Give your talons a glam-over for the party season. Lisa Haynes nails the latest trends.
By Lisa Haynes
Nails are no longer about just a quick slick of polish. Talons have become a fashion accessory all on their own, and the latest techniques are guaranteed to dazzle.
Take the world's most expensive manicure. Already flaunted on the fingers of Kelly Osbourne, Azature's black diamond polish will set you back a whopping £160,000 a bottle. Selfridges sells both the 267 carat pot, plus a more affordable £17 version.
Whether you want bling, texture or colour, pick a polish to wow this season.
"To wear these more dramatic winter trends, make sure your nails are short and square with rounded corners," advises Athena Skouvakis, make-up artist for Collection.
"This will avoid any darker colours or high-impact designs looking too O.T.T."
With nude nails set to make a talon takeover next spring, now's the time to make an unashamed statement.
Velvet, beading and leather aren't just for party frocks. The same wardrobe effects are being used to dress up fingers.
"Nails have caught up with fashion with the use of fabric, materials and textures," says Zoe Pocock, creative director of Nail Rock.
"It's evolved into what I would say is 'dimensional nail art' with the likes of caviar and crushed velvet manicures."
You simply polish, sprinkle, and wait for your chosen 'material' to set. The results should be luxuriously tactile and attention grabbing nails.
Best reserved for those who avoid washing up and household chores, 3D has transferred from cinema screens to talons.
Pocock says: "You can create a 3D effect easily and inexpensively with gems, rhinestones, crystals or even delicate chains."
You can even go one step further with stick-on embellishments that come in the form of fruits, buttons or Christmas candy canes. Simply add your favourite nail applique while your base colour polish is still tacky.
"Use tweezers to apply the embellishment and experiment with a single statement nail or go for a full-on 3D manicure," Pocock suggests.
Lay out the red carpet for the glitterati equivalent of nail polishes.
Glitter-packed polishes are the perfect party season accessory and can either be worn as a top coat to jazz up any colour or layered up to really pack a punch.
"The effect of crystal polishes is a glossy and glistening 'wet-look' effect of bejewelled nails," says Adam Dargan, creative director of Filthy Gorgeous nails.
Go one step further and sprinkle on the glitter yourself with Nails Inc's Bling It On Rocks.
You can opt for shimmering dip-dye effects or full-on encrusted nails. Forget uniformity and try blinging up just one ring finger nail for a subtle accent.
If you're missing precious gems from your jewellery collection, wear them on your fingernails instead.
Opulent jewel colours are a strong look for the season; think emerald, sapphire, ruby or amethyst.
"Try metallic nails inspired by shades of precious stones," says Kim Treacy, Collection nail expert, "you could even mix up contrasting shades."
Metallic jewel polishes vary from vibrant to nearly-black. Consider your outfit; if you're wearing something dark, opt for brighter tones to add a strong injection of colour to your look, but if your ensemble is pale then go dark and dramatic.
When it comes to the holiday season, Santa red is never going to go out of fashion.
Estee Lauder has even paid homage to the classic shade with a new Red Hautes collection of polishes.
"Red has universal appeal as there is always a shade to match your mood, style and skin tone," says Susan Tompkins, founder of Belle Gel nails, "it can be classic but wicked, elegant but with a touch of risque."
No need to go on red alert over tell-tale chips with the latest in at-home gel manicure kits. Reacting with UV light the polish remains high gloss for up to two weeks on fingernails and even longer on toes.
You don't have to be a dab hand with the nail polish brush to create a Picasso-style creation.
Nail art pens make the job easier - but bear in mind application with your non-writing hand is always trickier. Black provides a classic outline but try gold or seasonal for a seasonal touch.
Draw your design onto bare or polished nails but make sure your base colour is bone dry and hardened first to avoid unsightly smudges and dents.
If in doubt, go to the experts for a professional finish with all the trimmings.
Tried & Tested
Lisa Haynes attempts to unwind with a relaxing mind and body treatment.
From one look at my frazzled face and hunched shoulders, my spa therapist at Cotswold retreat, Barnsley House, probably guessed I was a city girl within 10 seconds flat. Booked in for the Aromatherapy Associates 'Clear Your Mind' treatment, I was determined to have a calm country outlook for at least one weekend. The signature treatment is designed to calm stress heads with a refreshing yet soothing experience for body and mind. I'm introduced to a beautiful room with a dried heather arrangement lying on a plush white heated bed. The treatment begins with some brisk body brushing to wake up my skin followed by warmed De-Stress Muscle Gel (£21) with rosemary, black pepper and ginger, which smelt divine. For the next heavenly step, a full body aromatherapy massage works on releasing tension in places I never knew it existed, like the top of my buttocks. The sounds of knots being teased from my shoulders was almost audible as the stress was eased out of my body in firm, slow movements using the De-Stress Muscle Bath & Shower Oil (£37). I'm already feeling soothed and relaxed as my therapist begins with the facial massage using Soothing Face Oil (£42), zoning in on pressure points where you carry tension on the face, mine being the jaw and temples. By the time the ayurvedic scalp massage starts with De-Stress Frankincense Pure Essential Oil (£24.50), I'm away with the fairies. I'm brought back to life with a refreshing sorbet in the relaxation room, decked out like a forest with wicker walls and a projector screen showing sunlight and plants moving in the breeze. Afterwards, I chill out in the aromatic 'Herbivarium', a space with sauna, steam room and showers, where dried herbs from the spa gardens decorate the walls. Then finally, I retreat to the outdoor heated hydrotherapy pool, taking in the Cotswold landscape as I lie back, mission for a countryside mindset makeover well and truly complete.
:: Aromatherapy Associates Clear Your Mind treatment is £95 for 85 minutes at Barnsley House & Spa (01285 740 000/www.barnsleyhouse.com)
:: Aromatherapy Associates products are available to buy at www.aromatherapyassociates.com
Buy it now
Thierry Mugler celebrates 20 years of scent with the designer's favourite material, leather. Four iconic fragrances; Angel, Alien, Womaninity and A*Men have been fused with unique leathery notes to create limited editions. Each Fragrance of Leather is priced £40-45, available now (0207 307 6700).
:: Happy feet
Sandals have been switched for winter boots and the season of foot neglect is upon us. More than two thirds (67%) of women say they are embarrassed by the state of their feet, according to a new survey by footcare brand, Footner. Half of the women questioned (51%) said they would be likely to spend their cash on footcare during summer, with just 6% investing in their feet during the winter months.
:: Recessionista alert
Boost your beauty smile with The Fragrance Shop's new Happy Hour(s). Every Friday between 12noon and 2pm, 20% off is knocked off everything in store and online at www.thefragranceshop.co.uk including top brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein and Armani.