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What is a manicure?

A manicure is a beauty treatment for your hands and nails. A manicurist uses a variety of tools, creams, oils, waxes and massage techniques to clean and shape your nails, care for your cuticles, and generally improve the look and feel of your hands.

What is a manicure good for?

A manicure should improve the texture and health of both the nails and the skin of your hands, as well as leaving them looking polished and perfect.

A good manicure will:

  • clean, shape, strengthen and even "dress" your nails
  • attend to any skin problems you might have around the nail, such as broken or sore skin
  • use acupressure or hand-massage techniques to stimulate the blood and lymph flow to improve the health of your skin
  • use oils, creams and waxes to exfoliate, cleanse and improve the texture of your nails and the skin of your hands.

Apart from making sure your hands and nails look and feel good, a manicure often has the side-effect of relaxing and soothing you; there are pressure points on your hands that correspond to other areas of your body (see Reflexology).

Before you go

There's not much to do to prepare for a manicure. It's a courtesy to wash your hands. You might want to take off your rings, and remove any traces of old nail polish.

Manicures are available in hair salons and other places in the high street, as well as in more specialist centres and spas. It's always worth finding a place that has been given a positive review or has a professional feel. A manicure is unlikely to be a very expensive treatment but it's your money and you should get a good service.


If you have an injury to your hand - a wound, or joint or muscle strain, or a rash or broken skin - you are well advised to wait until you recover before you go, or else make your manicurist very aware of your limitations.

A manicure can last from 15 minutes to more than an hour, depending on what you're having done. Leave yourself enough time to get the full benefit of the treatment, and make sure you don't have to rush off. If for any reason it takes longer, it's hard to drive with sticky polish still drying on your fingers!

What to expect from a manicure

You'll probably have a fair idea what to expect when you book your manicure, as the advertised description and the time allocated will make this clear. Generally speaking, the longer the manicure the more you can expect.

You will probably be one-on-one with the manicurist, who should tell you what she is going to do and check to see if you have any queries or concerns. She will sit opposite you and use a range of methods and tools to clean, shape and strengthen your nails, and also apply some creams or oils to soften and condition your skin. Some manicures also include hand massage. If you're not sure what your therapist is doing, do ask: a properly-qualified manicurist will have trained for at least four months and will be able to answer any questions you have about your hands and nails.

A manicure is usually very soothing. It's nice to have someone touch your hands and nails, especially if the manicurist uses reflexology or other hand-massage techniques to relax you.

A manicurist will usually dress your nails with your choice of nail varnish, and you can also go on to have more decorative patterns applied if you want to. Check beforehand if you want this, as you may need another person to do the honours.

Hot tip!

Try to give your nails a good clean beforehand. This will stop the beautician wasting valuable manicure-time doing it herself, so that she can get on with the good stuff!


BEWARE: Whilst shop-bought nail polish often takes at most 5 minutes to dry, salon polish can take up to 12 hours to dry completely. So be gentle with your hands and nails afterwards. You can still use them, of course, but ask your manicurist about any special precautions you should take. Don't wear gloves, or anticipate needing your hands for any kind of dextrous work immediately after a manicure. It may not be the best thing to go straight back to banging away on a computer keyboard, doing someone's hair or bathing your children if you have just had delicate solutions applied to your nails.

Different kinds of manicure

There are various kinds of manicure available, which may involve a different shaping of the nail, the use of different oils and cream, or even of electro-pulse or hot stone massage as part of the treatment. Some examples include:

French: This classic manicure uses clear or ivory-coloured polish on the body of the nail, and whitens the tip. The nail is cut quite square.

Intensive paraffin wax: This manicure includes warm wax being rubbed into your nails, hands and wrists to moisturise and soften.

American: This is a very natural-looking manicure which shapes the nails to your finger tip.

Luxury: This whole-hand treatment will include a hand massage, softening paraffin wax and heated mittens or a wrap which warms and soothes your hands, and softens and hydrates your nails.

Hot stone manicure: This manicure features a hand massage using hot stone therapy to soothe and relax your hand.

Courtesy of the Good Spa Guide

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