Brookline Beauty Nails & Spa

Editorials, Style | Mitindo, Writing | Maandishi

In January this year, a new nail salon opened in a neighbourhood of Brookline, Massachusetts. I glanced through the window while walking past one day and was captivated by the gorgeous interior, but it also looked like an establishment I assumed I couldn’t afford to patronise — I was wrong. The first time I ventured inside, I was actually in tears from an upsetting phone call; I left feeling so much better, comforted by the ambiance and stellar nail service (plus the tea and sweets they offered me ❤ ). I became a repeat client and, after singing the salon’s praises to my friends enough times, recently went back to document the experience. Come along with me into this hidden gem!


The look of a woman who knows a treat lies ahead.


I had a chat with Judy, the manager, about the story behind this little haven. As it turns out, Brookline Beauty Nails & Spa is the labour of love of two sisters-in-law, Celine and Helen Chen, who were drawn to the profession from playing dress-up and beauty shop as children. They chose the area for its diversity of ages and ease of access but, given how tucked away it is on a tree-lined street, face the challenge of making the salon’s presence known — a difficulty common to many new small business owners.


This is the flower wall that caught my eye the first time I walked past!


I typically wear my nails in a single colour, but this time I was there to try out some nail art. I thus faced the hurdle of selecting a design, and it did not help that I was told “anything” I wanted could be created! What do you do when a nail artist writes you a blank cheque?


The closer I looked, the more difficult it got.


Next up was the rack of endless possibilities, to decide which polish I wanted my design to be painted with. Gel is my staple for the durability but easy removal, and my hands and feet are never painted the same colour; variety is the spice of life, friends. (I didn’t have a pedicure this visit, but can attest to its excellence.)


Each time I come here I find that the collection has grown. See that yellow in the bottom right? My claim to fame is being the first client to use it when it was added to the rack! 😆


While waiting for my turn, I ventured downstairs and found this charming little vanity!


The little nook feels like your fancy older sister’s bedroom.


Indecisiveness struck again upon my return upstairs: you know when you’re ordering food somewhere but can only get one dish at the time, so you mentally make note of what you’re going to have the next time you’re there? That was me in this moment.


(Yes I changed my mind, and then once more, finally opting for a marbled pink design with gold accents.)


I read that prep work is essential to the lifespan of a manicure and if the ones I’ve had done here are anything to go by, this is true. I work in healthcare so I wash my hands frequently, yet my gel manicures consistently last as long as an entire month without chipping, needing to be removed only because of outgrowth. (I have receipts!)


The nails are first cleaned of any existing varnish, buffed, and the cuticles trimmed — turning them into a blank canvas for the artist on the other side of the table.


It was Celine who did my nails when I first visited Brookline Beauty that gloomy day, and has been my manicurist almost each time since; it was only during this visit that I learnt she was actually one of the owners! I found this detail, and the fact that it took me as long as it did to realise, very telling.


Celine and Helen both work at the salon daily. They combine experience from the many places they’ve worked, including fashion shows in Hong Kong, executing their techniques with much care.


Neither had Celine registered that I was the blogger coming in that day. We had heard each other’s names from the planning correspondence, but hadn’t recognised the connection until I sat down at her station and we exclaimed to each other in surprise, “Oh, it’s you!


As inclined as I am towards DIY beautification, it’s a relief to have a reliable go-to for professional service — and knowing that by doing so I’m supporting a woman-owned small business makes it that much more worth it.


The salon’s interior is breathtaking and, coupled with the calming music, lends the space an atmosphere of relaxation. Above all, I’m appreciative of how sanitary everything is: the tools are autoclaved and individually packaged, so that each client has a fresh set. Thank goodness for freedom from the trepidation brought on by seeing many a manicurist grab a tool out of a questionable-looking jar, *shudder*.


Decor credits go to the other co-owner, Helen, who was away at the time of this visit.


Any nail art I’ve worn in the past, I’ve done myself using improvised tools and YouTube tutorials for inspiration. I was therefore eager to see how a professional would go about it, and enjoyed watching Celine bring my chosen marbled look to life.


Artistry + a steady hand = magic.


We decided to embellish the design with some gold accents: encapsulated beads plus gilding. If Celine was dexterous before, she was that much more so now while working with the tiny detailing components and fine-tipped tweezers. Like I said, artistry.


Getting fancy with gold leaf so fine that I was almost afraid to breathe lest I accidentally blew it off the table.


I always forget to do this, but you really should apply sunscreen to your hands before a gel manicure to protect your skin from the brief but intense UV ray exposure from the curing lamps. Yes, those modern LED lamps are still UV lamps — read this Teen Vogue article for more insight.


How did we manage in the olden days again?


When my nails were completely dry, my hands and arms were massaged with lotion then dipped into an optional paraffin wax bath. Wax, being an emollient, serves the purpose of softening the skin and sealing in moisture. This bath was pleasantly warm and floral-scented, and I’d have really liked to immerse my entire body into it…”for science.”


Being prepared for display at Madam Tussaud’s! (Not yet. 😉 )


After three or so dips, the embalming continued under wraps to allow the wax to set. I’d expected it to flake, à la that other wax experience, but Celine simply rolled it off like a glove — so satisfying.


Sitting like this, the Swahili coast girl in me was reminded of how one waits for henna to dry.


Just under an hour later, we were done! I had wanted my nails to be eye-catching enough to invite a closer look yet peaceful enough for my primary job, and so they turned out to be. Here’s the final look:






So, Brookline dwellers: support your local business. Elsewhere dwellers: make the trip. Everyone: use the code SYLVIA2018 to an extra* 10% off a gift card purchase on the salon website, or mention it when you walk in for a service and it’ll be just as effective. 🙂 Oh and there’s far more on the menu than just manicures!


*Extra because there’s currently a 20% discount going until the end of October — visit the website for details.

Brookline Beauty Nails & Spa
12 Cypress Street
Brookline, MA 02446

These gorgeous images are all the hard work of Tiffany Chan, who added as much to this experience as she captured of it; a thousand thanks to you for going out on a limb with me and being so generous with your skills.
Find Tiffany on Instagram as @omgitstiffyc.


2 thoughts on “Brookline Beauty Nails & Spa

    Nothing than thanking you please.
    Have learnt something things from your articles and actually have copied also due for the good of my professional like Celine and Helen Chen. Thanks please


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