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It’s said that we can tell a lot about a person by simply looking at their hands. Unfortunately, few of us can find the time to regularly address unruly cuticles and hangnails, or to keep our hands properly moisturised. Additionally, many of us struggle with the habit of nail biting.

Thankfully, a luxurious spa manicure can improve hands and nails which are in less than perfect condition, as well as enhancing those which are already well maintained. A manicure is also ideal for ensuring your hands look their best for special occasions, such as a wedding or holiday. 

If you’d like to give the gift of a manicure, why not check out our spa vouchers page? Manicures and polishes are widely available as part of a selection of treatment packages. They make a great gift for family and friends.

Keep reading to discover the different types of manicure available and what you can expect during your treatment. You will also find some aftercare advice and the answers to a few manicure FAQs.

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, the more maintenance and pampering you can expect from your treatment.

Types of manicure

While many manicures utilise similar hand pampering and nailcare techniques, there are a number of variations:

American manicure: These manicures involve the nails being shaped to match each fingertip for a rounded, natural look. American manicures often use varnish resembling a French polish, but with the tips painted a less stark white.

File and polish: Nails are filed to the guest’s preferred shape, before polish is applied in a colour of their choice. In a file and polish treatment, hands and nails are not pampered to the degree they are during a full manicure.

French manicure: It is the unique French polish which makes French manicures unique. Pink, beige or otherwise neutrally painted ‘squoval’ nails are tipped white for a preened aesthetic. 

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 manicure (enquire with your selected spa).

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 available at some spas. Be sure to ask us for advice when you book 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, you can typically expect the following during your treatment:

STEP #1 - FILE: Nail filing is often first on a manicurist’s agenda. Keratin in the 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 they are completely free of dirt. A nail brush may be used to get rid of any debris trapped under your nails. An exfoliating cream may be massaged into your hands and forearms to remove dead skin cells and make them softer. 

STEP #3 - CUTICLES: Once your hands have been towel-dried, your therapist will apply a cuticle cream to your fingernails and 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. This softens your cuticles and makes them easier to manipulate.

STEP #4 - MASSAGE: You’ll then receive a pampering hand massage comprising reflexology techniques designed to help you relax.

STEP #5 - POLISH: Varnish will be applied 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 of your selected spa to determine exactly what you can expect from your chosen treatment. Or ask us when you book through our spa experts.

Manicure aftercare

You should avoid strenuous use of your hands for up to 12 hours following your manicure, so as not to 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-size or trial-size versions of the products used during your manicure from the spa’s onsite or online shop, so you can maintain your soft hands and immaculate nails when you return home.

Manicure FAQs

Can I wear nail varnish to my spa manicure?

You should arrive nail varnish-free for your manicure. The therapist will remove it, cutting into your treatment time. You must also arrive promptly to avoid your appointment being cut short or cancelled altogether.

I bite my nails / my nails are very short. Can I still enjoy a manicure?

Spa therapists and nail technicians are used to working on nails of all lengths, so even nail biters can enjoy a manicure. In fact, a well-executed manicure can be the ideal encouragement for you to take greater care of your nails in the future and to give up the habit of nibbling for good!

It is important to note that French and American manicures and polishes are often not possible on very short nails, due to the placement of the white tips (check with us or your chosen venue if you are unsure whether these treatments will be suitable for you).

Additionally, if you have an 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 clients with these conditions.

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