Pampering in the city: Best nail salons, some cause-worthy (GMA News Online)

The Nail Lounge Manila

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last November 30, 2013)

A common way to de-stress is to go to the spa. But instead of getting a massage, I prefer to head to a nail spa where I can indulge my hands and feet—after all, these are two of my most used body parts.

Treating myself to a decent mani-pedi while relishing some alone time is the best way for me to indulge and instantly feel relaxed and presentable. There are quite a number of nail salons in the metro; however, here are my top picks on where to get the ultimate nail pampering experience.

The Nail Lounge Manila

“We wanted to have a shop that visually men won’t find intimidating,” said Francis Chiu, a co-owner along with Ralph Jason Cobiaco. “I wanted to make sure that it reflects the aesthetic that me (sic) and my partner have.”

Chiu is in charge of the establishment’s day-to-day operations. Both were in their 30s when they conceptualized The Nail Lounge, their first business venture.

At the center of the room was a common table where guests could hang out. Some people go there both to get treatments and to work, as the place has a pretty fast Wi-Fi. Chiu mentioned that they boosted the Wi-Fi since he brings his laptop there to work as well.

I made my way to one of the plush black leather seats and availed of the Ultra-Luxe treatment, which includes spa manicure, spa pedicure, and hand and foot paraffin. I got lost in my own little world as soon as they offered me a refreshing beverage and a white fluffy blanket, which elevated my nail spa experience.

According to Chiu, “We really spend on things that we know the customers would appreciate—the finer details in the comfort level, equipment that we use, focus on cleanliness, overall service. That’s the core competency that we have for the nail salon.”

Two nail technicians catered to me and both were very meticulous in cleaning my fingernails, scrubbing my feet, what have you. It took a while for me to decide on the color of my nails, as they offered a plethora of nail brands. The classic line featured Seche; the premium line included Orly, O.P.I., and L’Oréal; while the luxe line has Butter London and Lancôme. I finally settled on getting the gel polish to see what the hype was all about.

“For the women, we wanted to make sure that we have a good variety of nail polish brands, but we also wanted to focus on the good ones,” shared Chiu.

At some point, I dozed off and didn’t notice that two hours passed by already. I vowed that I would come back and avail of the other services such as nail art, waxing, threading, and make-up, among others.

The spacious establishment also accommodates sparties, which is big enough for 21, depending on the event. The Nail Lounge offers different options and is also flexible enough to customize a package for you.

The Nail Lounge Manila is located at 3/F Makati Golf Club, Malugay St., Bel-Air, Makati City; telephone number: (02) 869-8521; mobile number: (0915) 805-3696;; email: [email protected].

Manos Nail Lounge

“We really emphasize that we’re Filipino. If you notice the design it’s modern Filipino, kind of reminds you of home. I think what we really wanted to build at the start (was) not just a nail salon that offered premium services, (but) one that really sort of connected to social work,” shared Felice Caringal, a co-owner along with Carissa Mangubat and Ynez Alcid.

The three ladies, all 20-something, were high school classmates who decided to go into their first business venture together.

“Manos means hands in Spanish. The main idea behind it is honoring the hands of the Filipinos, whether it’s the hands of our nail technicians, hands the people who built this place, and hands of the social enterprises that we work with,” according to Caringal. “[The] different stuff we have here, we source locally—the scrubs, for example, are organic and are made by a local social enterprise that helps empower women.”

The pillows were made in Gawad Kalinga Payatas, the chairs were from Pampanga, and the abaca blinds from Marinduque.

I gladly took a seat in one of the native long-back chairs and availed of the Spa Treatment that has the classic mani-pedi, plus extended massage. The nail technician let me choose from the four different scent selections and I got the one with the awakening combination of eucalyptus, peppermint, and barako coffee.

These two were the most precise nail technicians I ever encountered. I liked how they expertly trimmed my nails and colored them with the vegan nail polish brand, Zoya. Manos has other nail polish brands such as O.P.I., Essie, Channel, and Butter, and customers who visit this December will be happy to know that part of the proceeds go to Mano Amiga, a local school which the three young entrepreneurs support. They plan to help raise funds for the scholars of the institution.

Manos also showcases some social enterprises like Human Nature and Theo & Philo. “We try to be an outlet also for social enterprises—for their products to reach the market,” said Caringal.

Aside from the social aspect, what makes Manos stand out is its beverage selection, which includes cocktails and beers—perfect for the men who accompany their partners to an appointment. The impressive list of drinks could also be served during sparties. The venue can accommodate 11 people at the same time.

Besides the usual mani-pedi, Manos also offers other services like paraffin, nail art, massage, and hair removal.

Manos Nail Lounge is located at Unit 2-I Crescent Park Residences, 30th St. corner 2nd Ave., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig; telephone number: (02) 478-4057; mobile number (0917) 315-6627; website:

St. Nails Nail Spa

My other nail salon discovery is situated at a surprising location—a gas station. I was amused to find one in the heart of the metro, but I never guessed I would be in for a surprise.

My eyes wandered around the area and its elegant interiors—from the onyx stone counter, to the wooden wall panels, the black-and-white Machuca floor tiles, and the plush purple seats. Indeed, this seems like a nice place to feel pampered.

As I sank down one of the customized seats, one of the staff offered me a warm herbal pillow to put on my neck and a drink to go along with it, while they prepared for my selected treatment called Pamper Me Now, which involves the usual mani-pedi, plus hand and foot spa.

I appreciated the service more when I heard that a portion of the sales goes to the establishment’s partner community, Gawad Kalinga (GK) Silver Heights. St. Nails helps the organization build homes and employ GK residents so they would have a sustainable income.

Those who want to get their nails done—for a cause—should visit St. Nails, which carries an array of polishes like Sally Hansen, Orly, O.P.I., Misa, and Butter London. It offers paraffin, waxing, and sparty packages, too. St. Nails gives the client the liberty of decorating the space for sparties, which could comfortably accommodate around seven at a time.

St. Nails is located at G/F NFB Building (Petron Gas Station), EDSA corner Arnaiz Avenue, Brgy. Dasmariñas Village, Makati City; telephone number: (02) 586-0985; mobile number (0917) 86-NAILS (62457). 

Beyond skin deep (

(This article was published in last April 20, 2011)

Aivee Aguilar-Teo, medical doctor, dermatologist, fashionista

At first glance, stylish and svelte Dr. Aivee Aguilar-Teo seems more like a fashionista than a doctor. Although she holds a medical degree and a license in dermatology, she is not the typical M.D., as she never wears that long white coat that doctors normally don on. Instead, she wears a chic outfit, a pair of high heels, and complements her look with classy accessories. Her casual and charming demeanor, as well as her innovative skin services, attracts A-list clients to her main clinic at The Fort. This in-demand dermatologist shuttles back and forth her clinics in Manila and Singapore almost every week, but still manages to balance her time between her work and her family.

Dr. Aivee Aguilar-Teo comes from a prominent political clan and yet she stepped into the medical field instead of the political arena. Her father was the one who encouraged her to take up medicine, and she eventually learned to enjoy it as well. At the start, she thought of specializing in internal medicine and hoped to become an endocrinologist someday, but her plans changed when she did a rotation in dermatology during her fourth year in medical school and she discovered that that particular field appealed to her. It also helped that there were a lot of advances in dermatology during that time, which generated a lot of interest in aesthetic and cosmetic dermatology. “Dermatology is very interesting because it’s an evolving field,” says Dr. Aivee Aguilar-Teo. “It fits my lifestyle and it’s a very creative field. It’s like you’re an artist.” She mentions the concept of facial contouring as she clarifies that metaphor.

A doctor, a wife, and a mother

Her enthusiasm is contagious as she talks about dermatology with such fervor. She shares, “This specialty fits my personality more. I feel like it’s me.” Aside from her love for it, she is also very passionate about her family. According to the doctor, “My life revolves around my work and my family.”

She is usually in Manila during weekdays to attend to her job as a full-time dermatologist, while she flies to Singapore almost every weekend to spend time with her family.

Her husband, Z Teo, is a cosmetic surgeon who is based in Singapore, which explains the frequent trips to the Lion City. They have a three-year-old son who enjoys exploring Singapore, too. During weekends, they devote time to do some family bonding. Watching movies and going to the zoo are just a couple of activities they are fond of doing.

Dr. Aivee Aguilar-Teo also has a clinic in Singapore, where she sees her clients during Saturdays. Despite her hectic schedule, she still manages to squeeze in a date night with her husband after clinic hours. Somehow, she is able to maintain a steady lifestyle between the two Asian cities. The doctor believes that, “Being successful is not just being successful in one particular field. To be successful, you have to have a balance in everything.” Her secret: compartmentalize. She says, “Weekdays are for my work, but weekends are for my family.”

<Read the rest of the article HERE>

Soft Focus (Metro Magazine)

One of the most directional fashion ingenues, Yvonne Quisumbing resurfaces after a long hiatus in fashion. In a Metro exclusive, she premiers hew new stellar collection of evening wear, showing off a rediscovered sense of refinement and subdued aesthetic.

(Read my write-up about Yvonne in the May issue of Metro–available in newsstands.)

The Skinny on Beauty (Spark Magazine)

Celebrities have it done and so do ordinary people.
But how many openly admit to doing so?

It’s simple. The beauty industry is one that racks in billions of dollars each year for the simple reason that as humans, we would like to think that we have some kind of access to the elixir of youth. We would like to believe that our bodies are still able to burn the same amount of fat it used to. Just the same, we would like to think that just as when we were in our younger years, we are free from having to worry about cellulite.

Weight gain has been a sign of ageing. As the years pass, we discover that our metabolism slows, causing us to wake up one morning to the horrific sight of cellulite and fat deposits. And once we experience this rude awakening, we often find ourselves resorting to an array of treatments–creams, oral tablets, simple procedures an even complex surgeries–to keep time from ticking. Truth is, as humans who easily succumb to vanity, we would do just about anything to look or even remotely resemble the models we see in magazines. And since Photoshop technology only serves you well on print, we often find that we need to actually break into a sweat to stay slim. Either that, or, you can also look into new innovative treatment options.

One such option is lipotomy. Not quite liposuction, as you had probably thought at first, but close. The etymology of lipotomy comes from the Greek word, “lipos,” which means fat; and the suffix “tomy,” which refers to rupture. This procedure involves the exertion of pressure to the tissue that causes the cellular membrane to sever. The major difference from liposuction is that is is non-invasive and it does not require any surgery.

Read more in the Jan-Feb 2011 issue of Spark Magazine–available in major bookstores.

Skitzo: A Place to Play Dress Up (

(Here’s an excerpt of my article that was published in last October 19, 2010)

Gone are the days when witches and devils with pitchforks were a dime a dozen during the 31st of October. Now it is more common to see celebrity look-alikes and other recognizable icons during Halloween. Ever dream of becoming a Disney princess for a day? How about putting on an outfit like that of a pirate from the Caribbean? Wish to become Harry Potter or dare to wear a Darth Vader disguise? If you want to turn into a celebrity for a day, or simply play dress up, then head on to Skitzo.

Located at the heart of The Collective in Malugay, Skitzo offers a lot of options for people to decide whoever they want to be. Even before I entered the retail shop, I saw a couple of interesting costumes in the display window that piqued my curiosity. It definitely made me want to go inside and check out their merchandise some more, as Halloween is just around the corner after all.

Surprisingly, the small space is filled with knick-knacks that you could never have imagined existed. I first headed to the counter where I spied some funky shades, masks, wigs, and feather boas of all shapes and sizes. I picked up a pair of pink shades and try it on for size. The person behind the cash register tells me that their sunglasses are one of their bestsellers. At only P245 a pair, I would expect so since it’s an affordable way to spice up any outfit or add more color to a plain costume.


Sunblock for the rainy season (

(This product review, which was co-written with Ana Santos, was published in the Tester section of last July 20, 2010)

Nivea Sun Invisible Protection Spray

Product Category:
sunscreen spray

Php510 for a 150mL bottle

Available at:
Watsons nationwide

Nikka Sarthou with Ana Santos

Just because it’s overcast outside it doesn’t mean that you can leave the house without any sun protection. Although the sun may not be shining in its full force, some of its UV rays can still pass through and cause harm to your skin. Even during cloudy days, it is still possible to be exposed to the sun’s UV rays since the clouds can only filter so much.
Nivea Sun Invisible Protection Spray

The sunburn that it could cause may not be as apparent as the one during summertime, but constant exposure to the sun may eventually lead to skin cancer, which is why it is important to apply sunscreen all the time.

I’m a big fan of sunscreen but what gets to me is that it leaves that greasy feeling and that mild scent of coconut, which I don’t mind at all when I’m at the beach. But here in the metro, I prefer something light and unnoticeable. Then I discovered Nivea Sun Invisible Protection Spray.

This sunscreen in a bottle is different from the usual sunblock products that I’ve tried. First of all, it comes in a spray bottle, which makes its application easier. I don’t have to depend on someone else to spread some sunblock on those hard to reach places like my back area. I can simply spray it on myself as I please. The bottle doesn’t even have to be on an upright position when I use it. I can turn it upside down and spray it at any angle I want and it can still do its job.

The other thing that I really like about it is that it is “invisible.” It doesn’t leave white residue like other sunblock products do, but it is not entirely invisible. You can see the spray product on your skin as you use it, but it gets absorbed easily, which is what makes it “invisible.” Its clear formula makes it very convenient for everyday use. I can apply some before I leave the house and nobody will notice that I’m wearing sunblock. No embarrassing white marks or noticeable sunblock scent.

Since its texture is clear and ultra-light, it doesn’t leave that sticky and greasy feeling on my skin. This is one of the things that I love about it because it doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable, especially during those very humid days when I would sweat like a pig. I mean, it’s one thing when you’re at the beach and you can simply head to the water to cool off, but it’s different when you’re in the city.

This new formula from Nivea makes the sunscreen quick to absorb, which can immediately protect your skin upon application. No need to wait for a few minutes before heading out. Other sunscreen products require around twenty minutes or so before it can take effect. But this particular brand of sunscreen gives you immediate protection so you can head out as soon as you want to and let you enjoy your day right away.

Nivea Sun Invisible Protection Spray is definitely a cut above the rest among other sunscreen products. My only reservation about it is that it comes in a big bottle, which doesn’t make it handy to bring along with you wherever you go. It would be nice if it came in a smaller bottle that can easily fit in any bag, and make it possible for you to reapply it as often as needed.

Bayo and Johnson’s Soft Look Collection (

(This article was published in, April 2010)

What happens when you combine beauty, fashion, and shopping – the three main passions of most women? You get a collaboration between the local leaders of the beauty and fashion industry. Last April 20, Johnson’s Body Care and Bayo hosted a fashion show in Encore that showcased their “Soft Look Collection,” a limited edition summertime fashion line.

A night of pure fashion

Prior to the show, Sarah Meier came out to say a little something about the collaborative efforts between Johnson’s Body Care and Bayo. She said that the collection would help women highlight their best asset, which is their beautiful, soft, and smooth skin. I saw with my own eyes how that would be possible, as each model walked down the runway. The designs of the clothes combined with the soft materials used – eyelet and lace – would really flaunt your skin and enhance your beauty as well.

What’s your best asset?

It all starts with beautiful skin – and that’s where the Johnson’s Body Care line comes in. Their 24-Hour Lasting Moisture Body Lotion and Wash will really keep your skin smooth and hydrated all throughout the day, enabling you to wear anything you like, in any cut or style.

Take your pick from the Soft Look Collection, featuring 17 summer-inspired pieces that include tulip skirts, short tiered dresses, light-colored corset tops, paper bag shorts, and many more. The great thing about the collection is that you can mix and match any of the pieces to suit your mood. All of the items in the line come in light colors, which are just perfect for the summer.

Visit the following Bayo branches to see the Soft Look Collection: Ayala Center Cebu, Eastwood City, Gateway Mall, Greenbelt 5, Greenhills Shopping Center, Market! Market!, Robinson’s Galleria, Shangri-la Plaza Mall, SM Mall of Asia, SM Megamall, and Trinoma.

Get freebies and special discounts up to June 15, 2010!

Buy any item from the Soft Look Collection and get:

  • A free 100ml Johnson’s Body Care Lotion
  • A 20% discount coupon for a succeeding purchase of a 200ml or 400ml Lotion or Wash at Watsons.

Buy a 200ml or 400ml Johnson’s Body Care Lotion or Wash at Watsons and get:

  • A 10% discount on any item from the Soft Look Collection

Get Ready for That Sunless Tan (

(This “Sunless Tan” article was published in March 2010)

Summer means sun, sand – and sunburn? There’s no reason to expose your skin to the harmful rays of the sun just to get a tan. You can get that golden glow right here in the metro. Check out some of the top tanning salons in the city.

Brazilian Bare

What to bring or wear: Before you head to the Brazilian Bare salon to get some serious sunless tanning, you need to purchase their tanning kit (P2,450) and take it home with you. The three-piece kit includes Before Tan Scrub, Skin Smoothie, and Self-Tanning Lotion. To get the full effect of the treatment, you need to use the scrub at home on the same day as your scheduled appointment. Then bring along the rest of the kit for your tanning application. Make sure you wear loose and dark-colored clothes on the day itself. And if you want it to look like you just came from the beach, you can bring a bikini top and wear it during the treatment to get those amazing tan lines.

Price: P800 (for whole body application only)

What to Expect: You need to set an appointment before you can get a tan in this salon. The application process takes about 1 1/2 hours, and the tan will last for five days or so.

Contact Information: Heaven on the 5th, 5th Level Rustan’s Makati City
393-3718 or 0920-4313087

Institut Clarins

What to bring or wear: It is essential to don dark colored clothes before you get the “Beautiful and Tanned without the Sun” treatment at Institut Clarins. Once you get there, they will provide you with disposable undies to make sure that yours would not get discolored.

Price: P 2,400 (includes product and application)

What to Expect: It is important to schedule this treatment beforehand. The whole procedure will take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, and the natural-looking tan will last for about a week or so. If you want to extend your tan, you can purchase one of their moisturizers and bring it home with you.

Contact Information: 5th Level Rustan’s Department Store, Ayala Avenue, Makati City
817-8414 or 813-3739 local 271


What to bring or wear: There are some dos and don’ts prior to the treatment. Do wear loose dark colored clothes and slippers on the day of your scheduled appointment.Don’t put moisturizer and deodorant before heading to the salon. Do scrub before the treatment, but don’t shave on the day itself.

Price: P1,680 (for the tanning treatment alone) and P2,240 (includes body scrub and the tanning treatment)

What to Expect: You can still get that golden tan without actually basking under the sun with Belo’s “Quicktan,” which offers a safe alternative via airbrush tanning. The tanning procedure will require 1 1/2 hours of your time, but it will give you that golden color for three to seven days.

Contact Information: The Mega Atrium, 5th Level SM Megamall, EDSA corner Julia Vagas Ave., Mandaluyong City
470-1992 or 910-8330; 0917-5849260

(Image taken from this site.)