We scour the salons for best his and hers treatments
Time Out staff
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the hive of activity on Time Out’s website, it’s that there’s plenty of debate about which salon offers the best manicure and pedicure in the city. We’re not surprised: Dubai is a city that likes to look after its nails. Service here is relatively cheap, especially compared with London and New York, where mani-pedis tend to cost from Dhs205 to Dhs440 – in comparison, the cheapest ladies’ mani-pedi in our round-up is just Dhs120.
In an attempt to scout out the city’s top nail destinations, the Time Out team (male and female alike) anonymously visited some of the best salons in town, as selected by our Body & Mind editor, to help steer you towards the most excellent. At each venue,
we tested a standard mani-pedi combo (or a simple manicure for the boys) and rated factors including the ambience of the spa, the comfort of the seats and the quality and longevity of the polish used. So, if your cuticles are of concern, refer to our easy-to-use chart to find out which salon suits your needs.
Name: Hello Kitty Town Centre, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 344 9598).
Ambience: Mildly chaotic, but unpretentious. Everyone here is clearly having a bit of fun – including the six-year-old sitting next to you.
Seat comfort: Not great – you’ll find yourself sitting on a shallow sofa, with a very straight back.
Friendliness of staff: They were softly spoken and patient – as you’d have to be in a salon that caters for youngsters. Guests are also, amusingly, referred to as a ‘kitty’ when booking.
The manicure: Good. They originally recommended angular square tips, but are happy to do a natural shape as requested.
How long before it chipped? Excellent. We opted for Orly polish and it started to grow out before it chipped. In fact, we’re still waiting for it to chip.
Range of services: Standard manicures with Orly and Essie polishes, as well as Minx, Gelish, and something called ‘nail whitening’.
Extras: None to speak of, though you can order a decadent cupcake during your treatment for an extra Dhs21.
Are they in a rush to get you out? They left us to our own devices after the treatment, so we left in our own time.
Ambience: Very relaxing – it takes place in your own home. The therapists bring everything with them, from a basin to soak your feet to a rainbow of polishes. We were also able to watch what we wanted on TV, with no need for headphones.
Seat comfort: Extremely comfy – it was on the sofa in our lounge in front of the TV.
Friendliness of staff: Our therapist was fairly quiet and softly spoken, yet very helpful.
The manicure: The best manicure we’ve had since arriving in Dubai. Nails were rounded, just like we asked, the polish looked perfect, and we felt thoroughly pampered.
How long before it chipped? They used Essie polish, and had most colours available. The manicure lasted about five days, and the pedi was still going strong more than a week later.
Range of services: There’s a huge range on offer, from basic manis and French polish to Shellac, gel nails, paraffin treatments and a bio-mint spa manicure.
Extras: Our feet and hands were given a thorough scrub and a pressure-point massage.
Are they in a rush to get you out? No – you’re in your own home, so you can lounge around to your heart’s content.
Ambience: While it cetainly isn’t a dive, it doesn’t have an exceptionally relaxing atmosphere.
Seat Comfort: The seat looked comfortable, but after a while we became restless.
Friendliness of staff: Friendly, but pushy: they continuously ignored requests to show us which colours they had, and tried to upsell various add-ons throughout the treatment.
The manicure: The quality of nail care was decent, with a nice shape, although the cuticle care wasn’t thorough enough.
How long before it chipped? The finish on the Essie polish was pretty good and remained unchipped for a few days. It’s worth noting that the selection of colour wasn’t great (limited to pink/red/purple).
Range of services: Gelish, Shellac, nail art and acrylics.
Extras: None to speak of.
Are they in a rush to get you out? Almost the second they applied the final coat of paint, they wanted us out of the seat. There was no drying equipment, but they offered to fish in our pocket for our wallet to save our nails.
Name: Nailstation Town Centre, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 349 0123).
Ambience: The salon is modern and sleek, with a cohesive sense of visuals and branding.
Seat comfort: The seat – a white armchair – was cosy and padded, ensuring it was very comfortable.
Friendliness of staff: The service was much more formal than some we’ve experienced, but thankfully it was efficient and professional.
The manicure: The shape was good and cuticle care was efficient. They also appeared to be using brand-new or sterilised tools that were stored in plastic packaging.
How long before it chipped? The own-brand Nailstation polish features a wide selection of classic and contemporary colours. But the finish didn’t last very long – the first chip was visible the next morning.
Range of services: French manicures, Gelish, Shellac.
Extras: We were able to pay before our nails are painted to ensure we didn’t ruin the polish. There’s also a hand and foot massage as part of the treatment.
Are they in a rush to get you out? They allowed us to sit by the drying bar afterwards, and checked whether our nails were dry before we left.
Name: NStyle Eight locations, including Mall of the Emirates, www.nstyleintl.com (04 341 3300).
Ambience: Oestrogen overload: lilac walls, American Idol on the TV and ’80s Madonna on the stereo.
Seat comfort: Perfectly adequate, if a little tatty.
Friendliness of staff: Staff were polite and happy to chat, though they’d have also just got on with the job if we hadn’t wanted to talk.
The manicure: Thorough and exactly to the requested specifications.
How long before it chipped? Nstyle uses its own-brand polish, plus CND and OPI. The former comes in loads of colours, including cool neons and pastels; it survived for a week before chipping on the eighth day.
Range of services: There are basic mani-pedis and French manicures, plus Shellac gel nails, massages, beauty treatments, facials and more.
Extras: Staff asked if we wanted to pay before having our nails painted to avoid chipping the polish.
Are they in a rush to get you out? This place gets very busy: we were hustled to the drying bar once the treatment was complete so another client could take our seat.
Ambience: The salon can get fairly busy, but it has a laid-back atmosphere.
Seat comfort: We were given a comfy lounge chair, although staff can also do mani-pedis while you’re having your hair cut in front of the mirror.
Friendliness of staff: All staff were polite and friendly, and accommodating enough to work around you getting your hair cut, too.
The manicure: They were a little rough with the filing, and the shape wasn’t quite right on the first go (square rather than the round tips we requested). But they were happy to go back over them to make sure they were just right.
How long before it chipped? There was a choice of OPI or Essie polishes. Having opted for OPI, the finish wasn’t as smooth as some, although the colour looked great. It lasted two days before it started to peel.
Range of services: A wide range of services, including mani-pedis, Minx foils and wraps, and the choice of Gelish or Shellac longer-lasting colours.
Extras: They’ll treat you to a relaxing hand/foot massage as part of the basic mani, and will also help you juggle keys, bag and wallet so as not to smudge your nails as you leave.
Are they in a rush to get you out? No rush – it’s a very informal atmosphere.
Name: The Nail Spa Six locations, including The Dubai Mall, www.thenailspa.com (04 339 9078).
Ambience: The decor is chic and calming (dark wood with huge cream elevated chairs that feel like thrones), though the spa gets very busy at weekends, which can make it harder to relax.
Seat comfort: Extremely comfy, with a head rest so you can snooze.
Friendliness of staff: Eager and communicative, offering some polite chat and recommendations on how to care for nails.
The manicure: Therapists can be a little rough with the cuticle cutting, but the resulting polish was flawless and exactly what we asked for.
How long before it chipped? Essie is the brand of choice here, with the usual red/maroon/pink shades plus a few more unusual options. Our polish survived intact for six days before starting to look rather ragged around the edges.
Range of services: There are Bio Sculpture gel treatments, plus nail art, massages, facials, waxing, threading and other beauty treatments.
Extras: You can pay before your nails are painted. Staff also give you the nail file and buffer they’ve used so you can bring them back to use next time: a great waste-reduction initiative.
Are they in a rush to get you out? We opted to head to the drying station to cement the polish, but we could have stayed in the chair if we’d wanted to.
Name: Urban Male Lounge Mall of the Emirates (04 395 1103).
Ambience: Considering the salon is situated in a mall, it’s very relaxed and airy. It’s a compact space, but doesn’t seem cramped – if anything, it almost feels a bit exposed.
Seat comfort: The seat was a comfy La-Z-Boy-style armchair, which (wait for it) actually vibrated.
Friendliness of staff: The staff were very friendly and chatty, but stayed quiet when we settled into watching an episode of Friends.
The manicure: Straightforward and very professional.
How long before it chipped? N/A
Range of services: There are haircuts, wet shaves and even nasal hair waxing.
Extras: The therapist finished off the treatment with a very nice hand and arm massage.
Are they in a rush to get you out? Not at all – they let us finish our coffee and, of course, that episode of Friends.
Mani-pedi Cost: Dhs85 (manicure only)
Mani-pedi vernacular Blixz: ‘Foil’ nails featuring crazy designs that are applied a little like stickers. Gelish: A brand of gel-based polish that lasts for up to two weeks. Polish: Orly, Essie, OPI and CND are among the brands of polish we encountered. Shellac: Self-proclaimed ‘power polish’ that lasts for about two weeks – supposedly the original long-lasting nail stuff before Gelish came along.