Getting a manicure can seem frivolous: It requires extra cash and time and, in pop culture, has a bit of a ditzy reputation (think: Elle Woods, bend-and-snapping in the Legally Blonde salon). Last summer, getting a mani was even a question of ethics: A New York Times exposé on New York City nail salons uncovered worker exploitation, triggering statewide industry reform.
But there’s a case to be made for a regular manicure. In the right hands, getting a mani — or even DIYing it — can mean a lot more.
Think of it as an enforced time-out. When I duck into a nail bar, it’s like I’m hopping onto a very short transatlantic flight. Don’t call, don’t write, I’m in the bubble. It’s not that I’m hiding, it’s that we all owe ourselves a little time to luxuriate, without the expectation of a lightning-fast response.
“A manicure is no longer something you only do before a tropical vacation or a special occasion,” says Jane Park, CEO and founder of Julep nail salons and beauty products. After jobs as an exec with the Boston Consulting Group, then Starbucks, Park left in 2007 to create Julep salons with a focus on de-stressing. (Want to zone out with a movie? Julep salons play rom-coms on a loop.) “Treating yourself is so emotionally important for women — we are all doing more and have less time to unplug,” says Park, who, in addition to her booming polish line, has expanded to three locations in the Seattle area.
I consider the spa a phone-free zone. Break out your iPhone mid-mani and you’ll likely nick your nails or feel annoyed vibes emanating from your manicurist. (Not relaxing at all.) I admit going off the grid has made me antsy, so I calmly think about the week ahead or I practice my deep breathing (only when you slow down do you realize you’ve been breathing from your throat instead of your diaphragm for a week).
Sometimes I just zone out — which can actually be productive. While our brain idles, it may be recharging and become better prepared for what’s to come, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Even doing your own nails can have a strange meditative power. Mindfulness — the idea of staying in the now — is one of those buzzy ideas that makes some people roll their eyes, but I got the hang of it.
“We’re addicted to making to-do lists and worrying about the future,” says motivational speaker Gabby Bernstein, author of Miracles Now.“Our self-care routines help keep us in the present.” So if taking time out to do your nails — or get a massage or do a home facial — helps you mellow out and feel sane for a sec, why not embrace it?