Top ten: Nail-art salons

When it comes to mesmerizing manicures and daring designs, these crafty spots can do it all.

0

Comments

Add +
  • Photograph: Krista Schlueter

    click here for more

    New York City skyline manicure, $150, at Delacqua Salon and Spa

    Click the image above to see a slideshow detailing all ten fingers.

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Fruit manicure, $40, at Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot Spa

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    3-D floral manicure, $100, at Nail Essence

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    Freeform floral manicure, $49, at Primp & Polish

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    Princess manicure, $40, at Pure Nail Salon

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Ombre manicure, $70 (normally $75), at Sakura

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Glitter gradation manicure, $85, at Shizuka New York Day Spa

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Snakeskin manicure, $113 (normally $150), at Spa Martier

  • Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

    Lady and the Tramp manicure, $35, at Tomahawk Salon

  • Wolfgang Lian

    Aztec manicure, $135 (normally $150), at Valley NYC

Photograph: Krista Schlueter

click here for more

New York City skyline manicure, $150, at Delacqua Salon and Spa

Click the image above to see a slideshow detailing all ten fingers.

Delacqua Salon and Spa

For highly detailed and unique nail art, it's worth the hour-long trip from midtown to this one-of-a kind spa and salon. Since 2002, owner Edward Malina and his team have been providing beauty services like haircuts ($25–$65) and color ($60–$150), waxing ($30–$100), facials ($45–$150) and massages ($70–$110), but the nail art is what makes this spot stand out. The tri-level space has a colorful haremlike feel with red leather pedicure stations and leopard-print chairs. Sip gratis tea or coffee while one of the seven manicurists on hand (we recommend Nina Levata, who has been doing nails for seven years) prepares the nonacrylic LCN resin that she will apply to your natural nail bed. What starts as a honeylike liquid sets under a heat lamp for just a few minutes to become hard, nonporous nails ($80 for LCN natural nail lengths, $100 for LCN tips). Once the canvas has been created, the technician will apply 3-D effects like gel flowers and crystals ($10 per nail), or hand-paint anything from abstract prints to amazingly lifelike renditions of iconic New York City sites ($5–$10 per nail) using skinny brushes and special LCN gel nail polish. The salon can also apply any nail art onto a basic manicure ($15). If you do decide to go the LCN route, plan on returning to the salon: Although it's recommended that you come back in three weeks for a refill ($55–$65), you'll eventually need to soak everything off ($20) to remove it safely. • (718-266-1233, delacquasalon.com)—Elizabeth Denton

  1. 2027 86th St between 20th and 21st Aves, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot Spa

A 20-year veteran of the nail business, Jin Soon Choi runs a trio of posh, full-service parlors in Manhattan, all of which offer nail art. With white brick walls, minimalist decor and just four manicure stations, the serene Upper East Side location feels like an appropriately reverential setting for the meticulous work done by the technicians, each of whom Choi trains herself. The specialists here can embellish digits via Sally Hansen Nail Effects decals (full set $20) and rhinestones ($1--$7 per nail), as well as hand-painted designs that employ shades from heavy hitters like Zoya, Essie, CND and Kiss Brush ($1--$10 per nail). Sabina Thapa and Lakey Sherpa, both based at the UES location, can tackle a bevy of seasonally appropriate fruit, including strawberries, papaya, watermelon, kiwi and oranges (all ten fingers $40, plus cost of manicure, $18--$35). After applying a clear base coat, the specialists use thin brushes and the narrow end of an angled metal tool to create the vibrant bounty; a glossy topcoat ensures the detailed look stays fresh. • 421 E 73rd St between First and York Aves (212-249-9144) • 23 Jones St between Bleecker and W 4th Sts (212-229-1070) • 56 E 4th St between Bowery and Second Ave (212-473-2047) • jinsoon.com—Sarah Bruning

  1. Locations throughout the city

Nail Essence

Flourish your nails with pretty adornments at this spacious salon, opened in 2003 by Dao Dinh. Her daughter, Kieu Bui (who splits her time doing nail art here and at her sister's salon, Primp & Polish, around the block), is the resident expert of Nail Essence's most unique offering: 3-D nail art (starting at $8 per nail). Bui specializes in creating delicate-looking flowers formed using acrylic powder, and pairs them with stunning, detailed hand-painted designs. The process for 3-D nail art can take nearly two hours to complete, but the results last up to three weeks, thanks to its sturdy Gelish, CND or OPI gel-polish base (keep in mind that you'll have to come back to soak the gel off in acetone for $7). For a unique twist on a traditional manicure, opt for a full set of permanent French tips embedded with crushed and dyed crystalline seashells ($70) or glitter ($60); the tips are set in acrylic powder and need to be refilled after three weeks ($23--$35). If you're looking for something more low maintenance, Nail Essence also offers embellishments by the nail, allowing you to have dainty real dried flowers ($6 per flower) or blingy Swarovski rhinestones ($5 per nail) stuck on your digits. Walk-ins are accepted for all services except 3-D nail art, and your best bet for no wait is on Mondays through Wednesdays, when the salon is least busy. • (718-218-9772)—Kristina Rodulfo

  1. 586 Grand St between Leonard and Lorimer Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Primp & Polish

Don't be intimidated by the high-end vibe of this Williamsburg salon: Despite the stone floors, more than 400 polish colors from brands like Essie, OPI and Chanel, and plush leather drying stations, its basic nail services cost about the same as your run-of-the-mill neighborhood salon. Settle in at the high, illuminated counter for a manicure ($12), or opt for a pedicure ($25) in the leather-massage-chair-laden section hidden behind string curtains. When it comes to snazzy nail effects, Primp & Polish does it all, and you can stop in without an appointment for services including stickerlike Minx styles ($7 per nail) and 3-D nail art ($4--$10 per nail). But for a hand-painted creation by head manicurist Kieu Bui, you'll need to call ahead and book and appointment. Bui, whose sister Lauren manages the salon, has been honing her craft since she was a teen, and her steady hand will paint anything from delicate flowers to abstract patterns onto your digits (from $4 per finger). The salon recommends that you get a gel-polish manicure (an additional $15--$20, depending on the brand of polish) to ensure that your design will last for up to three weeks, but you can also stick with regular polish if you want to skip the $5 fee for soaking the gel off later. • (718-599-1949, primpandpolish.com)—Laura Lanz-Frolio

  1. 189 Grand St between Bedford and Driggs Aves, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Pure Nail Salon

Though this minimalist salon has been a Clinton Hill staple for seven years, Calgel manicures ($30) are a recent addition to the lineup of services, which includes basic manicures ($6) and pedicures ($13). Owner Jessie Lean and her team of seven friendly technicians will have your name memorized before you leave, but the staff's cheerful disposition isn't the only draw: The Calgel-based nail art, which includes glitter gradations ($40) and embellishments such as rhinestones and tiny fruit decals ($2 per nail), features some of the most understated—and affordable—options we've encountered, making this spot perfect for nail-art newbies. For those who are slightly more advanced, Pure also offers Minx prepatterned manicures for just $50. • (718-638-6394)—Kristen Valaika

  1. 927 Fulton St between Clinton and Waverly Aves, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Sakura

This Japanese chain (with branches on the Upper East Side, Lower East Side and in Tokyo and Shanghai) is so sleek that a couple once walked in, took a seat at the cushion-adorned tables and asked to see a food menu. But the only thing the spa is serving is nail art—and tons of it. Start with a basic manicure using solid-hued Calgel ($40) or regular lacquer ($12), and add on glitter ($3 per nail, $15 for gradation), free-form painted designs ($5–$20 per nail), rhinestones (50–$10 per gem), sticker decals ($3 each) and, if you're at the UES location, 3-D art ($5–$10 per nail). The well-trained technicians can do just about anything from leopard spots (regular polish $42, Calgel $70) to ombr styles ($70, Calgel only), though you can also opt for prepatterned Minx adhesives ($7–$10 per nail). Get inspiration by flipping through Japanese nail-art magazines (just one of the supplies imported from Japan every month) while sipping complimentary tea. • 35 E 1st St between First and Second Aves (212-387-9161) • 1709 Second Ave between 88th and 89th Sts (212-722-1334) • nailspasakura.com.—Lauren Levinson

  1. Locations throughout the city

Shizuka New York Day Spa

On the sixth floor of what looks like an ordinary midtown office building lies Shizuka, a serene space where manicurist Satomi Teraoka creates Japanese nail art as understated or outrageous as you desire. After being greeted with a cup of green tea, manicure devotees are presented with a case of faux nails showcasing the sun-filled salon's most popular designs, including Teraoka's signature "glitter waterfall" ($85). To create this effect, clear, light pink and glittery Presto gels are layered on the nails and dried under a LED light for 20 seconds after each application. Teraoka completes the mani with a few crystals and a glossy top coat. While gel manicures—which last about two weeks and cost $20 to get removed—are the salon's specialty, they don't skimp on other forms of nail art. Flowers, leopard spots and original designs can be brushed on with regular polish ($5--$10 per nail), and if you have a thing for bling, the ladies at Shizuka will completely cover your nails with crystals to create their Disco-ball manicure ($150). • (212-644-7400, shizukany.com)—Leah Faye Cooper

  1. 7 W 51st St, sixth floor, (between Fifth and Sixth Aves)
More info

Spa Martier

This subterranean spa hidden in the basement of a posh women's boutique is perhaps the city's best-kept nail-art secret: Co-owner Yukie Natori oversees a staff of three nail artists who have all trained at her Empire New York Nail School of Tokyo (ny-beauty.com), and who can execute anything from a simple application of OPI's crackle-inducing Shatter lacquer ($35) to crazy complex manicures encrusted with dozens of genuine jewels and precious stones ($80). Though the spa offers heat-adhered Minx patterns ($60), the technicians largely work with Bio Sculpture Gel, a soak-off brand that has more than 170 high-gloss colors to choose from. The viscous gel is most commonly used for chip-resistant, long-lasting manicures ($40), but also to create intricate free-form painted designs (from $5 per finger) and 3-D nail art (from $5 per finger) that ranges from petite doughnuts to full-blown teddy bears noshing on carrots. But the wildest offering is by far the snakeskin manicure ($150 or $20 per nail), during which thin sheets of naturally shedded (and sanitized!) python skin are cut to fit your nail beds, placed on top of two coats of the gel-polish color of your choice and sealed with several clear topcoats. The fashionable treatment takes up to two hours to complete and lasts for roughly two weeks (up to 4 as a pedicure, $170) though you'll need to return to have it soaked off in acetone ($20). • (646-781-9758, spamartierny.com)—Cristina Velocci

  1. 1014 Second Ave between 53rd and 54th Sts

Tomahawk Salon

If you start looking at nail artist Fleury Rose's Tumblr site (fleuryrosenails.tumblr.com), chances are you'll still be scrolling half an hour later—such is her dizzying range of original designs. Rose was obsessed with nails as a kid, studied at art school and then moved to Bushwick, where she now works by appointment only at Tomahawk Salon. The space also offers hair styling ($35–$65) and coloring ($60–$190) by Kristin Jackson, who styled the wigs for Katy Perry's "California Gurls" video, and the salon is styled like a punked-up Western saloon—perfect for Rose's off-the-wall approach. Rose has her own nail station, where you can choose from vibrant polishes by American Apparel, Essie and Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics. After applying a regular manicure, Rose paints on her free-form designs in acrylic paint ($30–$75). She loves a challenge, so you can ask for anything you want; recent creations include Lichtenstein-inspired nails, A Tribe Called Quest album covers, and, for one potty-minded gentleman, "bums and pee-pees." • (646-399-6873, tomahawksalon.com)—Sophie Harris

  1. 10 Porter Ave , (at Thames St)
More info

Valley NYC

Sisters Nina and Julia Werman opened this Cali-inspired nail-salon-cum-waxing-studio to offer a quaint, laid-back space in which to get primped and pampered. Get fuzz-free with the salon's buzzed-about hard-wax services ($15–$170) or choose a basic (but luxe) mani ($22) and pedi ($34) that both include an exfoliating salt scrub and moisturizing massage. But the real draw here is the extensive selection of elaborate nail creations. Since opening in 2006, the salon has become known for its edgy art, attracting celeb clients (Katy Perry) and well-known designers (Betsey Johnson) for its fashion-forward creations. Beyond the typical offerings of glitter, flowers and rhinestones, the skilled technicians can create 3-D acrylic embellishments ($5–$20 per nail), piercings ($7 per nail, which includes a reusable charm) and pretty much any custom design you can imagine ($3–$20 per nail). The process starts with a suggested Gelish gel manicure ($35), in which the rubbery polish color of your choice (there are 80 hues) is applied and quickly cured under an LED light. The resilient lacquer dries instantly and promises to last chip-free for up to three weeks. Next, one of the four nail artists will use tiny brushes, acrylic paints, crystals, gems and more to coat your digits. Be warned: The more complex the art, the longer the process. An of-the-moment Aztec pattern ($115) takes a patience-testing three hours, and requires you to return to soak off the gel ($10). • (212-274-8985, valleynyc.com)—Rachel LeWinter

  1. 198 Elizabeth St, (between Prince and Spring Sts)
More info

Users say

5 comments
Jin H
Jin H

Ah. so that's the best nail salons in New York! I would love to try them once but my budget won't allow me now. I'm based in Hongkong. For manicure, spa in hong kong, I go to Flawless HK.
http://www.flawless.hk.com/. You guys should try their service when you go here.

Jennifer
Jennifer

If these salons aren't in your area companies like Nailed Cosmetics offer English/Vietnamese how to kits for Glitter Acrylic Nails at any nail salon. They're cheap too.