Nail-biting times call for nail-saving measures, boys

Steve Dinneen
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I have never given cuticles much thought. I tend to consider them a neutral part of the body; neither good nor bad, like the bladder or the spleen. Not so. My cuticles are “outrageous,” according to The Refinery’s nail expert Christine. Outrageously bad, to be precise.

The Refinery on Mayfair’s Brook Street is a vast, multi-story one-stop-shop for male grooming. I’m booked in for the suggestively-titled Ultimate Hand Treatment. Before I go, perhaps in a subconscious attempt to reaffirm my masculinity, I spend a few hours at the climbing wall. By the time I arrive for my appointment my hands are red-raw, with chalk ground under my nails and blood seeping from my right index finger. This was going to be a big job. To a lot of men, getting a manicure is, reportedly, a completely normal experience. To me, ostensibly holding hands with a woman I have never met is usually a pre-amble to some kind of sexual encounter (maybe this isn’t so far off the mark; in an episode of Frasier, Niles resorts to manicures as an excuse to touch women).

First, Christine files down my nails and uses what looks like a surgical torture device to snip away the loose skin. Next she coats them in cuticle remover, soaks them in a water bath and scrapes away large strips of dead skin with a second tool (cue the “outrageous” comment). She coats my fingers in saccharine smelling oil before giving me a vigorous (and very pleasant) hand massage. Next my hands are smeared in what looks like honey and wrapped in plastic until they look like packets of budget chicken fillets. After letting them soak (marinade? gestate?) for ten minutes, a final oil treatment is applied. The whole process lasts around 45 minutes. And my hands feel pretty good – three days later the nails still have a curve to them, rather than the usual steak knife serrated edge. Whether they will survive another trip to the climbing wall, though, remains to be seen. Steve received a £48 Ultimate Hand Treatment at The Refinery, 60 Brook Street, W1K 5DU,


Bespoke hand treatment, Gentleman’s Tonic, £48

45 minute treatment with exfoliation, hand massage with essential oils and a manicure. Comes with hydrating hand mask.

31a Bruton Place
0207 297 4343

Manicure, Brown’s Hotel, £35

Zip in and zip out in 30 minutes. A hand soak in conditioning oils and creams, nails clipped filed and cuticles cleaned, followed by a relaxing softening massage

Brown’s Hotel, Albemarle Street, W1S 4BP,
020 7518 4009.