“I want to change the nail salon industry,” said Amy Ling Lin, as she sipped on hydrogen-infused water, available at her non-toxic nail studio, sundays. In February, the entrepreneur set up shop underneath an unassuming New York City apartment complex at 51 East 25th Street in NoMad, offering a peaceful haven where guests can treat themselves to chemical-free and vegan nail treatments, while receiving massages or listening to guided meditation through headphones.
“When I worked in my former salon, I would ask clients if I could get them a magazine to read or anything at all, and they would say, ‘No, this is my time, I don’t want to talk to anyone or read,’” recalled Amy, who opened her first salon in 2012 after graduating beauty school. “Sometimes people need time to be in their own zone to focus and decompress, and the salon just offers a tool to help. People can choose a short meditation course or just listen to soothing music.”
To ensure a peaceful environment, Amy drew inspiration from the Danish concept of hygge (the feeling of coziness), outfitting the salon with peachy-nude shades, warm woods, rattan poufs and linen curtains. Manicures and pedicures are finished with a quick-dry topcoat of varnish, doing away with environmentally unfriendly heat lamps and air dryers, which can also be noisy and take away from the relaxing experience.
A spiral staircase in the far corner of the salon leads to an airy loft overlooking the nail bar, where guests are invited to lounge if they wish to prolong their stay. Throughout the week the lounge is host to several community-building events, including movie nights, a book club and meditation classes to encourage networking between salon patrons.
“We want to make every day feel like a Sunday, a day people traditionally relax and spend time with friends and family,” said Amy. “I have heard people complain that they feel rushed in many salons so we are continually training our employees to make people feel welcome and comfortable to be here. Plus, if a nail studio smells toxic, people most likely won’t want to stay there for a long time, but that’s not an issue here since we don’t use chemicals in our polishes.”
The polishes utilized are from sundays’ namesake 10-free line, which includes 50 shades ranging from soft lilac to steel blue, and can be purchased for $18 in the studio, online and select boutiques. The sundays product lineup also includes all-natural shower scrubs, hand lotions and scented candles.
With the goal of offering a healthy alternative for consumers and salon workers, the Chinese immigrant has her sights set on distributing polishes in salons across the city.
“There are over 5,000 nail salons in New York City. I don’t want to compete with them, I want to offer our products to them so that everyone, from pregnant women to young kids who bite their nails, can have a toxic-free option,” said Amy. “But, part of the challenge is people don’t know about the toxicity factor of nail products. There’s also a large number of immigrants working in the industry with very limited language barriers, so they don’t understand the ingredient list and are not educated about the medical dangers of inhaling the fumes in their work environment all day. As an immigrant myself, I want to help address this issue.”
To raise awareness, Amy has created brochures, which have been translated to several languages, with non-toxic product information to educate salon owners.
Although she receives requests outside of NYC, for now, Amy is not looking to expand, citing the lengthy staff training process needed to ensure quality. She is, however, actively working on building the salon’s NYC footprint. In May, Sundays opened a pop-up inside Saks Fifth Avenue’s The Wellery concept, and recently launched another pop-up at Saks’ Brookfield Place outpost this month, which is slated to become the salon’s second permanent location in the fall. Sundays also participates in an ongoing weekend pop up at The Surf Lodge in Montauk, and in September, will be partnering with Omni Berkshire Place to offer manicures at the hotel for two days during New York Fashion Week.
“Most people come to us because they are attracted to the wellness trend, but for me this isn’t a trend because my goal is to change the industry,” she said. “But change is going to take time.”