Many argue we can tell much about a person from simply looking at their hands. Unfortunately though, few of us can find time regularly to tend to unruly cuticles and hangnails, or to keep our hands properly moisturised. Additionally, many struggle with the habit of nail biting and the results of this can leave some men and women with low confidence.
Thankfully, enjoying the treat of a luxurious spa manicure can improve hands and nails which are in less than perfect condition, as well as enhance those which are already well maintained. A manicure is also ideal for ensuring your hands look their best for special occasions like a wedding, or a holiday.
If you're looking to pamper someone before their big day then why not check out our spa vouchers page? Manicures and polishes are widely available as part of a selection of treatment packages, perfect for getting those brides and grooms-to-be looking their best.
Keep reading to discover the different types of manicures available and what you can expect during your treatment. You will also find some aftercare advice and the answers to some manicure FAQs to the bottom of this page.
What is a manicure?
‘Manicure’ is a term used to describe a range of beauty treatments designed to improve - or maintain - the appearance and condition of hands and nails. Different tools, massage techniques and beauty lotions are used depending on the type of manicure and spa resort chosen.
Nearly all manicures comprise a moisturising skin treatment of some kind, as well as cuticle neatening, nail filing and the application of one or more polishes. Generally speaking, the longer your manicure appointment is, the more maintenance and pampering you can expect from your treatment.
Skip to ‘What to expect during your manicure’.
Types of manicure
While many manicures utilise similar hand pampering and nail care techniques, there are a number of unique variations available:
- American manicure: These manicures see the nails shaped to match each fingertip for a rounded, natural look. American manicures often see varnish resembling a French polish applied, but with tips painted a paler white
- File and polish manicure: A file and polish sees nails filed to the guest’s preferred shape, before being polished in a colour of their choice. Hands and nails are not pampered to the degree they are during a full manicure. Click here to learn more about file and polish treatments
- French manicure: It is the unique french polish which makes French manicures so iconically unique. Pink, beige or otherwise neutrally painted ‘squoval’ nails are tipped white for a preened aesthetic. Click here to learn more about French manicures
- Gel polish manicure: These manicures see a special chip-resistant ‘gel’ varnish applied, which dries more quickly and lasts far longer than standard nail polish. Gel polishes are often set using a UV light
- Hot stone manicure: Tired hands benefit from a soothing massage and hot stone therapy as part of this indulgent and increasingly popular treatment
- Intensive paraffin wax manicure: A warm paraffin wax is applied to the hands and nails as part of this softening, moisturising and condition-boosting manicure. Paraffin wax treatments are often available separately from full manicures also, if desired (enquire with your selected resort)
- Mini manicure: This is the name sometimes applied to file and polish treatments, but it is also used to describe shorter and/or or less luxurious, manicures at some spa resorts. Be sure to ask your selected venue if you are unsure what is - or isn’t - included in your chosen manicure
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What to expect during your manicure
While procedures and practices vary between different manicures and spa chains, you can typically expect the following during your treatment:
- STEP #1 - FILE: Nail filing is often first on a manicure’s agenda, for the keratin within nails weakens when they become wet or moist, causing split layers and jagged edges if filed (not a good look). Your spa therapist should ask whether you would prefer square or round nails, and will work to make them uniform and neat
- STEP #2 - CLEANSE: Your hands will then be cleansed so that they are completely free of dirt. A nail brush may be used to rid any debris trapped under your nails, and/or an exfoliating cream may be massaged into your hands and forearms to remove dead skin cells to make them softer
- STEP #3 - CUTICLES: Once your hands are towel dried, your therapist will apply a cuticle cream to your fingernails and then gently push each cuticle back, creating a neat aesthetic. You may be asked to soak one hand in warm water while the spa therapist works on the other, to soften your cuticles and make them easier to manipulate
- STEP #4 - MASSAGE: You’ll then receive a pampering hand massage comprising reflexology techniques designed to help you - and your hands - relax as much as possible
- STEP #5 - POLISH: Your nails will then be varnished in a colour of your choice. Your chosen hue will be applied between a base coat and a top coat, to increase its durability and to protect your nails. You may be asked to hold your hands under a UV lamp once painted - UV light helps nail varnish to dry more rapidly
A number of other skin/nail conditioning or strengthening products may also be applied at various stages of your manicure.
IMPORTANT: Inclusions and procedures vary between different manicures and spa venues. Always check the website for your selected spa to determine exactly what you can expect from your chosen treatment.
- You should avoid strenuous use of your hands for up to 12 hours following your manicure, as to not chip or dent the applied polish (even polish which seems ‘dry’ may not have hardened fully until this time). Try to wear rubber gloves whenever your hands are in contact with water or household chemicals to keep your nails looking great for as long as possible
- Nail biters should resist the temptation to nibble, and no spa guest should ever pick at their newly polished nails. These bad habits are sure to undo the therapist’s good work and leave your hands looking untidy
- Consider purchasing full, or trial, size versions of the products used during your manicure from the spa’s onsite - or online - shop (if applicable), so you can maintain your soft hands and immaculate nails when you return home
Can I wear nail varnish to my spa manicure?
You should arrive nail varnish-free for your manicure, or else the therapist’s removal of such will need to come from your allocated time. You must also arrive promptly to avoid the shortening, or total cancellation, of your appointment.
I bite my nails / my nails are very short. Can I still enjoy a manicure?
The vast majority of spa therapists and nail technicians are used to working on nails of all lengths, so even nail biters can enjoy one. In fact, a well executed manicure can be the ideal encouragement for you to take greater care of your nails in the future and give up the habit of nibbling for good.
It is important to note however that French and American manicures and polishes are often not possible to conduct on very short nails, due to the placement of the white tips (check with your chosen venue if you are unsure these treatments will be suitable for you).
Additionally, if you are a nail biter suffering a severe infection from a broken hangnail, or you happen to have a fungal skin problem, you should inform the spa ahead of your visit to avoid any potential disappointment on the day (some spas will refuse to treat those with these ailments).
Return to SpaSeekers’ Spa Treatments Guide