Japanese Nail Art and Gel Polish: Changing Manicures Forever

The picture that started it all.

Last spring, PA Nina sent me this article from the New York Times about the new availability of a manicure that will last weeks.  Amazing!  A manicure that doesn’t chip and lasts three weeks?  I was sold, but for some reason didn’t get around to getting one of these amazing manicures until June.  Perhaps I waited to try something new out of loyalty to my old  8 dollar manicure place in Williamsburg that I had been going to nearly weekly for five years (I was really enjoying being the mayor of it foursquare).

It was the prospect of having a LOT of crafting to do in the days leading up to my wedding in the Catskills (where there was no where to get a manicure) that finally lead me to check out Nail Spa Sakura and get one of these durable Calgels.  Yes, there were several other places in the city that offered gel manicures, but Sakura appeared to reign supreme in the online reviews.

The Japanese Nail Art Magazine "Nail Venus"

My first manicure was amazing.  It looked perfect on my wedding day, despite being nearly a week old and having been put through several days of a heavy duty crafting binge.  I got it at the Upper East Side location of Nail Spa Sakura.  I had to call a few days in advance to get an appointment and tell them in advance that it would just be one solid color.  The spa was very small yet well-appointed, providing water or tea to guests.  While I was there I flipped through the magazines they had laying around, which were all Japanese nail art magazines like Nail Venus.

A light bulb went off in my head: if you have a manicure that lasts three weeks, it is worth it to make it AMAZING.  Polish that fades into another color, or better yet another color of glitter?  Custom colors?  Lace overlays?  Stripes, gold chains, and gems?  Yes.  It was all possible.  Everything you could imagine and some things you never imagined possible could happen on the tiny bits of real estate inhabited by your finger nails.  I immediately bought gift certificates for all of my bridesmaids so we could go to Sakura and get Calgel nail art.

Beyonce's Blinged Out Nail Art

My friends, nail art no longer consists of those scary acrylic talons we all remember so well.  Nail art has become a high-end phenomenon gracing the nails of runway models, celebrities and more.  Beyonce, Rhianna, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and more have become completely obsessed with artful gel manicures and designers now custom blend gel colors for their runway shows.

Now it seems every other nail place in the city offers gel manicures.  But we have found that there are huge variances in cost and quality so it makes sense to do some research before you go.  We’ve seen them anywhere from $22 to $70, lasting 1-4 weeks (depending on nail growth).

Minx are been a big part of the nail art trend, but Minx hardly has the lasting power of a gel manicure and costs just as much.  I have heard that you can get a Minx manicure and seal it with Calgel, which I cannot wait to try!

One caveat: nail art is addictive!  I’ve had so many compliments on my nails since I’ve been getting glitter gradation and other styles of gel manicures.  People literally stop me on the train and write down the names of places that do them.  So where is the best place to get an adorable Calgel glitter gradation manicure in the city?  Figuring out the answer to this question was, in some ways, the inspiration for this blog.  I’ll post my reviews of the two leaders in NYC here soon.

Update: here is my review of Sakura Nail and Spa!