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Photograph: Courtesy PaintBox

The best nail salons in NYC

Dull, minimalistic manicures are so last year. Get your digits decked out at NYC’s most popular nail-art salons.

By Jennifer Picht and Tolly Wright

The city is chock-full of the best nail salons for nail art in the world, so there’s no excuse for your digits to go unpolished. And since your mane is always looking fierce thanks to the best blow dry bars and hair salons, your nails should be on-point too. Plenty of New York's day spas offer simple manicures, but if you’re antibasic, book an appointment at a nail art salon in NYC. We’ve mapped out the cool-girl bargain and splurgeworthy spots owned by a few trend-setting New York Fashion Week mainstays, as well as some of the most artistically talented manicurists in the world. Sure, we can appreciate a good DIY, encrusting your beds with rhinestones and gems is a job better suited for the pros, right?

RECOMMENDED: Check out the full guide to spas in NYC

Best nail salons in NYC

Photograph: Courtesy Delacqua Salon & Spa

1. Delacqua Salon

Health and beauty Beauty salons Bensonhurst

If you want highly detailed and unique nail art, this one-of-a kind spa and salon is top-notch. Enter the kitschy tri-level space, which boasts red leather pedicure stations and leopard-print chairs, and enjoy a gratis tea or coffee while one of the manicurists prepares a nonacrylic LCN resin for your beds. The liquid sets under a heat lamp for a few minutes and turns into hard nonporous nails ($80 for LCN natural nail lengths, $100 for LCN tips). Once the canvas is prepped, the technician will apply 3-D effects like gel flowers and crystals ($8 per nail) or hand-paint abstract prints ($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).

Photograph: Courtesy Guy Chan/Primp & Polish

2. Primp & Polish

Health and beauty Beauty salons Williamsburg

Don't be intimidated by the high-end vibe of this salon: Despite the luxe interior, more than 1,000 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 parlor. Settle in at the high, illuminated counter for a manicure ($12 express, $18 classic), or opt for a pedicure ($18 express, $32 classic) in the leather-massage-chair-laden section. Primp & Polish does it all, and you can stop in without an appointment for 3-D nail art (prices vary). Each of the five locations are chock-full with nail art gurus and technicians who are totally capable of producing out-of-this-world designs.

Marie Nails nail salon
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Hilda Y.

3. Marie Nails

Health and beauty Nail salons Nolita

With nearly a dozen locations in Japan and salons in Korea, Hawaii and LA, it was only natural for this stylish Japanese import to set up shop—well, two shops—in New York City. The owner, Masomi “Marie” Ueno, is one of the most celebrated nail artists in the world—she’s credited with starting the nail art trend in LA during the mid-aughts—and holds her technicians to the highest of standards. The Calgel manicures ($40 for a single color) tend to last two weeks, and the limitless nail art options ($3 per nail and up) can include additional add-ons like charms, stickers, rhinestones, shells, lace and even fur.

Photograph: Courtesy Vanity Projects

4. Vanity Projects

Health and beauty Beauty salons Lower East Side

Art curator and licensed nail technician Rita de Alencar Pinto spent years doing intricate nail art at events such as Brooklyn Museum’s Artists Ball 2013 and during a residency at MoMA PS1, which is why her salon is a gallerylike space featuring four manicure stations, two pedicure chairs and video-art installations projected on the walls. Grab a pair of wireless headphones for listening to the videos, and sit back and enjoy a gel manicure, either in one color or one of the fun, weekly gel manicure specials ($40), basic pedicures ($30) or nail art ($50 and up). There are several artists on rotation who are all skilled in detailed design work, and both national and international artists take part in the residency program there.


5. Jin Soon

Health and beauty Nail salons Lenox Hill

Famous manicurist Jin Soon Choi is a nail guru and a Fashion Week mainstay, with her own kick-ass line of polishes to boot. And when it comes to mastering art trends, Choi’s designs totally nail it (pun intended). If you want flawless fingers that are begging for a glossy-magazine close-up, book an appointment at any of her four locations (East Village, West Village, Tribeca and Upper East Side) in the city. The exacting technicians will file, shape, buff and paint your nails into a modern masterpiece that’s totally MoMA-worthy ($20–$60). (Nail art costs an additional $25 for hands and $20 for feet).

6. Valley NYC

Health and beauty Nail salons Nolita

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. Choose a basic (but spiffy) mani ($35) and pedi ($50) 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 its first salon in 2006, the joint 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 and pretty much any custom design you can imagine. The price for custom nail art is determined by time: $10–$35 for 15min, $45 for 30min, $60 for 45min and $75 for 60min.

Akiko Nails nail salon
Photograph: Courtesy Hannah Miles

7. Akiko Nails

Health and beauty Beauty salons Lower East Side

Using Gelish and Galaxy gel polish, the Tokyo-trained technicians of this Lower East Side salon can create elaborate themes and detailed freehand pictures. Though the salon is industrial with darker lighting and neon signs, the nail art ($3–$10 per nail) can range from light swirls to geometric shapes, and you can even get depictions of beloved pieces of art or anime characters. Check out the website or Facebook page for hundreds of ideas, and the manicurist can alter the design to best fit your style.

Photograph: Courtesy Sakura

8. Sakura

Health and beauty Spas East Village

This Japanese chain 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 ($50) or regular lacquer ($18), or opt for add-ons such as glitter ($3 per nail), free-form painted designs ($5–$20 per nail) and rhinestones ($1 per gem). The well-trained technicians can do just about anything from leopard spots to ombré styles, but you can get inspiration by flipping through Japanese nail-art magazines (just one of the supplies imported from Japan every month) while sipping complimentary tea.


9. Paintbox

Health and beauty Spas Soho

Consider yourself a nail-art skeptic? Prepare to be converted! This Soho nail studio created by veteran beauty editor Eleanor Langston features a beverage bar with champagne and Grady’s Cold Brew, a curated selection of 50 on-trend lacquer colors (manicures start at $35), iPhone chargers at each of its 18 stations and a seasonal menu of nail-art designs—think peekaboo manis in hypersaturated hues ($58)—by celebrity manicurist Julie Kandalec. One note: Paintbox doesn’t do pedicures, so head elsewhere to put the shine on your toes.

Hello Beautiful nail salon
Photograph: Courtesy Andries Boekelman

10. Hello Beautiful Salon

Health and beauty Nail salons Williamsburg

Stepping into this Williamsburg salon can feel like stepping into a world of limitless possibilities. The bright red-orangey walls are almost as much fun as the whimsical colors (lavender, blue, pink) some of the hair clients sport as they leave. Nail art with regular lacquer starts at just $1 per nail and 3-D at $2 per nail. But for artistic designs that last, LED gel nail art with acrylic starts at $90. And if you want that extra sparkle, make sure to add Swarovskis ($2–$20 per finger).

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