New Yorkers may have too much on their hands, but since the city is chock-full of the best nail salons in the world, there’s no excuse for those digits to go unpolished. And since your brows are always "on fleek" thanks to the best brow bars in NYC, 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 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. Because while 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
The best nail salons in NYC
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 ($120 for LCN natural nail lengths, $130 for LCN tips). Once the canvas is prepped, the technician will apply 3-D effects like gel flowers and crystals ($10 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 ($18).
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 ($6 per nail). Head nail art guru Kieu Bui recommends making an appointment with the following technicians for out-of-this-world designs: Yang (Grand Street), Selina (Bedford Avenue), Sue (Driggs Avenue) and Chiew (Greenpoint).
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.
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 specials ($40), a pedicure ($40) or nail art ($40). There are currently seven artists on rotation who are all skilled in detailed design work, and both national and international artists take part in the residency program there.
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 three locations in the city. The exacting technicians will file, shape, buff and paint your nails into a modern masterpiece that’s totally MoMA-worthy ($18–$55).
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 ($10–$20 per nail), piercings ($7 per nail, which includes a reusable charm) and pretty much any custom design you can imagine ($10 and up per nail).
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.
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.
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.
If you start looking at nail artist Fleury Rose's Tumblr site, chances are you'll still be scrolling half an hour later. 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. Score an appointment and choose from an array of 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 (starts at $65) but FYI: She loves a challenge. If you have an edgy, off-the-wall design in mind, she’ll turn your beds into her canvas.