Forget the stick on bows, 3D ponies and Hello Kitty connotations; nail art isn’t the girly, garish trend you may think it is. In fact, it’s not a trend at all; like jewellery and accessories, it’s a means by which to add spark to an outfit, play with your personal style or establish a signature one. Given that it’s inexpensive, endless amounts of fun and also, the party season, the time is nigh to nail your creative vision.
If you need a little help with that, as I did (cack handed doesn’t even cover it), swan along to DryBy , a marbled, dusty pink haven of classy grooming, immaculate service and, happily, achingly cool nail art. Reclining elegantly behind Oxford Street, the lofty yet homey space is the heart centre of Hungarian sisters Krisztina van der Boom and Anita Puluczkai, who, inspired by the spa traditions of their native Budapest and the slick blow dry bars and nail art studios of New York, have created a hub of high quality hair styling and nail innovation bang in the centre of the capital. A quick whip round reveals that it’s well and truly taken off with young and old, student, mother, professional and retired alike, and all often end up experimenting with a finish, flourish or just an edge that suits them down to the ground and sets them apart. Nowhere is this more true than downstairs in nail heaven…
The smart, talented team (schooled by none other than Marian Newman ) has devised nail art mood boards to suit most tastes, from the androgynous to the adventurous, with seasonal additions throughout the year. Sure, there are a few snowflakes in the Christmas collection, but otherwise the edit is as far from the North Pole as you could get; think discreet glitter tips, forest green with nude pink half moons and glossy navies embellished with tiny gemstones. The little nail canvases merely act as starter for 10; if something catches your eye in salon, you’ve spied an idea on Instagram or you have a full on nail art game plan to present, the Dry By experts will be all ears and get cracking on a mini masterpiece.
In my case I had gold on the brain, and showed nail ninja Merisha McCaulsky an example of a design that I thought was beautifully delicate but also merry and spangly enough to showcase at Christmas parties (you’ll never get as many mani compliments as you do when you’re riding the festive finger food train most nights). We decided on a pale, nude base with a single gold line running the length of each nail, studded with golden balls (more subtle than it sounds, I promise). Half way through I felt a bit giddy with this gilded nail art business and decided on two gold tinted jewels added to an accent nail on each hand. The design was signed, sealed and delivered in glossy Shellac, to preserve the arty bits and give it ultimate silly season longevity. You don’t want those balls rolling off into the mini sausages, believe me.
The finished look was definitely more opulent than I ever could have achieved at home, and the gel polish was another studio-only service perk, but even if you opt for a plain block colour on the Shellac front, you can still deck the halls, so to speak. One of the shining glories of gel polish, aside from the fact that, done well, it’s lifeproof for at least two weeks, is that you can paint regular nail varnish over it, and remove it when you’re bored, without compromising your base polish. That way, a wonky Christmas penguin can be wiped away if it’s gone a bit...cringe.
If you’re feeling less dextrous but still crave jazz hands, a host of modern topcoats will bring the party. Plain glitter can be whacked on in mere moments, requires very little painting within lines and dries quickly; Nails Inc Snowglobe , £15, will get even nail Scrooges into the spirit. MAC senior nail artist Keri Blair has a few pointers on disco style application:
“Full coverage takes glitter from being young and playful, as it is when it’s smattered on, to being super chic.”
You heard that from the top. If glitter isn’t your groove, a new nail ‘tint’ might entice you to mix up your manicure. From moody to ethereal, MAC’s cutting edge topcoats can literally give polish new dimension; Texturize creates a leather effect, Liquid Pigment gives off a green, gold or pink opalescent glow, while Shadow is a different creature altogether; it casts a gothic haze over whatever’s underneath it (think smokey eyes for nails). Paint them on as per usual or try some nail art tricks to amplify their avant-garde effects.
Butter London Colour Hardwear Nail Art Tool Kit , £10, is a gamechanger for novice nail artists, or if you’re feeling more flash equip yourself with the six piece set , £20. Both allow you to create neat stripes, dots and intricate designs while you slob in front of the telly. So far I’ve achieved ‘tartan’ and ‘ombré’ paint jobs all by myself, which is saying something, and the Get The Look tutorials in the large set are mighty handy, pardon the pun. You needn’t go to town on every nail, and simple, single dots and half moons near the cuticle work well if your professional environment is on the strict end of the dress code spectrum.
In fact, you barely need to dress your nails at all; ‘less is more’ still qualifies as art. Negative space manicures involve leaving part of the nail bare; just file, buff ( Margaret Dabbs Super Shiner Buffer , £7, creates a glass-like finish) and grab some duct tape. Create a ‘stencil’ of the shape you’re after, for instance a small triangle in the centre of the nail or a naked half moon (not as naughty as it sounds). Apply to each nail, or an accent nail, and paint into the shape or around it. Wait for polish to dry, and then peel off the tape to reveal a clean, sharp design. It shakes up the status quo slightly, but it won’t frighten your gran at Christmas lunch, and according to MAC’s Keri Blair over egging it ain’t cool this winter anyhow:
“There is an intelligence to nail art now, a thoughtfulness that tells a story about something unique and hand done. While references are street and tribal, alongside artists, the effect is always sophisticated because it is not overdone.”
Whether you’re feeling punk, pretty or plain, let you nail bed be your narrative. Tracey Emin would approve.
Nail art pro? Share your tips below or tweet us @GetTheGloss
Book an appointment at DryBy here
Follow me on Twitter @AnnaMaryHunter and Instagram @annyhunter (I’ve shared my nail art makeover here too)