Growing up, the Nguyen siblings saw how inhaling fumes from nail care products day after day in their family’s nail salon exhausted their loved ones and caused them respiratory issues.
So in July 2020, siblings Kim, Nam, Amy and Thanh Nguyen opened the Topcoat nail salon in downtown Baltimore with the goal of creating a healthier and more comfortable environment for nail technicians and customers alike.
The establishment, located at 700 E. Pratt Street, uses organic and non-toxic products while incorporating manicure and pedicure services infused with aromatherapy and CBD to enhance the salon experience.
Kim Nguyen, Topcoat’s chief marketing officer, said their parents worked in nail salons for decades. After immigrating to the United States from Vietnam, “they stuck to what they know: nails,” Kim said.
After high school, three of the four siblings – Kim, Thanh, and Nam – went to college where they earned degrees in healthcare, business, and creative marketing, respectively. Oldest sister Amy chose to continue working in the salon industry, gaining knowledge of managing day-to-day operations and focusing on client relations.
The siblings decided to combine their expertise to change the status quo of a nail care ritual and open their own salon.
Topcoat does not use acrylic, one of the most popular materials used for nail extensions. Acrylic is known to contain “the toxic trio” of chemicals – dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene and formaldehyde – which have been linked to potential increased risk for cancer.
“If a client arrives with acrylic nails, the certified nail technicians will remove the acrylic and begin a safer nail journey,” Kim said. “I want people to know we have alternatives to acrylic like Gel-X, a safer, healthier option that looks just as good.”
All products are manufactured and sourced from other companies, but Kim said Topcoat carefully scans every ingredient list to ensure each item is “10 free,” meaning it does not contain the ten most harmful chemicals: formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, formaldehyde resin, xylene, parabens, fragrances, phthalates, and animal ingredients.
In addition to the products Topcoat uses, the salon is also outfitted with a ventilation system on all manicure tables and pedicure chairs that filters outside for cleaner, clearer air quality.
Topcoat has been using lotion products from Baltimore’s own Mount Royal Soap Co. for manicure and pedicure services since the salon opened, and they plan to support other local businesses in the future.
Kim said Topcoat may come out with their own product line in the future, but for now their plan is just to “survive.”
Like many new businesses that opened during the pandemic, Topcoat has had to navigate how to build a customer base when many patrons have been cautious about coming indoors.
Nonetheless, the Nguyen siblings are grateful to be celebrating Topcoat’s two-year anniversary this year as they continue to reimagine nail care.