We Tried This: 3-D Manicures

Nail art trends skew high (luxe caviar) and low (proletarian concrete) in our reporter’s test drive of the latest digital designs

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Apparently those of us who adhere to a tried-and-true nail polish regimen—two layers of a chosen color followed by a protective topcoat—are the Luddites of the beauty world. In the past year, the nail care category has exploded into a $1.6 billion business, and manicures have leapt into Technicolor with 3-D effects. If we have 3-D movies and 3-D printers, why not 3-D nail art?

Ciaté’s Caviar Manicure set comes with a base color, a bottle of the caviar “beads,” and a plastic tray and funnel so you can scoop up and recycle the extras. They are generous with the beads—one manicure used not even 1/10 of the bottle. The application process is more laborious than a regular manicure, but it’s nothing that a newbie can’t handle. After one base layer of the polish color, you apply a second coat and while still wet, you pour the caviar beads over the nail so they form a complete layer (this is where the tray comes in handy). Then you lightly tap them into the nails to secure them in place. If you get overzealous with the tapping and actually push beads off the nail, like I did, you can go back and do a quick touch up.

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The included instructions suggest letting the beads dry for 15-20 minutes. After an extra-cautious 25 minutes, my nails seemed sealed, although I was still dubious about them. Feeling naked without a protective topcoat (which is only recommended on the very tip of the nail), and nervous that the rough surface would catch on anything—or everything—I pictured myself shedding beads all over my apartment and workplace. And I did lose some while folding laundry, or opening a can of soda. But the overall effect is so striking that the loss of a few beads here and there doesn’t greatly diminish it.

However, after two days the beads began to lose their resilience—and I lost patience. Nail caviar is clearly intended for a special occasion, not a long-lasting manicure or an active lifestyle.

For a subtler effect, I tried Nails Inc’s concrete polish, which comes in four colors and when dry has the rough, textured surface of, well, concrete. Though I wore blue, there is a gray shade that mimics more closely the hue of the material itself. Applied like a regular polish, the concrete has a matte texture that feels appropriate for the dull days of winter. And it does add a certain je ne sais quoi to your fingers—multiple coworkers complimented me on my manicure. Curious about the longevity of this effect, I tested a topcoat on a lone pinky nail, but it diluted the texture of the polish, threatening to negate the whole endeavor. Though matte finish polishes tend to chip more quickly than glossy ones, overall the concrete polish was better suited to daily life than caviar.

Bottom line: 3-D manicures aren’t going to replace your everyday nail polish. But if you’re looking for a little extra something to spice up your ensemble, consider these textured options.

Ciaté’s Caviar Manicure is available here and retails for $25.  Nails Inc. Concrete polish is available here and retails for £12.00.

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