Why settle for a manicure when you can flaunt real art on your fingers? Here's where to head
1The Nail Spa: I’ve never had nail art. In fact, I’ve never even had a manicure. As a result I really had no idea what to expect from the experience. I’ve never been much of a girly-girl, and the idea of having my fingers painted with flowers and the like just never appealed. However, after getting an array of breathtaking designs painted on my nails I’ve started to rethink my former anti-manicure stance. I was particularly impressed with the miniature beach scene drawn on my thumb nail, complete with a sunbather. The talent exhibited at The Nail Spa went above and beyond my expectations, and I wouldn’t hesitate to return to have the procedure done again. Kate Ashton The Aviation Club (04 282 1617). Nail art costs Dhs12-Dhs50 per nail.
2 Tips & Toes: I have an appointment to see Mary Grace, the resident nail artist at Tips & Toes on Jumeirah Beach Road (oddly tucked inside a Spinneys). I’m shown a selection of fake nails already painted with her designs and am pleased that they’re not all pink and bejewelled, which isn’t really my thing anyway. I’m relieved to see a variety of intricate patterns, from flower motifs to cow print, and choose a pattern of yellow, white and purple flowers on a blue background. Mary Grace shows considerable focus by making sure that the pattern on each nail matches exactly, so I’m stunned when the process is concluded after only an hour and a half. Fortunately, I’m also surprised by how much I like the finished product. It gives the standard manicure a sense of fun novelty – which certainly is my thing. Laura Chubb Spinneys, Jumeirah 1 (04 393 2991). Nail art costs Dhs10 per nail on top of a Dhs110 manicure.
3 Pastels: Nail technician Joy won prizes at school for her abstract artwork – but, she warns me, her creativity depends on her mood. Joy is quite obviously in a girlie, flowery frame of mind when I visit, as a forest of horticultural-ness blooms over my fingertips. I comment on the yellow chrysanthemum flourishing on my middle finger. ‘Oh?’ says Joy, with deadpan expression. ‘We call it a sunflower.’ Of course, once she dots in the central seed kernels, the sunflower blossoms into its full glory. But as talented as Joy is, her efforts are not enough to change my mind: I never liked the idea of having my nails painted like a canvas and I still don’t. She didn’t do a bad job, but it’s not for me. Karen Illey Al Wasl Road, just off Al Manara Street (04 394 7393; www.pastels-salon.com) Nail art costs Dhs10 per nail on top of a Dhs70 manicure.
4 N.Bar: If having miniature crystals, twee little flowers and copious quantities of glitter is your idea of ‘art’ for nails then N.bar is the way to go. I personally am not really convinced. I can’t complain about the service, which was attentive and friendly, or the talent of the artist, who showed an impressively steady hand. However, I did find the gem-centric designs a bit tacky – it felt like P Diddy’s entire jewellery box had been unceremoniously unloaded onto my nails. Celia Topping Palm Strip, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 366 9828). Nail art costs Dhs20-50 per nail on top of a Dhs70 manicure.
5 Nail Express: I’m no stranger to manicures. On payday my first stop after work is the salon. But while I’ve always had my nails polished, I’ve never had them painted. I always thought of nail art as tacky. That was, at least, until I spotted a colleague recently boasting a rim of gemstones on her big toe. Ever since then, I have been curious to get some sort of design on my nails. At Nail Express, the super-friendly staff showed me a series of designs. I opted for the most popular – multi-coloured and sparkly flames. The prototype was in black, but I preferred a backdrop of hot pink. The technician, Malou, drew a beautiful and detailed design, and I was extremelyimpressed that it only took her an hour to do both of my hands. Finally, I decided to get each nail dotted with a Swarovski crystal, which I thought completed the effect. To my surprise I loved the outcome. I can definitely say that I’m a nail art convert. Daisy Carrington Garhoud (04 283 3828). Nail art costs Dhs5 per nail, stones Dhs3-5 each, on top of a Dhs60 manicure.