’ nails since, they’re that delightful… and basically walking adverts for The Nail Library’s genius. Love, love, love.
Most of our manis started showing minor chips and tipwear around the 3-5 day mark, which is pretty decent in my books and much longer than the average DIY job; however, in some strange twist of fate (or testament to the power of the accent nail!), both myself and Kate’s ring finger designs ended up lasting around 10 days, meaning you could easily incorporate the design into a home job later to prolong the awesomeness.
I cannot say how much I love The Nail Library – it feels like I have found my spiritual home. Having spoken at length to Ping, I know that she’s passionate about all the right things and about nailing every single detail, from the cute print flip-flops she’s sourced from Thailand for those of us who forget to wear sensible footwear to pedicures, to the meticulous hygiene steps that have seen her fire seasoned therapists (we’re talking decades of experience in top HK spas) for not doing things the right (i.e. clean) way.
Given the time and care all the staff take here, this isn’t a place for a quick in-and-out express job. This is a place to bring your girlfriends, ooh and aaah over the rainbow of nail colours, enjoy a cup of peppermint tea (or a glass of champers if you’re feeling extra decadent), nibble on the cookies Ping brings you, get pampered to the nth degree, enjoy a really relaxing, totally beautiful space and just feel the love.
Now when can I move in?!
The Nail Library Designer Collection Manicure and Panpuri Hand Spa Treatment costs $600 for two hours; The Nail Library Designer Collection Pedicure and Panpuri Foot Spa Treatment costs $700 for two hours.
The Nail Library locations in Hong Kong:
– 6 Po Hing Fong (enter via Po Yan Street), Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, +852 2803 2290
– Level 1, 10-12 On Wo Lane, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2618 8623
Note: Ping very kindly did our treatments on the house (I tried to pay and she wouldn’t let me!). Thanks so much for reaching out to me Ping x