Temperatures may be warming up, but Deborah Lippmann, celebrity manicurist to some of the most successful names in Hollywood and fashion, is all about the holidays. When we spoke this past April, she was finishing up holiday gift sets and inking collaborations with big fashion brands for the gift-giving season.
Insistent she is not a celebrity, we challenge that notion, as she was the first to be on the “it” list to get starlets red-carpet-ready. This nail polish maven has created an exciting brand of her own with a full line of polishes named after the jazz songs she loves, which is perfect for this songbird who calls singing her first love.
“I’ve been blessed to have developed this company organically and naturally. We don’t pay for endorsements, and I attribute our success to the fact that I work with great people,” says Lippmann.
“Doing nails is such an intimate job because you are literally holding hands with your clients.”
From traveling to Paris on a private plane with Mariah Carey to polishing “the three hands” of Oprah on the most recent Hollywood cover of Vanity Fair magazine, there are no names bigger than those of her clients. And she has plenty of stories, too.
Recently, she was asked to manicure the hands of a sleeping client, who was in a room with blackout curtains. And she once got a call at midnight from Beyoncé for a manicure while she had some down time during a recording session.
So what put her name on the speed dial of every top stylist, photographer, and publicist in the industry? Well, first, if you’ve spent time with her, you know she is positively lovely and, even more important, the calm within the storm. Lippmann says that it’s all about her clients, and she doesn’t end the hand massage until she feels the client’s breathing has shifted to a more peaceful pace.
“Every time I step into someone’s room or a green room, I take my role extremely seriously. I feel like I heal with my hands and heal with my voice. I always read the room to mirror the energy of what is happening, and I never start a conversation with my client. They may need quiet. I give the client the space to talk or not talk. I’m there to make their day and their experience better,” says Lippmann, who has trained her team to understand this as well.
“My ultimate desire is to make my clients look and feel their best. My brand does not supersede their brand,”
Lippmann takes her manicures to the most elite level. “When we are selecting a color I like to get into the room where it all happens, look at the dress, and get an understanding of the direction of hair and makeup, and then I consult with hair and makeup, the stylist, or even the client to decide in which direction we will go with the color,” she says.
“First, there is the decision to go subtle and nude or to go bold, but you don’t want to see a bold color with bold hair, bold makeup, and a bold dress. It’s important to know how her nails will look with her handbag, which will probably be shot close-up on the red carpet. And for my clients up for awards, there is a lot of discussion on which color will look best with the award,” says Lippmann, who manicured Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon, Renee Zellweger, and Penelope Cruz on their award-winning nights.
“My ultimate desire is to make my clients look and feel their best. My brand does not supersede their brand,” she says.
So what is this Lippmann manicure that makes it the must-have service for the Hollywood and fashion elite? “I do a ‘waterless’ manicure,” says Lippmann. “Water expands the nail and then when you polish the nail, it’s susceptible to chipping when the nail returns to its regular state.” Lippmann uses her own line of products to prep the hands and nails of her clients with a manicure that is innovative in its no-nipping, no-soaking, no-peeling approach. Her technique softens the cuticles with specific moisturizing products she’s designed to push and then exfoliate them, but never cut them.
“It’s all about taking your time in the prep, and then you need to take your time polishing—two minutes between each coat to give the solvents time to dry,” says the polish designer, who is known to have up to five different colors on her own hands each week.
I love this one by Audrey Hepburn: “I believe in pink. I believe laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”
Nobu, Nobu, Nobu in the Metropolitan Hotel in London
MORNING OR NIGHT PERSON?
PHILOSOPHY IN LIFE:
Be kind always.
DO YOU DO YOUR OWN NAILS?
Of course, at least once a week
Hair in a low bun with either no mascara and red lips or nude lips with mascara.
BEST ADVICE FOR CLIENTS:
Don’t shower and wash your hair immediately after your manicure. No, no, no.
SOMETHING YOU SHARE IN COMMON WITH YOUR CLIENTS?
I struggle to pick a color, too.
Clearly she lives and loves her brand, which is sold in Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Sephora, Barneys, and nail spas at Miraval. Her business partners are her husband and brother, and in the end they lead their business with a nod to how Lippmann serves her clients: with great calm, gratitude, and taking time to hold hands to take a moment to acknowledge “God in the heavens for His plan that I could have never planned for us,” she says.