My favorite souvenir to take home from Seoul, South Korea is a manicure. Before flying back to New York City, I stop at Unistella — yes, that Unistella aka the epicenter of the world’s boldest, most innovative nail trends — and tell my nail artist to do whatever colorful designs her heart desires. Every time, my fingers became a sampler of the latest nail art trends in Korea.
In 2020, Park Eunkyung, the owner of Unistella, gave some of my nails a dreamy, watercolor effect and topped others with chunky glitter. During my most recent trip at the end of May, another Unistella nail artist, who goes by Ellie, did the honors. She gave me a major preview of what was to come for Korean nail art trends. Just a couple of days after my appointment, similar nail art designs to mine appeared on the tips of Blackpink’s Lisa and Aespa’s Giselle: chrome beads, 3D blobs, and abstract gradient nails.
As she carefully and joyfully crafted each of my 10 nails, Ellie reached for dozens of sheer, jelly-like gel polishes. They have become a staple in the nail world to create K-beauty’s trendy “syrup nail” look. Ellie also played around with tubes of squeezable 3D gel to create little chrome beads and blobby lines. They reminded me of the icing gels I used to write “Happy Birthday” on Funfetti cakes with when I was little.
I need to make another trip to Seoul ASAP because several other nail art trends are taking off that I have yet to try out for myself, like cheek nails and chrome acrylics. OK, I might as well just show you all the Korean nail trends instead of continuing to wax poetic about them.
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