I walk into Sunday’s Nail Studio in the Flatiron district, and the first thing I notice is the serene, calming atmosphere. Soft music plays throughout the space, and women are getting their nails done with closed eyes. Unusual yes, but I was excited to join them. I had booked a 3-in-1 Guided Meditation and Hand Treatment. That’s my first favorite thing about Sundays; they thoughtfully incorporate wellness and simplicity into every aspect of the experience; Their polishes are 10-free and vegan (they come in 50 classic shades), when I sit down at the nail station I am served a warm cup of tea and cookies (score!), and when the technician slipped earphones on me I embark on a 30 minute meditation. ‘Soften your eyes, and unfocus your gaze,’ the recording instructs.
My second favorite thing about Sundays, is Founder Amy Ling Lin and her warm, nurturing spirit. Originally hailing from China, but now a tenured New Yorker, Lin took the knowledge she gained from owning her first nail studio to make Sundays an oasis of woman empowerment. When Lin was provided the opportunity to create a better, safer nail salon experience, she took it, not just for the customer, but for the nail technicians, many of whom are also immigrant women. Lin implements programs and practices to encourage and enable all women either working at Sundays or visiting the studio. Events held at Sundays and articles on the Sundays blog celebrate the beauty and confidence of women. On my way out of the studio, I grab a square, pink card inscribed with Sundays’ motto, ‘Beauty is not the source of confidence; it’s the result.’ If that’s not befitting for our new definition of beauty here at The Moment, I don’t know what is!
The Moment: Hi Amy! How did you get started? How did Sundays get started?
Lin: I have had a nail salon since 2012. I was a retail major in undergrad and I started doing luxury retail at Cartier, but I have always wanted to do something for immigrants. So it was a coincidence that I heard about this opportunity to own a nail salon. It provided women regular hours, and I was curious about it. I thought maybe I could do something different with my salon. While I was working, I went to nail school to learn how to do nails myself. I wasn’t the best student, but I just tried to learn about everything. I learned a lot about sanitation and the biology of the nail, but not a lot about how to paint the nails. It was very basic. I think the government wants to know that if you do certain things in a nail salon, you might get an infection. You need to know how to deal with cuts. It taught me a lot about how to develop the process when creating Sundays. Then I think in the past few years, working in the industry, I realized there were more issues than sanitation, like the products we use. In other nail salons, we don’t spend a lot of time looking at a product because everyone orders from the same supplier. They deliver them and we just take it. We never ask what the ingredients are. They just give you the new products to get commission. One day I started asking, ‘What’s in this?’ That’s the moment that I discovered there are so many issues with conventional nail polish.
The Moment: What were those issues? What are the ingredients you watch out for?
Lin: For nail polish, a few years ago, it became a rule that a lot of professional use polish has to be 3-free. Free of formaldehyde and ingredients that are very bad for your health. They can potentially cause cancer and depression. It’s very important because as a nail specialist, the risks are higher because they breathe it in every single day. A client only comes to a salon once a week, but a specialist probably does 10 clients per day, 5 days a week. So 50 times a week. If you think about that, they have a much higher chance of running into health issues.
If you see OPI polish or Essie, they’re 3 free. It’s industry standard now. There are a lot of chemicals that haven’t been taken out. There is one that’s pretty bad called TPHP. Its function is to make the polish very sticky and durable. But if you breathe in or wear TPHP, it can stay in the body for several hours. A lot of manufacturers are arguing that the amount is so small but these nail specialists are exposed to it day after day. Things like camphor can cause dizziness. You can feel dizzy when you leave the salon. Especially in the afternoon because it’s accumulated throughout the day.
*You can find out more about what’s not in Sundays nail polish here.
The Moment: Did the product or the salon come first?
Lin: The product came first. The polish came out last February. We spent a lot of time researching to create the formula, and then we finalized in February of last year. Testing started a few months before we launched it. The salon opened in March. We have three locations, one is a pop-up in Saks 5th Avenue.
The Moment: Why did you feel strongly that wellness be incorporated in to the experience?
Lin: It’s important to me. When I started this project, I did the research. I was talking to people about the product. I asked them if they cared if the polish was toxic or not. 75% of people we interviewed said it didn’t matter to them as long as it lasts. We are always saying this slogan, ‘We don’t have to sacrifice for beauty.’ There are alternatives, there are options. I know that some of the brands emphasize beauty, but we emphasize confidence and taking a break from work and recharging yourself. Because you are confident, you get your nails done. It isn’t the opposite way. I think that’s our philosophy.
Sometimes people come in for a manicure and don’t get nail polish, and that’s totally fine. It’s more about taking a break from what you are doing and saving some time once a week to really feel relaxed.
The Moment: The cream used on our hands feels incredible. What’s in it!?
Lin: We make it in house too. We found issues in all the typical creams. If you go to another salon, the cream is stored in gallons. It’s filled with preservatives. You will find six different preservatives. I couldn’t even read the words, they were so long. It makes it last longer. It’s been going on in the food business for a long time of course. They do the same thing with cosmetics. They want it to last longer so they pile on so many different preservatives.
Our formulas are very simple. We don’t use anything artificial. We use essential oils like rose essential oil. We mix it with bitter orange essential oil and carrots seed extract and a carrier oil. It functions as an antioxidant and a natural sunscreen. It’s not as strong as a regular sunscreen but it’s just to protect. The smell is amazing too. We also use shea butter for moisturizing and grape seed extract, a natural antioxidant. It never goes bad. It’s really good.
The Moment: What are some of the events hosted at Sundays?
Lin: We do a movie night and book club night. We did Eat Pray Love and Spirited Away. It’s the same thing about confidence. We believe everyone’s nails are beautiful, you don’t have to change anything and everyone has something inside of you that is so unique, we just need to bring it out. These movies are about the same thing.
The Moment: Other than protecting your technicians by using a safer product, in what ways do you provide support for your workers?
Lin: At Sundays, we focus on the well being of our employees. In the salon we provide them with high benefits of sick days or a higher pay hourly. We also provide monthly training for our specialist to empower them professionally to grow their skill set and personally which many nail salons don’t focus on. We truly care about the wellness of our employees and want the best for their future.
The Moment: What beauty stereotypes do you hope to breakdown at Sundays?
Lin: Empowerment – to have everyone know they’re valued and loved and beautiful just the way they are. You don’t have to sacrifice for beauty. On the packaging of every polish that is given or bought the quote, “You don’t have to sacrifice your health for beauty” is shown.
The Moment: What’s next for Sundays salons? In one year? In five years?
Lin: For the next few months, I’m more focused on improving what we are doing. We are a new brand and we’re definitely not perfect. We’re constantly receiving feedback about what we can do better. It’s a service business so we try to make things very consistent. That’s my focus for now.
This year, we will expand and do more locations. But before we open more, we will focus on improving the experience.
Special thanks to Amy Ling Lin!
Photo by Sundays Salon