The nails slithering into style

SNAKESKIN is in – it’s all over bags, shoes, wallets, belts. But nails? Yes, that too now, if you want the very latest look to slither off the boat from New York.

Spotting an opportunity, Donna Haar-Jorgensen, the statuesque founder of the extremely chichi Hand & Foot Spa chain, has introduced snakeskin manis and pedis in her salons.

Sound appealing? Possibly not – in the same way that those pedicures with little skin-eating fish give some the heebie jeebies. But anything for beauty, surely, and with that courageous attitude, I headed to Knightsbridge to see what it is all about.

The first thing you need is patience. Each snake-skin nail takes about 15 minutes. The second thing you need is cash: it’s £62 for manicure with one snakeskin fingernail, £82 for a pedi with one toenail (it works out less per nail if you get the whole set done). The third thing you need is to like what it looks like. There are 170 colour combinations – from black and white to pink to green – but that doesn’t mean any of them will be to your taste. Because there is actual, physical (dead) snakeskin embedded on your nail and despite the interesting, pleasing and certainly very unique effect, there’s no escaping it’s all rather biological-looking.

Here’s what happens. A nail technician embeds sanitised snakeskin (nobody could tell me what type of snake) into Bio Sculpture gel, then layers it on to your nail over a colour of your choice. It’s protected by lots of rounds of gel application, which ultimately gives the nail a thickness that’s best overlooked.

Far from unappealing, though, the skin looks beautiful, especially in its plastic casing before being applied – truly delicate, and with a varying pattern that couldn’t be man-made. It’s worth having a good look at it.

This is artisanal work: the manicurist measures the nail space and carefully snips the size of skin she wants in a square cutout, before very carefully placing it on the nail bed, folding it down and trimming it to fit.

I went for a single nail on my hands – my right pinky – and a single nail on my toes, my big right. This is a subtle and effective way to give your hands and feet a sniff of something different without the rather enormous expense in both time and money for the full set.

I went for a dark red colour, which gave a subtle effect when overlaid with the yellowish skin. It looked better on my feet than hands, as from a distance my pinkie looked merely a bit off-colour rather than latticed with an exquisite natural substance. The nail bed on the big toe also gives more surface area for the skin to show its pattern.

And what about the feedback? Girlfriends liked my snakeskin pinkie (given the frosty time of year, nobody has seen my toe), spying something new in the now-saturated but ever-popular world of nail-art. Men hated it – they like plain old red nails, evidently. I’m not sure I don’t prefer them too, though it was by far the most interesting mani-pedi I’ve ever had. Real Snake Skin Manicure: Spa Manicure with snake skin on one finger nail: £62; Full set: £150. Full set pedicure: £160.