On the Road: Smudge Nail Bar

Making its mark on the Massachusetts nail scene, this “clean and green” salon chain aims to become a trusted brand and stands out for putting health at the forefront.  

<p>The salon&rsquo;s pedicure bowls, imported from Brazil, are 250 lbs. of pure granite.</p>

Smudge Nail Bar is a growing chain of natural nail salons in Massachusetts owned by experienced nail tech Tristan Kim. Three years ago Kim went off on his own to launch Smudge, a brand that exemplifies his motto, “clean and green.” I visited Smudge’s newest location — one of two — in Needham, Mass., which opened less than a year ago. Kim has a third location on the horizon, slated for high-end shopping destination Newbury Street in Boston.

 <p>Nail techs have a healthy habit of standing during manicures at Smudge&rsquo;s signature nail bar.</p>

Keeping it simple, Smudge offers manicures, pedicures, and waxing. Clients can opt for additional treatments such as an organic June Jacobs scrub, Jimmy Jane hot oil, a Keratin Mask, vegan nail polish by Lakur, or a Lalicious sugar scrub. I tried the June Jacobs pedicure with vegan nail polish, which left my feet feeling super soft.

 <p>Smudge offers OPI, Essie, IBD, and Gelish polish and gel-polish, as well as vegan polish brand Lakur.</p>

Sleek lines and neutral elements mixed with pops of color make up this contemporary space. For manicures (both polish and gel-polish), Smudge’s signature nail bar seats six customers while nail techs stand on the other side. Kim says this arrangement builds movement into the workday, promoting ergonomics and a healthier lifestyle for his employees. The salon’s pedicure station features granite pedicure bowls and a comfy padded bench with a back that extends all the way to the ceiling. Call it luxurious, but this design is also an optical illusion making the space feel larger than it is — a must in the Boston real estate market.

 <p>Smudge sells Havaianas, in addition to nail and skin products, which give the neutral space bursts of color.</p>

Sharing a block with four other nail salons offering pedicures at a fraction of its price, Smudge initially encountered a lot of skepticism from the public. Some customers wondered why a pedicure should cost $35, while others didn’t understand the importance of sanitation. Smudge’s staff works hard to change the nail game in Boston by advocating for salons that put cleanliness and health at the forefront of their business. When I entered the salon, I overheard a nail tech walking her client through proper gel-polish removal!

 <p>I took nail tech Krystal&rsquo;s recommendation to go for a pedicure using June Jacobs spa products and vegan polish.</p>

Smudge doesn’t offer acrylics, UV-cured products, whirlpool jets, or “anything with a negative stigma,” according to Kim. “I’d rather not take the chance. If something is 99% effective, I still want to take care of that 1%.” Kim’s goal is to build a brand people trust so that nail techs have an opportunity to educate and even make service suggestions for their clients.

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