A manicure or pedicure can be pricey if you end up with raw cuticles and polish that doesn't last through the weekend. In Washington, you can spend as little as $11 for a basic manicure or $100 for acrylics, and you'll often pay extra for paraffin dips and other treatments.
There are schools of thought that emphasize not filing the sides of nails, pushing back cuticles rather than cutting them, and buffing calluses instead of using planing razors. Your nail technician should ask your preferences before she sets to work.
Here is a handful of places with good nail services, professional-grade products (such as OPI, Essie, and Creative Nail Design), and fair prices.
Celadon, 1180 F St., NW; 202-347-3333; www.celadonspa.com. Pretty and upscale, Celadon is recommended by professional women and bridal parties. Nail services are on the pricey side–$23 for a basic manicure and $46 for a standard pedicure–but fans claim that Mina's work is worth it.
Elizabeth Arden, 5225 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, 202-362-9890; 1101 S. Joyce St., Arlington, 703-373-5888; and 10213 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda, 240-644-1319; www.reddoorsalons.com. The Pentagon Row location has four pedicure thrones that overlook the courtyard turned ice-skating rink in winter. The Chevy Chase original also provides expert pedicures in a relaxing atmosphere. A basic manicure is $24, while the classic "warm cream" pedicure is $45, which includes exfoliation, a lower-leg massage, and a warm towel wrap. Runners recommend the Heeling Pedi-Cure for $70.
Grooming Lounge, 1745 L St., NW; 202-466-8900; www.groominglounge.com. Part barbershop, part men's club, the Grooming Lounge offers nail services with names like Business Manicure and Executive Foot Treatment that banish all feminine undertones. Kick back with a cocktail and watch SportsCenter while a nail technician files and buffs your nails, cleans up your cuticles, and rubs a conditioning oil into your fingertips. Starting at $25 for hands and $49 for feet ($74 for the Commander in Chief combo package), each service includes a hand or foot massage.
Jessica B. Salon, 1208 31st St., NW; 202-625-6632. A '70s-summer-cottage feel pervades this petite salon on a Georgetown side street. The first floor is devoted to nails, and clients praise the delicious-smelling scrubs, lower-leg and foot massages, and steaming towel wraps. A manicure-pedicure combo is just $45. The living-room-like arrangement of nail stations could make this a fun place to go with friends.
Jouvence Aveda Salon and Spa, 11913 Democracy Dr., Reston, 703-904-6900; and 1101 S. Joyce St., Arlington, 703-413-4100; www.jouvencesalons.com. Jouvence gets high marks for the trademark Aveda scents, scrubs, and potions. Both locations offer relaxing atmospheres and gentle treatments, which start at $19 for fingers, $38 for toes.
M&M Nails and Wellness Center, 1107 Spring St., Suite A-1, Silver Spring; 301-585-4770; www.nailandwell.com. With a list of celebrity clients–including singers Dionne Warwick and Eric Benét, supermodel Tyson Beckford, and TV personalities Star Jones and Sharon Osbourne–Maisie Dunbar's salon is known for innovative nail designs. The menu of services is heavy on acrylic options, including airbrushed and hand-painted designs. This artistry comes at a price: While a "barely there" manicure costs $35, pedicures start at $56 and can run close to $100.
Natural Body Spa & Shoppe, 1081 Seven Locks Rd., Potomac, 301-610-5004; and 4100 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, 703-243-4015 (opening in March); www.naturalbodydayspa.com. The manicures and pedicures at this full-service spa aren't cheap, but they are good–and every one includes a parafin treatment and an arm or leg massage. Natural Body offers reclining chairs for pedicures. A manicure is $23; an hourlong pedicure is $50.
PR @ Partners, 2033 K St., NW; 202-862-3870; www.pratpartners.com. Manicurist Ethiopia is known for accommodating clients, whether it's doing a quick polish change while you're waiting for your highlights to set or trying out different shades until you find the polish that suits you. Pedicures are done in a single-chair pedicure throne in a closet-size treatment room, while manicures are done in the salon's main room. Manicures start at $15 and pedicures at $35.
Royal Nails, 129 S. Royal St., Alexandria; 703-684-6806. A favorite of Old Town regulars, this small salon–one pedicure station and four manicure tables–is run by a Chinese-Vietnamese couple who know clients by name. A clean, long-lasting manicure, regulars claim, is as good as high-end salon jobs that cost twice as much. And the service is friendly. A combined manicure and pedicure is $35.
Royal Nails, 3305 Lee Hwy., Arlington; 703-526-0566. There are no frills at this small strip-mall storefront in North Arlington, but the nail technicians turn out good, clean, fast manicures (starting at $11) and pedicures (starting at $24). Manicure-pedicure combos are $32. You'll pay a little extra if you want a French manicure ($15) or pedicure ($29), but one regular praises the technicians' ability to get the tips "just right"–not too wide, too thin, or too white. There are seven nail technicians; we hear good things about Kim.