A Q&A with Nadine Abramcyk of tenoverten

the original purveyors of nontoxic nail care on barebeauty.com
Photo courtesy of GOOP

If you’ve been reading Bare Beauty for a while, you probably know that I lived in New York in my early twenties before Richard whisked me away to Charleston.  I still miss it, but I’m fortunate to be able to travel back often for work and to see my sister and some dear friends.  For as long as I can remember, (or at least since 2011) my first stop once I deplaned was (and is) always to tenoverten, the nail salon that puts all others to shame.  It is nontoxic, it is beautiful, it is elevated in every sense of the word.  It is the perfect way to relax and treat myself after a hectic morning, and I am able to get in and out quickly, in perfect New York fashion.

Last year, I was so excited to spend some time with Nadine Abramcyk and Adair Ilyinsky at The W.E.L.L. Summit in New York, where they led a small breakout session for those in the clean beauty biz.  They were warm, gracious and generous with information and advice.  They also provided an all-day complimentary tenoverten nail bar at the Summit – what a great way to spend a break between seminars!  tenoverten will be at the W.E.L.L. Summit again this year (November 3-4), so I did a little catch-up Q&A with Nadine to give you a glimpse into the wealth of knowledge these industry leaders share with us for two whole days!  You can get your W.E.L.L. Summit tickets here.  I will be there, and I’d love to meet you!

nontoxic nailcare on barebeauty.com

BB: I love the story of how the idea for tenoverten was born: two girlfriends on a manicure date in NYC look around, and wonder, why are these places always so awful?!  With your backgrounds in retail and finance, it is easy to see why you would both value an elevated experience – at what point did the business concept/plan also include the distinction of the nontoxic element?  Was that something you both wanted all along, or was there an aha moment along the way?

NA: We absolutely had a moment of recourse in our business plan solidifying our decision to never offer gel manicures and create the safest and least toxic nail salon environment possible without sacrificing quality. It came once we were already in construction on the first tenoverten in Tribeca. We had our business plan in place and were researching gels and polish companies to occupy our shelves.I was pregnant at the time and became personally very concerned with all of the beauty products I was using so naturally that informed our business decisions. Within the first four years of tenoverten we had 4 babies between the two of us and only got increasingly more connected to the idea of offering a safer beauty solution in the salons which was then translated into the formulation of our polishes. We didn’t start with the idea of a non-toxic salon but it grew into that concept quite rapidly and naturally for us and we believe that’s what still sets us apart from the hundreds of other salons and polish collections people can choose from today.  We are so proud to offer a safe solution to nail care. 

BB: The clean beauty movement has (thankfully) exploded since you opened your first location in 2010 (you’re pioneers!).  While that is obviously great for business, it must also present some challenges in product development, scaling the business, and/or emerging competition in your field.  How have you handled these “good problems”?

NA: I think the clean beauty space is so challenging because of the lack of legislation around how we speak about products and services to consumers. People are confused as to what they are getting and large companies are getting away with saying things that can be quite misleading on their packaging. For us we work very hard to create a safe nail polish formula but it certainly isn’t natural and we have never called it natural. In polish speak we refer to our polish as 8-free, meaning we have stripped 8 possibly harmful chemicals from the products. We also dive deep into any replacements to consider if they could be potentially harmful to those who use our polish. It’s misleading when a company calls themselves 9 or 10 free and includes cruelty free or vegan as one of those seeing as they aren’t ingredients. But then again there is no law saying companies cannot make up their own parameters. Our hope is that cosmetic safety laws are passed soon in the US and we are so thrilled to see the clean beauty movement grow in support of these laws and in support of one another.

BB: And, what about the not-so-good problems?  Which challenges have taught you the most as business owners?

NA: The most difficult part of our jobs is being a good manager to the 180+ employees in our company. We feel so challenged as the company grows to maintain the company culture that we set forth from day 1, offering a secure job with structure and opportunity for growth for all of our employees. We’re certain it is a problem ever entrepreneur faces as they see their company grow and thankfully we are able to impart our philosophy onto our general managers but it still seems overwhelming at times. We’re still learning to delegate. And our second biggest problem is that we have so many product ideas but cannot get our product to market fast enough.

BB: Finally, you are both working mothers.  By now, most of us know that “balance” is a myth, but how do you make time for everything and everyone?  How and when do you carve out time for yourselves?

NA: I think being a working mom just prepares you to be the ultimate multi taker in life, you are left with no choice. It’s difficult sometimes because you can’t do it all but I’ve learnt the hard way that putting family first always pays off in the end. Not to say that work and friends are unimportant but ultimately if everything is good at home with my immediate family then everything else seems to benefit from it. Also everyone in my household benefits from me making time to exercise, so I make the time unabashedly 4-5 times a week to go work out my body and mind. When I’m able to I indulge in a bath and I am obsessed with trying new clean beauty products which feels very luxurious to me and only takes a few minutes here and there so it’s a nice way to start and/or end the day.

Thank you to Nadine and Adair for not only being pioneers in the clean beauty movement, but for taking the time and sharing the knowledge.  Can’t wait to see you in November!

nontoxic nailcare on barebeauty.com

By the way, tenoverten’s remover and cleanser wipes are THE BEST I’ve ever tried, and I’ve tried every brand.  Check them out on my Instagram Stories today!