Manicures have moved beyond simple layers of polish and French tips. Particularly in the past five years, products have advanced, artistic barriers have been pushed and nail art has become widespread. Now, clients can get custom, tiny, temporary paintings on their nails along with dense glitters, long-lasting polish and 3-D embellishments.
I wanted to meet some of Austin’s finest nail artists, so I visited Nails Y’all, Sugarcoat Nails and Michele Nails.
I met up with Meghann Rosales, known as Nails Y’all, at Russ and Company Salon while she was working on a client’s nails. I realized it could be rather weird of me to sit in on a stranger’s nail appointment, but they were both so welcoming and friendly that my intrusion felt natural after a few moments.
Meghann works on natural nails of any length and uses gel polishes which require curing under an LED lamp after every layer. Gel polishes can last a couple of weeks and won’t chip after a few days like the fate of many at-home manicures.
While Meghann applied the base coat and color for the nail art, I spoke to her about her background. Though she didn’t play with nail polish much growing up, she became interested in nails when she discovered the possibility of nail art correlating with her skills as a cartoonist. Since making a living as a cartoonist can be difficult, Meghann drew up a business plan, went to nail school and developed a unique small business where she can draw everyday.
Like many nail artists, Nails Y’all has gained notoriety through Instagram and word of mouth. Her Wendy Davis nails in particular received a lot of press online, but the most requested designs are galaxies and pet portraits. Clients bring in photo references and from there Meghann can paint their subject with her small brushes and Stripe Rite nail polish. (These paints are not gels, but since a gel top coat still covers the design, the art has longevity.)
Of course, Meghann has received some strange art requests. “‘Oh, I don’t know if you can do this’ are some of my favorite words because I know they’re going to say something weird, and the weirder the request, the more fun it is,” Meghann told me.
One woman wanted a set of Popeyes nails, referring to the fast food chain, not the cartoon. “I did a really good biscuit,” Meghann notes. A male client recently asked for “The Saddest Christmas Nails in the World,” which consisted of a little kid looking under a tree to find no presents, and a crying man in a bathtub with a bottle of gin surrounded by a festive wreath.
As I watched Meghann delicately paint on tiny designs, I was surprised she could still chat without breaking her concentration.
She told me she recently got back from a nail art tour on the west coast where she met other nail artists and booked clients in salons along the way. She also paints nails at events like ACL and premieres at Alamo Drafthouse. Clients can also come to her at Russ and Company Salon for nail art on all ten nails, accent nails only, or even just a simple glitter fade or standard manicure with her variety of polishes (including Floss Gloss).
Meghann and her client, Brandy, were so much fun to chat with that I was really beginning to see the appeal of manicure as an experience. I was ready to get my own nails done.
Editor’s Note: Sugarcoat Nails has closed.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into Sugarcoat Nails was the fresh, chemical-free smell. Because the owners are two best friends who used to work in the health industry, they take sanitation very seriously.
Sugarcoat Nails is also very conscious about featuring products that are cruelty–free and 3-free and 5-free (referring to the exclusion of harmful chemicals). At Sugarcoat, they only work with shellac (which has a similar process and longevity to gel). They do not work with artificial nails, but thankfully they were not afraid to tackle putting detailed designs on my short nails.
My appointment was with Sarah, who became interested in nail art at 9 years old when her cousin bought her some glitter polishes from Limited Too. Then she received a Klutz book of nail art as a gift, and her hobby took off. After going to college for journalism, she decided to advance her nail skills further by going to beauty school. The owners of Sugarcoat Nails invited her to intern with them when they found her Instagram page.
Sarah took off my chipped black polish and prepared my nails. When I booked my appointment, I told the receptionist I wanted “Austin themed nails,” but I purposefully left that open to interpretation. In case the artist didn’t have anything in mind, I brought reference photos of Austin murals I thought would translate well to nails. By complete coincidence, Sarah had already painted a swatch of Austin nail designs that included the two murals I had thought of!
Sarah used Stripe Rite polish with her own, smaller brushes to paint Jeremiah the Innocent and “Hi, how are you” on my middle fingernails. “You’re my” on a slice of bread and “butter half” on a slab of butter were painted on my thumbnails.
I admit, I held my breath as she did the lettering, but Sarah made the fine details look easy. After the designs were cured under the light, she mixed together a cocktail of three cosmetic grade glitters to cover the rest of my nails. “Glitter makes everything better. Period. End of story,” Sarah said.
Once the glitter is covered with a top coat of shellac, it feels completely smooth and won’t budge.
My nails took two hours, but between the great conversation I had with Sarah and watching her process of creating tiny art, the time flew by.
Among other things, I asked her about the relationship between a client and their nail artist. “People will tell you crazy things when you’re sitting across from them and holding hands,” she said. With a boundary to intimacy broken, I can see how quickly a friendship could progress through this process.
After I left, I got honked at immediately on Lamar because I was staring at my nails when the light turned green, and I somehow ended up with pizza and a new makeup palette from Sephora before I made it home -all from the power of polish.
I found Michele on Instagram and was drawn in by her “bling nails” which are nails embellished with 3-D stones. When I walked into her private room at Tara’s Beauty Salon, I was greeted by the sight of over 800 polishes in cases along the walls.
Michele carries all kinds of lacquers including shatter polishes (which create a crackle effect), glitters, textured polishes, matte colors and every shade of polish imaginable. She also has a growing collection of shellacs and gels. Her love for polish is even tattooed on her arm in the form of an OPI bottle.
Michele’s extensive polish collection matches her variety of manicures. She does it all – manicures and pedicures ranging from very basic looks on natural nails to bling manicures on long, acrylic nails. When working with acrylics, Michele sculpts the artificial nail completely out of the acrylic instead of putting on nail tips which many salons use. Clients have several options when it comes to the shape of their nail such as square, round, squoval, or almond. The most popular shape Michele has been sculpting lately is the stiletto which is an attention-grabbing pointed nail. She likes to start clients off with a shorter nail if they are not used to long nails, so they can adjust and see what size they are most comfortable with.
Studying the relaxing room further, I noticed Michele also had a variety of small brushes and dotting tools so she could do detailed nail painting. Then I spotted the collection of stones and prisms available for the “bling nails.” Usually done as accent nails on the ring-fingers, Michele creates a collage of various jewels and attaches them to the nail with a strong glue. She was wearing these on her own nails, and I could not take my eyes off them! I told her I would be back to let her work her magic on me.
Michele continues to learn novel techniques while adapting to trends. She also makes sure to talk to her clients about different styles to match their expectations. A caviar manicure (tiny beads covering the whole nail) might not last as long as a normal design, but it will certainly be unique.
The bling nails and stiletto shape may seem over the top to some, but Michele notes that “edgy is in, and the world is changing and people are being themselves.” She hopes more and more people will feel comfortable expressing themselves with nail art, including men and older clients who are curious but cautious. Eventually she would like to open her own nail salon with other passionate nail artists to create an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome and can visit for any type of nail service.
Make Your Appointment
Though this art form is temporary, it lives on through social media, and the artist and wearer constantly regain a clean canvas to explore the next source of inspiration. Nail art has to be done within a certain time frame, since the artists cannot make a client wait for the right mood or idea to strike. So I admire that these artists have to maintain patience and a steady hand daily.
A week after getting my nails done at Sugarcoat Nails, they still look flawless and I can’t wait to set up my appointments with Michele and Meghann. Here is more information so you can set up your own appointment:
Michele Nails is available at Tara’s Beauty Salon at 2204 W Anderson Ln. Find her on Instagram and call or text her at (512)-900-1392.
@madameklm wants to know:
What unique design would you like painted on your nails?