Shellac and gel manicures are more than just pretty - they give hard-as-nails protection, says Sarah Vine

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I fear I may have become a little bit obsessed with gel manicures. There’s a new nail bar that’s just opened around the corner from my house (Amira Hair & Beauty Salon, ), where for a very reasonable £25 they do a Jessica gel nail treatment. I’m on my second one now, and I absolutely love it.

I know that everyone says it ruins your nails; but I think that rather depends on what kind of nails you have in the first place. I am a monster to my hands: I never remember to use hand cream, and I do everything, from bathing the dog to washing up to gardening, without gloves. As a result, my nails take a pounding. But not with this manicure.

Basically, it acts like a protective coating. Having never had much luck growing my nails beyond the nail bed, I now find I have positively rapper-esse style talons. They make a special clicky-clicky noise when I type. They can open ring-pulls. I can drum them pointedly on the desk while I’m waiting for my Gmail to load.

It’s also quite handy, at this busy time of year, to have presentable nails at parties. Not that anyone ever notices, really, but it makes me happy. But perhaps the best thing about it is that I can paint over my gel nails with impunity with any number of silly, sparkly colours - and when I’m bored I just whip the polish off - leaving behind the original gel manicure.

Gel manicures last up to three weeks depending on the brand and are available at most spas and salons throughout the UK. Here are a few of our favourites in London:

The Covent Garden Salon  
020 7836 8362

Wah Nails at Topshop (Oxford Circus)
020 7927 7844

Nailspa in Marylebone
020 7935 3322