The Best Manicure in New York?

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Lucy Bronfman. Her salon, Nails by Lucy, is located at 162 West 56th Street, Suite 402, 862.754.9383. First-time customers receive a 20% discount!

“My life will never be the same if Lucy leaves New York,” recently lamented beauty cognoscente Brenda M. “I honestly don’t know what I would do.”Was Brenda referring to her best friend or beloved nanny or sister perhaps? Not exactly. Brenda was fretting about the potential of losing her long-time manicurist, Lucy Bronfman. Never mind that her eponymous outpost, Nails by Lucy, is operating out of a recently expanded midtown salon and that the Brazilian native has no plans to decamp any time soon. But such is the loyalty that this 25-year veteran of the nail industry inspires.

Loyal customer Kathleen DeFouw getting a pedicure from Lucy and a manicure from Lucy’s assistant, Luize. Kathleen has been seeing Lucy for the last 6 ½ years. Ever vigilant about cleanliness, Lucy lines the foot baths with disposable inserts.

So, what brings on this slavish devotion, especially considering that by NYC standards, a mani/pedi session will set you back a pretty penny ($45/$65) and require a good chunk of your time (one hour for a manicure alone)? “No one does manicures and knows nail health like Lucy. She is absolutely meticulous,” was Brenda’s swift response. “They’re the best manicures and pedicures I’ve ever had,” echoes another long-time devotée, Kathleen DeFouw. “Lucy solves nail problems. She finds solutions whether your nails are dry or ingrown or you have cracked skin. Lucy has saved me from having to go to the foot doctor.”

Lucy’s assistant Luize with Kathleen DeFouw.

This unalloyed enthusiasm coupled with an impressive roster of celebrity clients like Kate WinsletAdriana LimaNaomi Campbell and Vanessa Williams, made me want to see the “nail whisperer” for myself — immediately. “I give Brazilian manicures,” enlightens Lucy, who worked at the famed J Sisters salon before going solo. “They’re different.” “How so?” I ask. “You’ll see.”

Some of Lucy’s celebrity clients.

After removing the old polish and trimming the nails, Lucy embarked on a thorough cutting and scraping of the cuticles. The answer to the eternal manicure question, “push back or cut cuticles?” according to Lucy, is to cut for trimming the cuticles is very important for cuticle health and nail growth. “It’s like trimming your hair,” she says. “Regular cuticle trims keep the nails in good condition.”

The author getting a manicure from Lucy. Lucy soaks the hands in hot water only. She does not dissolve soaps or anything else in the water so as to prevent allergic reactions.

Lucy then went on to file and buff not just my nails, but the skin around it in order to smooth out all the dry bits and discourage (ahem!) picking. And then somewhat alarmingly, she began applying the polish … on the nails and the surrounding skin. “This way, the whole nail is covered making the polish last longer,” she reassured. Afterwards, Lucy carefully removed all the extra varnish and the result was a manicure ready for its close up.

Lucy applying and then cleaning the polish off my skin …

The flawless finished product. The color is Merino Cool by Essie. Lucy likes to air dry nails, finding drying machines to be ineffective.

The very last step was applying lotion. Every single time I’ve gotten a manicure, the lotion has been massaged in before the polish application. Not so with Lucy who explained that even if you remove the polish with an acetone-free (less drying) polish remover, the hand lotion will seep into your nails, causing the polish to peel and your manicure to be short lived.

And her work does indeed seem to stand the test of time: “Lucy’s manicures last about ten days and I can go five weeks before needing a new pedicure,” affirms Kathleen. “Every single one of my clients from J Sisters followed me to my new salon,” reveals Lucy not without some pride. I can honestly say that Lucy can now count me among her customers for my nails have never looked better. It is by far the best manicure I’ve ever had and I’ve already booked my next appointment in 10 days’ time, clearing 90 minutes or so for I’ll be getting a pedicure too.

Lucy makes and sells her own (very emollient) foot cream.

Expert tip: Lucy swears by some unexpected nail care products. She favors a diaper rash cream like Desitin to moisturize cuticles. To condition nails, she brushes on a concoction of baby oil (tee tree oil works too) and vitamins A, D and E, mixing them as follows: empty the contents of five gel capsules of each vitamin into one small bottle of baby oil. Extra tip from Lucy: dab white vinegar on mosquito bites to relieve the itch.

For those of you who like to take matters into their own hands (no pun intended), our experts at NYSD Beauty recommend the Taylor of Old Bond Street Manicure Set. For some green options, there’s the “Five Free Formula” nail polish from RGB and acetone and acetate-free polish remover pads. And for those of you not willing to go the DIY/baby oil route, there’s the deeply moisturizing Black Label Vanilla Pod Hand & Nail Cream from Heaven Skincare.

L. to r.: The Taylor of Old Bond Street Manicure set comes in a helpful travel size.; RGB nail polish in Toast. The “Five Free Formula” (no formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, toluene, DBP or camphor) makes it great for expecting moms and young kids.
L. to r.: Acetone and acetate-free, 100% cotton pre-moistened nail color remover pads from RGB. The soy-based formula leaves nails moisturized.; The deeply moisturizing and exfoliating Heaven Vanilla Pod Hand & Nail Cream works on hands and nails for 4+ hours, even in water.

For more beauty tips and information, follow Delia on Instagram: @chasingbeautywithdvn.

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