Unlike regular mani/pedis, new gel treatments stay blissfully chip free for up to three weeks. (And, incidentally, look crazy-awesome.) More flexible than traditional gels (which require extreme buffing and filing), the next generation goes on like polish, sets under a UV lamp, and dries in no time (literally). We tried every nude, glitter, and ombre option out there. Here are the best in show.
For Glitzy Add-Ons
Nolita salon Valley takes digital art to the next level with an extra layer of eye-popping 3-D designs (rhinestones, bows, stars, hearts). Our suggestion: Ask veteran nail tech Maki to decoupage nails with a cut-up dollar bill and gel overlay. Cost is $45-$65.
You may think you want classic red tips, but when presented with the myriad colors and permutations possible at LES salon Sakura Nail and Spa, you’ll have second thoughts. Ask for Momo, and opt for a graduated color or glitter job. Our peach-orange ombre manicure ($60) was picture-perfect for two and a half weeks.
For Natural Brilliance
Pretty-in-pink nail chain Dashing Diva’s own $45 version, Gelife, will have you in and out in just 30 minutes. Though there are traditional color options (purples, pinks, reds), our natural shade went with everything. Even better, use the clear gel as a base and apply regular polish over it (it made our Essie Tart Deco mani last that much longer).
For Serial Biters
For nervous gnawers, pickers, and otherwise efficient nail destroyers, polish/gel hybrid CND Shellac breaks bad habits (but not the bank). Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot Spa’s $45 application buys you two-plus weeks of high-sheen, dent-free perfection. Countless purse digs, key scrapes, and graceless stubs later, our flawless fuchsia pointers are still going strong.
Best Bang for Your Buck
West Village spot QQ Nail & Spa (51 Christopher Street, at Waverly Place; 212-924-0782) offers gel from polish staple Opi. There’s a limited selection of colors — an acceptable range of nude to red — and no fancy fade tricks, but a mani and pedi will run you $80 (take that, East Village). Bonus points for the comfy massage chairs.
Editor’s Note: Depending on the spa, it can cost up to $20 to have certain gels removed. Rumor has it that all you need to do is soak cotton balls in an acetone-based polish remover, place one on each nail, and wrap in aluminum foil for about ten minutes.
Photo: Courtesy of Valley