Legendary Manicurist Jin Soon Choi Reveals the Secrets Of the Perfect Natural Nail

Manicurist Jin Soon Choi opens up about non-toxic and natural manicures.

Photographer: Richard Burbridge Stylist: Vanessa Chow

Some days, a trip to the nail salon can act as the ultimate form of self care. And while we all want a long-lasting and polished manicure, with the ever-growing movement into natural hair, nail ,and body care, toxic and harmful chemicals are becoming a trend of the past. Take it from legendary manicurist, Jin Soon Choi, who knows a thing or two when it come to non-toxic nail polish. From her years of experience working in high fashion editorial and on the runways of Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors, to her chic, upscale New York based salons and her non-toxic nail polish line, Choi is the ultimate nail guru. Breaking down the basics of non-toxic nail polish, here, Choi reveals how to properly wear and maintain your polish for healthy and hydrated nails.

How did you get your start into natural nail care?

Having the nail spas really guided me into that direction. It is also the way the industry moves. A lot of people are more into eco-friendly and all organic and natural. And when there was news that people abandoned TBP, it wasn’t good for pregnant women, I think it started from there. So since then, I listen to what our clients say and the number one thing was being eco-friendly because clients really like that direction; clients want really long lasting. They want to have a manicure that’s at least seven days, so I got gel technology without using any of the gel ingredients, so that it can last. Also, I wanted to make to make a quick dry nail polish, but still remains really high shine. Sometimes quick dry formula can make nails look really dull, but I didn’t want that so I put extra high shine in the formula. So now we are going into 10-free polish; we started at 5-free and now we are at 10-free.

What is no- toxic nail polish?

Non-toxic polish is made without harsh chemicals. Formaldehyde, TBP, formaldehyde resin, toluene, etc.—having all those chemicals out is considered to be non-toxic. A lot of people used nail polish with formaldehyde because it made nail polish last longer and made your nail very strong quickly, but in the long run it really dries your nail beds. It was a quick boost, but it makes your nails very dry and brittle.

How do you read properly read a nail polish bottle?

People don’t know all the ten harsh ingredients names, so an easy way is to look is for bottles that say 3-free, 5-free, eco-friendly—that’s an easy way to recognize. And even for me, I’m an expert, but I cannot remember 100% the names because they are all chemical related.

Are non-toxic gel manicures just as harmful as regular gel manicures?

JINsoon gel is actually a Korea exclusive, they really wanted to have it be very eco-friendly and less harsh. Sometimes with gel polish, you have to really file to remove, and that’s why some people get their nails damaged. Also, having the gel for two or three weeks can make your nail beds really dry. Even regular nail polish that you have for 10-14 days, when you take it off and see the white spots on your nails, that’s a sign of dry nails. JINsoon’s gel is Korea’s first generation with an eco-friendly formula. We want easy, removing gel polish that doesn’t damage your nails.

What is the best way to take your nail polish off?

I prefer always non-acetone polish remover. When you use acetone, you can see the all the skin around the nail is very white, meaning your skin is really dry. Pure acetone is very toxic. Also these days, there is lot more technology and the formulations are more developed, so non-noxic, non-acetone nail polish remover actually works really well.

What are some common nail care mistakes you see people make?

I see a lot pf people cut way too much cuticle, that is really bad. Cutting the cuticle is okay, but if you don’t cut it well, it peels off. If you push back the cuticle really well, you can see a clean line of the cuticle and just snip any loose ends. If it’s thick, don’t cut all the way, cut maybe half of it. It’s a protection between your skin and your nails, if you don’t have that line it will peel off, especially in winter time and it will hurt. And the most important thing for me is moisturizing. Like how you moisturize your face, for hands it’s the same thing. Moisturize your cuticles with cuticle oil and hands with lotion. Moisturizing is the best way to take care of your nails and hands.

Where do you see the natural nail care trend moving?

These days, it’s moving in two different ways. Before it was all about nail art, nail art, nail art; it’s not that anymore. You can see two different groups, one is all about care and the other is gel manicures. But traditional spa manicures and treatments will always be in, because it’s pretty basic to take care of your nails. We also see a lot of guys like it [at the salon]; it’s airy, you don’t feel threatened. These days, guys know how to to enjoy a manicure; before they were very intimated to be surrounded by women, but now, it’s a new generation. They have a new attitude, which I love.

What is your favorite nail look?

I like very classic, high-fashion style, so I love red. It’s sexy, it’s fun, and it’s intriguing. For people who want to have a very natural nail, you can have a very sheer, glossy, almost like a clear polish that has a hint of pink or white, which can maintain a healthy nail look.

10 Elegant, Nearly Nude Nail Polish Colors That Will Shine Next To an Engagement Ring

For those who prefer a more opaque finish, try on Burberry’s Tea Rose.

Burberry Nail Polish in Tea Rose No.403, $23,

This color is an elegant shade of white with a hint of nude for a foolproof timeless finish.

Chanel Le Vernis Longwear Nail Colour in 548 Blanc White, $28,

This petal rose pink comes with a intense shine for a manicure worth showing off.

Marc Jacobs Enamored Hi-Shine Glaze Nail Lacquer in 206 Resurrection, $18,

For those who prefer an au natural finish, enhance the color of your nail with just one stroke.

Dior Nail Glow Nail Enhancer, $28,

This Essie shade has all the perks of a gel polish in a sophisticated sheer pink lacquer with a glossy, high shine finish.

Essie Ballet Nudes Gel Couture, $12,

A translucent, sheer pink that’s as delicate as your blush for a romantic hint of color.

JINsoon Nail Polish in Blush, $18,

A cult classic for those who prefer the subtlety of a natural nail with a hint of pink.

OPI in Bubble Bath, $11,

This elegant shade of light pink is suited for any occasion.

Deborah Lippmann Shimmer Nail Polish in A Fine Romance, $18,

A harmonious blend of pink and nude for the a different approach to the classic sheer nail.

YSL La Laque Couture in 24 Rose Abstrait, $28,

A soft pale pink white an elegant creamy finish for the ultimate polished manicure.

Zoya Nail Lacquer in Madison, $9,