Beauty Secrets We Learned from Mei Kawajiri

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As far as we know, there’s no such thing as effortless beauty. From facial treatments that leave your complexion dewy and luminous to the perfect winged eyeliner, experts reveal their most-trusted, insider hacks for CR’s series, Beauty Secrets.

From nails adorned with giant multi-colored crystals to a manicure pierced with miniature gold hoop earrings, Mei Kawajiri’s nail designs aren’t exactly for the beauty minimalist (or the faint of heart.) As Carine’s go-to nail aficionado, she’s worked on nearly everything CR has ever touched, from Tom Ford’s runway shows, her annual star-studded Harper’s Bazaar Icons portfolio, to the cover story from CR Fashion Book Issue 13 starring Gigi Hadid and Halima Aden. Kawajiri’s avant-garde creations are emblematic of her off-beat, eccentric artistry and has found fans in both Hadids, Ariana Grande, and Kim Kardashian.

It was the latter who asked Kawajiri to recreate the nail hoop design in a silver metallic shade last year, which quickly made headlines for reviving the impractical, if not statement-making ’90s trend (Janet Jackson famously flaunted pierced nails for in the 1998 music video for Busta Rhymes‘ “What’s It Gonna Be?!“)

„I always want to do something different than other people and I’m not always just using paint,“ Karajiri tells CR. „I use different materials and try to make the nails look as dynamic as possible.“

Her inventive nails often go viral. From a red manicure pierced at the tips with gold hoops with another set of matching, dangling nails to her polarizing „boob manicure“ (complete with nipple piercings), Kawajiri isn’t afraid to experiment with her craft. More recently, she designed a manicure spelling out the word vote on none other than Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness. Here, CR caught up with the nail expert about her favorite beauty products, skincare routine, and where she draws inspiration for nail art.

Did you alway know you wanted to do nails?
I was always drawing when I was little and thought I wanted to be a tattoo artist at first, but decided I didn’t want to have a tattoo on my body. I found a nail magazine book in a book store in Japan when I was in high school and immediately decided this will be my job. I loved drawing small things and now I can show my work on other people.“

How have nail trends changed since you first started?
„It’s changing so much and every month is different. I grew up in Kyoto and every country and city has a different taste. Tokyo especially is very ahead in terms of nail culture. Big rhinestones are popular in New York and the trend used to be longer nails and now everyone is going a bit shorter.“

What are five beauty products you’ve loving right now?
Ouai Hair Oil, Olaplex Hair Perfector, Pat McGrath’s Subliminal Dark Star Palette, Shiseido Essential Energy Moisturizing Gel Cream, and purple shampoo from Japan.“

What about your go-to nail products?
„I love OPI nail polishes because they’re always consistent in quality. Jin Soon’s colors are fresh and the brush is easy-to-use. Nails Inc have very unique colors. I also use gel nails and this Japanese brand Presto has a great gel and art brush. I always use Deborah Lippmann cuticle oil.“

What do you like to do for your own nails?
„I always want to do the most crazy stuff for my own nails, so sometimes 3-D nail art and charms and then sometimes I want to do it very simply. It depends on my mood, but I want to do something to make people feel more inspired.“

How do you decide on a design for a client?
I did Ariana Grande’s purple nails because she liked the chalky color and a simple look. She always has the classic almond shape. For Gigi, she always enjoys some nail art and it really depends on the different event, so we come up with the designs together. For her birthday, we put her age and astrology sign.“

What’s one nail trend you’re loving right now?
„I love that everyone has nail art recently, even men. I also like little, tiny nail art. The one I did recently for Bella was my favorite. They were almond-shaped with short extensions, sheer pink, and only one small cherry on the pinky nail.“

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