Looking for a soak-off gel lacquer manicure? Check out Toronto’s top four manicure meccas

Looking for a soak-off gel lacquer manicure? Check out Toronto’s top four manicure meccas

A client receives arty pink tips at Tips Nail Bar (Image: Paige Dzenis) 

We all know the post-manicure mantra: “Don’t rummage through your purse, and forget whatever’s in your pockets.” Even if we make it home smudge-free, the best polish job is bound to chip within days. We’ve noticed that soak-off, UV-cured gel lacquer is quickly becoming the norm at some salons across the city — thin layers of colour are applied to the natural nail, exactly like polish, except that each coat is cured under a UV lamp, making it instantly dry to the touch.

Tips Nail Bar, WowWow Nails, The Ten Spot and Ritual are among some of the best practitioners in the city, and with two leading nail polish companies producing their own soak-off gel systems (OPI has Axxium and CND makes Shellac), we can pick a Pantone and replicate it on our nails (and a gel lacquer manicure stays shiny and chip-free for longer than two weeks). Unsurprisingly, a nail technician at Ritual said nail polish is “so 2010,” which means we can keep our hands in our pockets until there is an unnecessary 2010 revival.

Click on to see our rundown of the best manicure specialists in the city »

A touch of pink at Tips Nail Bar (Image: Paige Dzenis) 

Gel lacquer is just a starting point at Tips Nail Bar, and beauty editors and nail fanatics alike have taken notice, obsessing over the talents of owner Leanne Colley and her staff. The Tips nail techs are up to date on manicure trends (and also create their own looks for runway shows and editorial shoots), prompting many customers to add artistic designs painted in regular polish on top of their Axxium, Shellac, or Entity gel lacquer. Half-moon, V-gap and gradient manicures are popular at Tips, and staff give newbies unsure of what look to go for  design and colour suggestions that are complementary to the wearer’s personal style. We suggest booking at least a week in advance. $50 and up.

Tips Nail Bar, 844A Danforth Ave., 416-405-8477, tipsnailbar.ca.

A client assumes the position at Tips Nail Bar (Image: Paige Dzenis) 
A client shows off her Shellac manicure (Image: Paige Dzenis) 

Popular with the after-work King West crowd, Ritual is a salon filled with regulars, and most are opting for Shellac manis over polish. There are 24 Shellac colours to choose from, but Ritual’s nail techs encourage layering to create custom shades. Before there’s any commitment, they’ll make swatches of potential combinations to see just how sheer or shimmery each one is, but we suggest just asking a manicure-station neighbour—we’re told Ritual regulars love to share Shellac advice. For those with flexible schedules, same-day appointments are possible, but it’s best to book a week in advance. Starting at $37.

Ritual (uses Shellac), 789 King St. W., 416-306-0040, ritual.ca.

There is no such thing as a small artist (Image: Paige Dzenis) 

Fans of DIY manicuring and nail art designs will fall in love with WowWow Nails. A recent addition to Dundas West, WowWow focuses mainly on retail—it sells Konad stamping pads, polish, nail art pens, glitter and gem stones, and staff will even hunt down hard-to-find colours for lacquer enthusiasts. But best of all, they do Shellac manis at the very affordable introductory price of $10, and for an extra $5, a Konad nail art design can be added to a finished set of nails. Tell your friends—or don’t. We understand if you want to keep this one to yourself. $10 (introductory price, may change).

WowWow Nails (uses Shellac on weekends only), 802 B Dundas St. W., 416-850-2823, wowwownails.com.

Every colour and ridiculous nail polish name you can think of is available at The 10 Spot (Image: Paige Dzenis) 

Two locations and 28 Axxium colours make The 10 Spot one of Toronto’s most in-demand salons for gel lacquer manicures. Managing director Lisa Kozoriz warns against trying to remove an Axxium manicure at home, because “peeling it off will only take layers of your nail along with it.” So after the gel lacquer has lost its luster, book an appointment, because The 10 Spot will properly soak off Axxium at no extra charge before applying another mani (regular polish jobs included). Kozoriz also suggests buying the matching OPI polish to cover up any nail growth, because the UV top coat is acetone-proof, and painting and removing polish won’t damage the Axxium gel underneath. $50.

The 10 Spot (uses Axxium), 749 Queen St. W. and 1402 Queen St. E., Studio D1, 416-915-1010, www.the10spot.com.