For Amy Ling Lin, a Mani/Pedi Is a Practice in Meditation

An act of nail service can do the soul some good.

Amy Ling Lin
Amy Ling Lin.

In the hustle and bustle of New York City, many seek refuge in places where they can quiet their mind. The options are endless (e.g. the many trendy wellness centers and spas, Central Park, Bergdorfs, The Guggenheim during off-peak hours, the periodical room at the New York City Public Library, etc.), but for beauty lovers in particular there is one unexpected place where they can indulge in some self-care for both their nails and their souls: sundays nail studio.  

Founder Amy Ling Lin opened sundays to be more than just a nail salon. With over 10 years of experience in the nail industry, she sought to give clients a more enjoyable manicure and pedicure experience. Everyone who knows and loves sundays can attest that she has done just that. 

At sundays, clients are welcomed into a cozy space when they first walk in, with warm lighting and minimalistic but inviting decor (Lin says to think of it as a crossover of beachy southern Californian warmth and simplistic Scandinavian vibes). While getting your nails done, you have the option to put on headphones for some guided meditation to take a break from whatever stress you’ve been going through that day and a chance to center your soul. While it may sound cheesy or impossible to do amongst the chaos, even 15 minutes of quiet does wonders for the mind. 

When your treatment is over, you can write yourself a letter. It can be anything you want to write yourself and once you seal it with love, it will be sent to you at a future date. Before you leave, you’re encouraged to grab a card with an affirmation to take home with you for some added words of encouragement. Lin’s goal is to not only provide top-tier nail care service but to also gift everyone much-needed time for themselves. 

“I wanted to create a different experience that truly helps clients feel relaxed, instead of the quick in-and-out salon style,” she tells InStyle. “I suppose that’s when the ‘meditation manicure’ was born.”  

On top of creating a wellness nail studio hybrid, she has also created a line of non-toxic nail polishes — because wellness is a holistic process that includes making sure that the products you use on your skin are not causing any harm to it. Rich in pigment with long-lasting power, sundays’ polishes are some of the best in the game.  

In conversation with InStyle, Lin talks about disrupting the traditional nail salon studio,  non-toxic polishes, and her advice to future nail entrepreneurs. Below, read our interview. 

InStyle: What inspired you to open your own salon?

Amy Ling Lin: I had been in the nail salon industry for over 10 years and I opened and owned two regular nail salons. Being behind the scenes, you see and learn so much. For instance, the widespread use of and exposure to toxic chemicals impacts nail specialists and customers. With all of the innovation around, the salon industry has not changed in the past 30 years. I watched so many clients come in for their weekly manicure, and I remember thinking that those 30 minutes or one hour of “me time” they were taking could be so much better and more relaxing — they deserved better. That inspired the idea to disrupt the traditional nail salon business and [its] operating models.

I love the idea of the “meditation manicure.” How did you come up with that concept? 

My old clients inspired me to do this actually. I remember many years ago [when I would try] to strike a conversation with clients and offered them magazines and other forms of entertainment during their service. What I realized what that they needed a moment to themselves without having to talk to anyone or think about anything. Of course there are others who come in to spend time with their friends, but for the most part I realized a manicure is a regular self-care ritual for certain people. I thought I would create a guided meditation with headsets that really lets them unplug and shut everything out to truly relax. 

Getting a manicure is definitely a form of self care when you think about it that way. Do you believe that connection to our well-being is what sets sundays apart from other nail salons?

We are proud to call ourselves a wellness nail salon; our goal is not just to make our clients look good, but to provide an environment and experience that makes them feel good too. Our [nail products] are non-toxic, so it’s safe for everyone. Our clients, [nail] specialists, kids, pregnant women — everyone can have a safe and enjoyable experience. Instead of the rush in and out service that is typical of traditional nail salons, we create a holistic wellness experience that includes a meditative manicure, self-love letter writing, and an affirmation card that clients can bring home at the end of every service. Even our studios look different from what people are used to seeing. We don’t have any bright surgical lighting, commercial dryers, or communal drying tables. Each [sundays] location has a really down-to-earth, warm feeling. Our design style falls somewhere between Southern California and Scandinavian — airy and sleek, but cozy. 

Speaking of a holistic wellness experience, you’ve created your own brand of nail polish for the salon to match that ethos. How did you go about formulating it?

I wanted to create a nail polish line that was double duty, non-toxic, and professional grade. But I also wanted one that could actually help improve the health of your nails. That’s how you retain clients; if their nails are getting stronger, they will keep coming back. I also thought about the fact that the majority of nail polish lines have 300 to 600 shades; it’s like standing in front of an aisle of cereal at the supermarket and that feels really overwhelming to me. 

I decided to create a smaller collection — under 100 polishes — of timeless colors that could work on every skin tone. Creating the colors in our collections is something I worked really closely with our nail specialists as they have seen so many hands. I spent a lot of time studying ingredients and testing formulas and I worked with a great chemist to help me create something I feel really proud of. 

Sundays has now grown very quickly — you have multiple salons across New York City. What is your secret to success? 

When I started my first business years ago, I had no experience with customer service or managing people. So I asked myself,” How would I want to be treated if I was a client or if I was an employee?” It seems so basic, but this helped me create an environment that I would want to be in; one that has a great culture and where both clients and specialists are happy. 

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs looking to get into the nail care and spa space?

The nail and spa space is such a rewarding industry because you can have such a positive impact on so many people. There are also so many ways to shape the experience you want to create or re-shape a traditional model — with so much room for creativity to do that. 

It all comes down to four things: having passion for what you do, being connected to your mission, listening to your team clients when they give feedback, and never be afraid to challenge the status quo. 

I knew the nail industry should be a non-toxic experience and that a visit to the nail salon could be a more enjoyable wellness retreat. With the help of our team and clients, I hope that’s exactly what we have created with sundays. 

Additional reporting done by Kayla Greaves. 

Beauty Boss profiles the brains behind the brands making waves in the beauty industry. From the ideas that first inspire brands to how best-selling hair, makeup, and skincare products are made, find out how these leaders get it done.

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