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Life, Style

Fancy Spa vs. Cheap Nail Bar: Who Gives A Better Manicure

March 22, 2010 6

One of the luxuries of being a girl is all the pamering – hair appointments, shopping trips, manicures, pedicures and all sorts of other lovely things that make us feel super special.

But does it have to cost a fortune? Can you go for the cheaper option but still get great value?

This week we’re testing out nail bars. Is there a difference between the fancy spa and cheap nail bar? At the average fancy spa a manicure will cost $40, but at the inexpensive nail bar it’s about $15. Once you add a tip you are looking at $45 vs. $18. Is it worth it?

for manicures expensive does not mean better

for manicures expensive does not mean better

Recently we tested out Elmwood Spa to see if it was worth the price difference. The facilities at the spa are lovely – there is a wonderful change room, water treatments that make you feel so relaxed, and flavoured water and apples everywhere. But, when it came time to get the manicure we were ushered down into the basement – and seated in a room with 20 other women cramped in little chairs getting manicures and pedicures. It was anything but glamourous! Trying to keep an open mind we chatted with the manicure ladies and people watched the other patrons.

The manicurist trimmed our cuticles, shaped our nails and painted away using the Elmline products – a brand specific to this spa. The trimming and shaping were ok, although not as thorough as expected, but the nail varnish was awful! It was streaky, clumpy and just would not even out. And we were paying $45 for this! We asked the manicurist to remove the polish and start again with a recognized brand – OPI. This polish went on much better, smoother and didn’t look like dollar store varnish. When we were done with the treatment and it was time to pay the friendly receptionist asked how we liked the manicure. It was time to be honest – “It was the worst manicure we’ve ever had”. We were told the manager would call to see how they could make it better, but they never did.

Over at the inexpensive nail bar we had a manicures and pedicures. As expected the place was busy, loud and crowded and the manicurist didn’t have the same gentle approach as at Elmwood spa, but the results were fantastic! Our nails were trimmed well, our cuticles never looked better and the polish was applied perfectly. Some naysayers avoid cheaper nail bars saying they are unhygienic – but all you have to do is use some common sense (i.e. if there are used needles on the floor it’s probably not a clean place) and if it makes you more comfortable just ask for any tools used on you to be sanitized with alcohol.

So if you are looking for a great manicure the cheap nail bar is a better bet. It may not be as relaxing as the spa, but you will have great looking nails, and you’ll have saved yourself a few bucks!

There are 6 comments

  • admin says:

    Ok this is now hilarious. After this email post Elm Spa asked me to email them to try and see what we can do.

    I emailed, then I was connected with someone else at Elm Spa who was going to follow up with me….and I’ve heard nothing.

    That was over one month ago since I sent the email.

    Yup, that’s what you can expect from Elm Spa for an extremely expensive mani/pedi. And to think it happened twice – and just as an fyi…I’ve probably spent well over $1000 at this spa over the last year. And this is how they treat repeat customers!

    I agree with Faith…go elsewhere ladies.

  • Faith says:

    I agree with the original post. Why is the mani pedi area relegated to the dank dark basement of an otherwise regal facility? Go a few blocks to the Pantages Spa or the Civello Spa and you have whirlpool footbaths and massage chairs!

    No wonder the estheticians all look grumpy – one of the estheticians in particular is positively a nasty lady. Watch out if your feet are not baby soft and nails perfectly trimmed BEFORE you get to the salon. This particular lady makes you feel like the biggest loser.

    Go elsewhere, ladies!

  • Ingrid says:

    Ladies the jury is still out but it seems like everyone on facebook/twitter and here has an opinion…and most people prefer the cheap nail bars!

    Gwen – thanks for your comment. I will be in touch.

  • gwen hayes says:

    Thank you for visiting our spa recently. We appreciate your feedback. I’m very sorry you didn’t have a positive manicure experience and are looking into why you didn’t get a call back. Please contact the spa and ask to speak to me directly or e-mail me so that we can see how we can provide you with a better spa visit. (This article may help explain how we chose some of our aesthetic equipment http://bit.ly/cHik4X.) Look forward to your call.

  • Lianne says:

    I totally agree! Cheap nail salons always give the best manis! And if hygiene is your main concern with these places, they typically sell “Personal Nail Care” boxes that have one of each of the tools they use on you, brand new. The box is usually $20 and can last you for close to a year if you go weekly. A very worth while investment!

  • Kathryn says:

    I agree with you 100%! I got a pedicure at Spa Utopia last month because I had a gift certificate for it – $85! no foot massage, no leg massage, no real “dead skin removal” of any significance – and in a secluded, dark room – the spa itself is lovely but not so much the pedicures

    the regular place I go, Rainbow Nails, is $55 for a mani/pedi, they are wonderful, great service, great massage, pedicure, etc AND an ocean view!