Is a luxury gel manicure ever worth over £300? That was the burning question on beauty editor Becki Murray’s lips, when she became the first person to experience the new manicure collaboration between leading nail pro artist Iram Shelton and the Bulgari Spa in London’s Knightsbridge.
This week’s Tweak of the Week promised a truly luxurious gel manicure experience, including hand massages, luxury skincare, and even a trip to the spa. Plus, most importantly, long-lasting gel nails. This is what it delivered.
Who is Iram Shelton?
With over 121 thousand followers on Instagram and a host of high-profile celebrity clients, Iram Shelton is one of the most in-demand pro nail artists in the UK. She’s painted and styled the nails of some of TV, music and cinema’s leading names including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Sonam Kapoor, Nicola Coughlan and Addison Rae. You’ll also see her work featured in a host of magazine editorials and covers, so if you see commentary on the next stylish nail trend, she’s likely to have been involved.
That said, Shelton’s rise as a pro nail artist had unconventional beginnings. Her career started in the city, where she had a high-powered job as a stockbroker, but noticed that nails were one of the first things people noticed about other people’s appearance. The problem was, she just couldn’t find the right person that made her feel amazing about her nails.
Not to be deterred, she trained as a nail technician herself and the rest is history. Her laser-focus on making every second of your manicure a luxury experience has set her approach apart ever since.
What does the Bulgari Spa x Iram Shelton manicure experience actually involve?
Iram will be in residence at the Bulgari Spa on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of every month, with appointments available throughout the day.
There are four manicure services to choose from, ranging from the two hour-long Iram Shelton Essential Manicure, to The Bulgari Spa x Iram Shelton Manicure that lasts two hours 45 minutes, with prices ranging from £300 to £475 with gifted aftercare.
As you can tell from the length and cost of the treatments, the experience is designed to be as thorough as possible. Each manicure includes gel removal (if necessary), nail preparation, cuticle care and an indulgent hand massage using luxury skincare and bodycare from La Prairie, La Mer, Dior and Guerlain. There’s the choice of OPI Gel or lacquer nail colours in a full rainbow spectrum of shades and finishes too.
To round out your treatment, access to The Bulgari Spa’s world-class facilities is included in the price. That means you can relax by the full 25 metre pool, take a dip in the gold leaf vitality waters, or take a moment in the steam room and sauna before or after your manicure.
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Tried and tested: what is having a £300 manicure like?
Like the difference between a four-star and five-star hotel offering, it’s the little details that make you realise that you aren’t receiving just another standard manicure when you book in with Iram at the Bulgari Spa.
Depending on when you arrive, you can either head straight to the spa to enjoy the facilities, or you’ll be invited into the pre-treatment room to unwind on a reclining bed with light refreshments and can make full use of the spa afterwards.
Both options are arguably the antithesis of convenient nail bars, which tend to be loud and a little hectic. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but while many manicures increasingly focus on speed so you rush in and out of door, it’s a much-needed change to experience a treatment that’s more like a mini spa break. In fact, it was just what I needed to dissipate some of stress I was feeling about the event I was actually getting my nails done for.
My advice: go to the spa beforehand, as there is some evidence that the heat and chlorine of the pool and sauna could minimise the longevity of your nails. And at upwards of £300, you don’t want to compromise your investment.
Just before your manicure, you’ll meet the incredibly friendly and charismatic Iram. She’ll then escort you to the private treatment room that has been turned into her nail bar for the duration of the partnership. In this rather unassuming, but again relaxing, space, Iram will start with a full diagnosis of your nails, looking for signs of dryness, damage and other habits such as nail picking or biting. It’s a key part of the process according to the pro artist, designed to ensure she can use the best techniques and products to get the results you crave, even before you pick out your nail colour.
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In all honesty, Iram had a hard task in front of her with my nails, considering I need to keep them short for sport and have a tendency to pick at them when I’m stressed and on deadline (which I was). That said, I was impressed by the time and attention she paid to preparing and shaping my nails and the skin around them, without using harsh and aggressive filing or buffing techniques that tend to be the quick-fixes of many nail bars. In fact, the condition of my bare nails looked immediately better even before she started applying the OPI Gel.
After choosing your colour from a suitably wide range of possibilities, the process is then very similar to your standard gel manicure, so it’s not a standout feature, although the nail pro does all-but-guarantee a flawless finish. Plus, if you want it, Iram will take this opportunity to offer more advice on how to maximise your at-home manicure, which I recommend you take her up on.
The treatment really starts to standout again after the gel manicure is finished and that’s because over a quarter of the time is devoted to aftercare. Going beyond the conventional quick dash of nail oil and hand cream, you can choose from the wide array of impressive skincare and bodycare products that are crowded around the sink. That includes serums from La Prairie, oils from Guerlain and creams from Dior and La Mer, worth (in their full sizes) as much as the manicure itself. You’re actively encouraged to sample as many as you like to find the ones you love, with Bulgari aftercare products to take away too, if you choose the most luxurious manicure option.
As the finishing touch, Iram will then use your chosen products to give you one of the most nourishing and thorough hand massages that I’ve experienced during a manicure. The secret is quite simple – she really takes the time to work in the formulas to leave your visibly soft, shiny and smooth. Her technique also eases out any tension – you really won’t realise quite how much stress you hold in your hands and fingers until you experience it.
What results can you expect?
I was sceptical, but the Bulgari Spa x Iram Shelton manicure delivers all the hallmarks of a great luxury gel manicure, with a few lovely additional benefits thrown in. It’s true that to look at your nails, especially from afar, you might not be able to immediately tell the worth of your mani, but, alongside Iram’s incredible skill and her easy-to-follow advice for at-home nail care, what really stood out was the manicure’s longevity.
As expected, my nails had grown out by three weeks post-manicure, but much more unusually, the gel was completely intact. That’s impressive considering that I almost always find gel polish lifts and chips quite easily on my nails. In case you struggle with a similar issue, Iram suggested that was due to my general avoidance of cuticle oil and the dryness caused by over-filing my nails. (Consider me told). Moreover, I couldn’t quite believe how soft and relaxed my hands felt post-treatment. It really was like a spa experience for your nails.
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Is the £300 manicure ‘Tweak of the Week’ worthy?
Paying over £300 for a manicure is a big investment that certainly isn’t for everyone, but I did leave the spa considering that the fully personalised and relaxing experience was perhaps worth swapping out an occasional facial or massage. In fact, if you’ve ever paid for a disappointing massage at a fancy hotel, you’ve probably invested approaching the same amount, but without the longevity and results to show for it.
As such, while I wouldn’t book in every month for my nail maintenance, I’d definitely recommend it as a generous gift for loved-ones or for yourself before a big event; especially as the ability to access the Bulgari Spa facilities is a nice twist on a conventional half-day spa experience.
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