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The popularity and quality of nail art in Cambodia has been on the increase in recent years. Beautifully painted nails are now an important fashion accessory for Cambodian women looking to stand out from the crowd.
The growing number of professional nail salons, especially in the capital of Phnom Penh, has helped take nail art in Cambodia to a whole new level. Staff in the best nail shops staff undergo years of training to master the necessary techniques. Girls learn by decorating the rounded surfaces of bowls in aesthetics classes. The minute details of their designs are carefully practiced and improved before they can be hired.
Sun Heang - one of Cambodia best known beauticians - is the owner of Christina's Beauty School in Phnom Penh. She says a steady hand and an eye for detail are the important for a successful nail therapist, but creative flair is important too.
Sun Heang:"Customers choose the style they want depending on which occasion they are celebrating. This one for example is popular around Valentine’s Day, because it features love hearts. In hot weather glitter is the most popular because it makes your nails sparkle in the sun."
Most importantly, she says, the manicurists have to have a clear idea of the design and know how to execute it even before the first brush stroke. Sun Heang studied nail art in Thailand, Vietnam and China before returning to Cambodia to open her own beauty salon five years ago. She also owns a beauty school where she passes on her skills and knowledge to more than 300 eager students.
Nail art is especially popular among young Cambodian women attending events like weddings and birthday parties. The bigger the occasion, the more elaborate the design. But it's a time consuming process and it can take more than two hours to complete a full manicure.
Pheak Chan Vorleak is patiently waiting for her manicure. She has picked a pattern with three-dimensional white roses on a sparkling pink background. She says it is important to her that she stands out in the crowd later tonight at her birthday party.
Pheak Chan: "I came here to get my nails done because I'm hosting a big birthday party. Because I'm a Cambodian girl I have to dress up for my guests. It's very important that I have my nails looking good when I greet them."
The culture is such that intricately and carefully decorated nails translate as kudos for their owner. Because each nail must be individually painted by hand, each one is unique.
Nail art fashion changes with the season says Sun Heang, with different patterns becoming popular around major holidays. Each design last about three weeks and typically costs from about $5 dollars for a simple design to more than $45 dollars for something more elaborate.
Information for this report was provided by APTN.