It didn’t take long living in Paris before I upgraded my daily routine. Mostly that meant showering in the morning rather than the afternoon, but it was a start. The countless hair salons and lingerie shops act as a constant advertisement for la belle vie. So do the moms in Chanel boots and fur vests at the playground — in contrast to my Converse and fleece. Even the pharmacies make support hose seem sexy in their window displays. Beauty ranks with an ability to discuss Derrida as a worthy, if not necessary, endeavor.
I needed to brush up on my philosophy and Gap Body wasn’t doing me any favors, but my conversion had its limits. I don’t have hours to devote to my personal appearance, thanks to a toddler who enjoys going to the bathroom with me. In the States, I’d found a fast pedicure in a dark color like gray was the easiest way to feel current and refreshed. France doesn’t value the shortcut, however; the only accepted quickie might be the cinq à sept.
Bucking this tradition, Prisca Courtin-Clarins and some friends opened Nail Factory, an American-style bar à ongles. Perhaps because she’s one of the adored heiresses of the skin-care company, the concept has been embraced. It’s hard to get an appointment at any of the three locations, where a beauté des mains lasts 30 minutes (or less in my experience) and costs 25 euros (about $35, a steal compared to spas). This is good news for travelers who want an affordable mani, or a window into the French fashionista’s soul.
Despite the amount of time Prisca and her fellow swans spend in Manhattan, differences exist at Nail Factory. Locals still favor the French manicure, a look that peaks at prom in the United States. In my opinion, it’s better to play the Parisian part by choosing revolution red. Incidentally, both of my visits resulted in small cuts, for which the technicians offered no apologies, just the stinging application of antiseptic. In France, of course, one must suffer for her pleasure.
Photo by Megan Lisagor