Dashing Diva: Foot-friendly nail salons in Seoul

Updates: A) My family came out to Korea for a visit;  b) My mom, a retired school teacher, got to step into my Korean school with me and I admit, I was a bit nervous having her come. I didn’t know if she would be treated well or in the lame way I was. Fortunately, she was given a royal tour by the principal, and  c) I just made my second trip to Costco!


As a traveler trekking all around on foot, there are times you get to feeling like a bit of a rag doll Cinderella.  If you have explorer mentality, you’re on your tootsies from sunrise to midnight. Your feet probably wears serious Grrr and looks like it to! So I thought I’d treat myself to Dashing Diva Seoul.

I was in Seoul for Buddha’s Birthday last weekend, continuing my love affair with the city and with Appujeong, exploring all of it via foot. I just came out of Barbie’s clothing store (yes, really. ..) feeling a little foot worn from all my walking, when I stumbled on my foot salvation and no it was not Doctor Fish (a line which markets pedi-pampering via fish nibbling at your feet…gross)!

Walking into the Dashing Diva Nail Salon

The Dashing Diva Seoul is a hip and funky nail salon with eye-popping lively fuchsia trims and a logo reminiscent of my spoiled life in New York City. Aside from the building’s elegant, friendly and open window architectural design, there was a mural-sized ad screaming fashion PR they’re proud of (InStyle, Elle, Allure and magazines who have previewed this international chain).

Korea has a way of advertising itself like that.  Sometimes it feels like every food cart or restaurant has appeared on television and it’s almost enough to render publicity fame meaningless.  Still, if Dashing Diva was good enough for Instyle and Elle, it was good enough for me!

However, in a neighborhood like Apgujeong (the Beverly Hills of Seoul) the cost of being a diva couldn’t come cheap.  I held my breath and went in…

Inside the salon

Dashing Diva’s popular brand of nail polish assures long-lasting, non-chipping color.

The interior view of the salon did not disappoint. I felt like I was in a space-aged bubble gum Madonna video, with metallic ball curtains and white-gloved technicians.  It was trendy glam in the way celeb divas like Rihanna, Brooke Shields or Rachael Ray might like it.

Best of all, it was unpretentious and down-to-earth.

The hostess came to me with a menu of their services and attempted to explain it in her almost English.

A basic pedicure (cleaning and cuticles) cost $20, while the base manicure runs a bit higher than norm at $15.  (New York has one of the lowest standard rates you wouldn’t expect, approx $10 for manis and $20 for pedis)

The next day, I brought my friend Soo Ha along for a day of girlie bonding and pampering (neither of us are actually good at being girlie).  When we arrived, the hostess asked for our reservation… oops! She was kind enough to squeeze us in, not make a big deal of it and offered us tea.

Our technicians couldn’t speak English so Soo Ha also had to translate what we wanted. Meanwhile, a mother had brought her youngster, for a mother-little daughter spa primping (the salon offers Little Diva manicure packages, as well).

In my purple foam slippers, while my technician works away.

The Amazing Feats of Contemporary Nail Art

A young woman sitting next to us requested shiny metallic press-on nails affixed to her toes.

Until I moved to Korea, my vocabulary of nail art consisted of Lee’s magic press-on acrylic nails, glitter paint, stickers or diamond-studded nail designs.  However, Korea can take nail artwork to a fantastical level of lacking practical use. It can be taken to the level of high art, which I didn’t know.

On nails, you can have color paintings, 3D scenes and images. The art has grown to the heights of being practically sculpturesque.

My how my nail vocabulary has grown in such a short time.

At a nail artwork exhibition in Seoul

Neighboring salon displays their nail art in the window

Press-on nails with design of texting icons (totally simple but I love this design!).

How the Dashing Diva is Hip on Hygiene

What’s impressive about Dashing Diva‘s quality is their high regard for hygiene and sanitation. They use individually wrapped and autoclave tools, ceramic whirlpool bowls and your own manicure kit to assure you that no one else has used it.

In essence, everything they use on your feet is clean (although seeing as I’ve already jjimjilbanged it twice now, I don’t see how that could matter).

The one downside to Dashing Diva in Seoul?

They don’t do foot scraping. No razors.

According to our hostess, it’s not sanitary should there be any cuts. Cuuuuts?…

Point well-taken if you don’t know how to shuck a foot. But as a westerner used to standard foot scrapings in New York (and performed in the way one might shuck corn husks), as the most effective method to achieving a baby’s foot, this executed a silent, wide-eyed look to Soo Ha saying “What have I done?”.

Apparently, to pedicure  the bottoms of your feet so that they’re baby soft is the next service (aka the Divaroma package at an added $15 bump). This includes a massage and color (aka paint applied to my nails).

… Or I could have an even better package (the Spoiled Diva pedicure $50) with some heat melting service, which would supposedly reap the exact baby’s foot I wanted.

I thought a  ” pedicure” was a pedicure and fairly standard in most countries that offer them.

Alas, either my cultural ignorance serves me wrong or Dashing Diva has changes the rules, per country!

Yup, the initial $20 cost for a pedicure was too good to be true.

Although my hostess explained that my technician would try her best to give me a foot scraping (because I was really disappointed not to get one), the “try” part in her voice, didn’t ensure much confidence.

My technician scraped away. No, skin did not go flying. She pseudo-“shucked” me delicately and barely, with a protective rubber upon the razor, such that I was tempted to grab that razor and have a go at it myself out of sheer frustration.

But when she was done, she applied some massage oils, filed plenty and stuck my feet under a drier. Despite the anti-scraping, my pedicure actually turned out well I think (must have been magical oils).

It wasn’t a glass slipper, but it was 80% of a new foot!

Would I go again? Well, to pay such a high cost for an almost but not quite, next time,  I might just try the cheaper salons in Seoul.


Dashing Diva, Seoul
Tel: 02 546 6564

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18 Comments. Leave new

  • Nice article.

    Thanks for sharing this post.

  • Thanks for with these great and valuable information…….

  • […] store, to accessorize and dress like a real-life Barbie doll.  Or get mani and pedicures  at the Dashing Diva Nail Salon. Finally, just explore the area to see if you can find any Korean drama […]

  • Thank you so much for sharing this Amazing piece of information regarding to best beauty tips

  • My number one list upon going to this place? Food, then the next is relaxing on such centers like salon and spas! I am envious of you guys have the great time of your lives spending leisure time here.

    • @Leticia: The salons and spas are nice; spas, if you mean jjimjilbangs! The latter is very unique of Korea. But I was fortunate to experience the nail salon in Seoul. Normally nails aren’t my girlie regimen. =)

  • Christine

    I understand the distance one might have to travel- all the way to Daegu Magic Nails to get some work accomplished, however if you ever get the chance to get there for any work, I just know you will enjoy it. Mrs. Holmes- the owner and one of the technicians, has been there for over ten years now. Oh, she is also licensed in Chicago Ill. The best benefit is, there are no BUMP UP’S. what you see is what you get. Some would say my vote really doesn’t count, because I helped build the place during a very freezing winter month while I was there.. Hi, Im Rick, her husband.

    At that end, if you ever get a chance to get there, let me know when and I will let her know you are on your way.. she will probably roll out the red carpet for you.
    As she calls them, her girls (clients) are all to be treated as the Princess that they are and walk away with a great big smile on their faces- thus, ” Magic Nails”.

    God bless you and happy hunting…


  • Looks like nice work, but Seoul Korea is a bit more pricey- considering the BIG city thing.
    I might suggest that you pay a visit to the famous ” Magic Nails ” salon in Daegu, South Korea. It’s literally just outside of Camp Walker – I believe it’s Gate #4. Anyway, the lady who owns the place – Mrs. Holmes offers the entire package – no bump ups..

    Give it a shot…


    • @Rick: Sorry for the belated response to your comment and thanks for the recommend. With the Seoul nail salon, that was a great experience but on a realistic regular level, your salon might be more feasible if living in Daegu. I think I know where you’re talking about — I walked in to asked for directions (to a hair salon I’d heard about) and found several Army women getting their nails done there! Thanks so much!

  • I have enjoyed your writings and although you may not believe or wish to be a writer you do have excellent articulated skills of description, just having moved to Korea and Seoul at the moemnt you have brought alive the city and treasures keep it up Good work.

  • I live here in Daegu,Korea and looking for a job and I’m a license nail tech from the USA.


  • Do they do gel and acrylic nails? How much? What area in Seoul is the nail place?

  • Anitra Mccartt
    June 11, 2010 7:21 pm

    Wonderful stuff you have written up in here. Great blog!

  • Laura Cancun
    May 31, 2010 5:02 pm

    I’m jealous! I’ve never had one of those. Looks like such a fun day.

    You’re feet look so cute 🙂 and I am IN LOVE with the emoticon nails! You should have done that haha

    • @Laura Cancun: They probably hae pedicures in Cancun, right? Or maybe just manicures? Mexican women have got to be beautifying themselves somehow. Actually, that would be my Fill in the Blank to you. How mexican women pamper themselves or do themselves girly-like!

      @Nomadic Chick: Hey yeah… sometimes the feet can get pretty funky on the road, which is fine if you keep them in your shoes! But when you finally hit Thailand you and your feet will prob be in ped-gasmic heaven. I only tried one nail shop in Thailand and there was the archaic filing also. I was a bit disappointed (give me a rock & I can do the same thing) but thankfully the foot massages wiped that away.

  • Oh man – luvvved this post! Pedicures are my one indulgence. What a quirky, informative, LOL post. Good to know I can do this overseas scraping or non-scraping involved. This one made my day. 🙂


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