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Paloma's new, zen location is upstairs at Heights Mercantile.

Maryam Naderi was in her early 20s when she realized how transformative a good manicure is. “It was an instant way to feel better,” she says. “You always just feel so clean and put together after a fresh mani.” Craving that feeling, she returned bi-weekly, but gradually, something shifted. “I slowly started to really hate the typical nail salon experience for a variety of reasons,” Naderi says.

She tried day spas but found them (and their price tags) too indulgent to incorporate into her routine. “I just thought, why isn’t there something in the middle?” she says. “And that’s exactly what we want to be.”

Naderi explains this from Paloma, her ultra-posh nail salon in the Heights Mercantile marketplace. The sleek, minimalist space, which opened last month, is Naderi’s second–her first salon in Post Oak debuted in late 2016.

In fact, the Post Oak Paloma had only been open about six months when Heights Mercantile developer Radom Capital approached Naderi about expanding to the now-bustling urban market in the heart of the Heights. Searching for a nail salon to complement the project’s modern aesthetic, Radom talked Naderi into expediting Paloma’s growth, she says.

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As was Naderi’s hope, Paloma is an obvious departure from the standard nail salon experience most are used to. You’ll find no chemical fumes, watered down polishes, or questionable tools here, for Paloma is Houston’s first non-toxic nail salon. That means a strict policy against any products containing chemicals like formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, or camphor—banned in Europe and Australia but commonly used in salons here—and a noticeable focus on wellness. The result is a clean, luxurious experience that Naderi says resonates with the health-oriented clientele that frequents Heights Mercantile (and Paloma’s neighbor, fitness studio Define).

“They’re really interested in clean beauty,” she says. “People in the Heights definitely care about the products they’re using. … Under no circumstance will you come in here and experience sub-par products that use cheap ingredients and are therefore cheap and mass-produced.”

Rather, Naderi makes a conscious effort to partner only with companies she believes in. She’s also big on education, ensuring everyone on her team can tell a client exactly what “non-toxic” means and explain that certain chemicals have been linked to major health concerns. 

Beyond chemical-based products, Naderi has also eschewed other standard elements of traditional nail salons. In her zen, 1,410-square-foot space, you’ll find no clunky massage chairs attached to jet tubs, which can see bacteria buildup inside; rather, foot basins are placed beneath each of the seven chic, blue pedicure chairs you might find in a fine midcentury modern home. A long, white table holds six designated manicure stations, a decision borne from increased demand for the four stations at the Post Oak Paloma.

The salon uses organic, long-lasting polish from brands like Deborah Lippmann, Chanel, Lauren B, SpaRitual, and CND Vinylux, stocking a perennial lineup of classic colors and rotating trendier hues by season. Paloma does offer Shellac, but cures the formula with a non-damaging LED light in place of the typical UV. 

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To further walk the line between spa and salon, Paloma has added facial and waxing services to the menu at its Heights location. Facials range from a 30-minute, $50 “Instant Glow” to a more in-depth, splurge-worthy 70-minute “Divine Intervention.” Hair removal treatments, introduced just in time for summer, use hypoallergenic, non-scented wax and pre- and post-wax oils to minimize discomfort and irritation. There’s also brow and upper lip threading.

Unlike a day spa, though, Paloma takes walk-ins, though appointments (which can be booked online) are recommended for busy times like weekends. 

For Naderi, who lacks a professional beauty background and instead approached the entire business venture from a client perspective, it all comes back to the search for that sweet spot she first embarked on years ago.

“I definitely got to the point where I was like, I’m either gonna do this or not,” she says. “So here we are.”

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