Deborah Lippmann, CEO and creator of an eponymous line of nail polishes, came to the beauty business by accident. She started doing manicures after college in Phoenix, Ariz., as a way to support herself while trying to get gigs as a singer. But as she soon found out, Lippmann was a natural in the manicure business. Her clientele expanded from Phoenix socialites to include such celebrities as Cher and Martha Stewart, and she launched her line of nail colors in 1998 with the sheer silver shade ‘Satin Doll,’ created for Mariah Carey. Lippmann’s music career hasn’t fallen by the wayside, however—she still performs and released two albums of her own, most recently Vinyl in 2007.

LN: How did you get started in nails?

DL: I am a jazz singer and used to be a very bad nail biter. When I booked my first professional singing job, I picked up the microphone to sing at our dress rehearsal and the director took me aside and said that I needed a manicure immediately, as the hands are the first thing the audience will see and my nails were chewed to bits! That was when I had my first of many, many manicures. I was hooked; I absolutely loved it. It was at that moment that I truly realized the importance of beautiful hands and nails.

LN: Who are some of the celebrities you’ve worked with?

DL: Kate Winslet, Lady Gaga, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Madonna, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Britney Spears, Fergie, Marion Cotillard and Reese Witherspoon.

LN: What’s it like being a manicurist for the stars?

DL: I’ve had to give manicures on airplanes, in the back of limousines, sometimes even in the dark while someone is sleeping!

LN: What are hot nail colors now?

DL: Women are becoming less afraid of color, and summer is the perfect time to try all those bright colors. If neutral is more your speed, there are lots of ‘new neutrals’ available in grays and creamy beiges that are very of-the-moment as well.

LN: What length is in?

DL: Nail shape is returning to the 1940s almond-shaped nail. To achieve the almond nail, file away the sides to create a tapered shape—just like an almond. The idea is to have an elegant, elongated shape, not a severe point. Neutral shades of pastels and beige perfectly complement the gentle curve of the almond nail. 

LN: What are some misconceptions women have about nail care?

DL: For quite some time, women used to not pay as close attention to detail, which I like to call the grunge movement. That set beauty back a few years. They are now realizing how great it feels when their nails and feet are polished and cared for. Our feet carry the weight of our bodies—and the world. When they are buffed, cleaned and filed so that the toenails don’t rub against the top of our shoes, we feel better about everything. Our hands are constantly in our range of sight. When our nails are in tip-top shape, we feel more confident and finished.

LN: How can you get the best results in a home manicure?

DL: Start by taking nail polish remover and gently wipe off excess oil from the nail plate all along the tip. Brush on a two-second nail primer to both cleanse the nails and keep your polish on longer. Wait a few seconds for nails to dry before moving on to the next step. Apply one thin layer of a base coat with three strokes down the nail and one stroke across the tip to seal. Then take your favorite nail color and apply two thin coats with three strokes down the nail and one stroke across the tip. Make sure to wait for each coat to dry before applying the next. This will ensure that each coat dries all the way through, which will keep your polish intact longer. Finally, finish your manicure with your favorite top coat in the same three-stroke technique.

LN: How can you protect your nails from being damaged by repeated painting?

DL: Good products should not strip your nail bed. To prevent your nails from getting stained or damaged from nail lacquer, always use a base coat to protect the nail. The lacquer will adhere to the base coat instead of your nail bed. Another trick that will keep your nails and cuticles in good condition is to always use moisturizer every time you wash your hands. Make sure to rub any excess moisturizer directly into your cuticles.

LN: what’s up for you next as a singer?

DL: This past weekend I sang at supermodel Lara Stone’s wedding. I have a few other gigs in the works as well. Stay tuned! 

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