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Special fall fashion issue | Metropolis / Hands and

We Got Beauty

Looking Fine in a Big, Gorgeous Town

August 17, 2003|Hillary Johnson | Hillary Johnson last wrote for the magazine about hair-conditioning treatments.

My mother, who lives in Portland, Ore., was absolutely horrified when I turned up with David Hockney swimming pool blue on my fingers and toes last Christmas. Throughout most of the country, you'll find that women prefer their polish to match their lipstick, though Lord knows why it's any more natural for nails to be blood red than chartreuse.

Nail salons are as ubiquitous as doughnut shops in L.A., and most of them are about as atmospheric. But Paint Shop is a soulful, all-natural, sweet-smelling place where clients sit on thrones and have their toes ministered to by manicurists who are as wise and witty as any bartender. Without the stinky chemical vibe of most nail salons (Paint Shop doesn't do acrylics), the place has become a popular date spot. The music is so good here that bands have been known to drop off demos hoping to get play. It's like a nightclub for the feet.

Custom pedicures include the Rita and Rocks, which uses lime, salt and ice--everything except tequila. Better yet, order the Footsie White Choco-Latte and bathe your feet in warm milk laced with chocolate liqueur, or give your fingers a green apple-scented bath in a martini glass. Paint Shop feels as if it should be in a trendy section of Philadelphia--except that only in L.A. would you find a $270 manicure on the menu. That's right, for just under 300 clams you can get a six-week Holistic Nail Rehab treatment. Beware, however: The package doesn't include polish.

Atmosphere is also part of the package at in Santa Monica's Bergamot Station art gallery complex. Here you can look at original works of art by Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol while having a Pucci print applied to your nails and drinking a green apple martini. This may be the only hair and nail salon in Los Angeles where you can also shop for designer laundry detergent and pasta sauce.

For sheer innovation, however, it's hard to beat CT Nails, where you can have your lover's name tattooed on your digits in Braille, or have the Mona Lisa reproduced on your thumb, or your toes airbrushed in a shade of fuchsia. You're as likely to sit next to any one or all of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as you are to anyone named Madge: This is not your mother's nail salon.

If, however, you have a job or a mother who lives in town, you may want a straight-up French manicure, one of those things that either looks like a million bucks or a $3 bill, depending on the skill of the manicurist. The glassiness of the finish, the curve of the white tip, the precise shade of pink on the body of the nail--any false note can leave you looking more like Paris Hilton than Grace Kelly--need I say more? The best I've ever had was by a young woman named Ashlie Johnson, who may be the Lana Turner of French nails, and you can discover her at Fred Segal Beauty.

Paint Shop, 319 1/2 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 652-5563., Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Suite J1, Santa Monica; (310) 998-1920. CT Nails, 7868 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 656-6189. Fred Segal Beauty, 420 Broadway, Santa Monica; (310) 451-5155.

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