Under the microscope: 'Everlasting' nail varnish From £50
In theory: As "everlasting" as nail varnish gets, Nails Inc's "3 Week Manicure" (available nationwide; for stores visit www.nailsinc.com) promises chip-free polish for, er, three weeks. Coloured gel – available in six of its bestselling shades – is applied to the nail, then set under a UV lamp to create the chip-resistant colour. The organic gel simultaneously protects nails for optimum growth.
In practice: After 45 minutes, my primer, base coat, two layers of colour and top coat are dry as a bone. Choose your shade carefully as you'll be stuck with it for a while. Dr F opted for St James – a classic London-bus red that goes with everything. An extra £15 gets you a glass of fizz at the Harvey Nichols branch, but as you sit amid crowds of shoppers, save your pennies and find a nice quiet bar to flaunt your nails in later.
Observations: Twenty-one days later and not a chip in sight. The main problem is that Dr F's nails have grown so much that there's a noticeable gap between colour and cuticle, making it look a bit like she might, heaven forbid, be wearing fake nails. After the three-week, mark the gel begins to lift ever so slightly at the edges, but it's not immediately noticeable.
Analysis: You can't fault this on performance; the real question is whether it's worth the expense. Coming in at a little under the price of three normal manicures (which one hopes would last a week), it is pretty good value and a great time-saver. However, what you don't find out until the day is that you'll need to have this soaked off at a Nails Inc salon for about £25 – a little sneaky.
Prescription: If you're off on holiday, this is a great idea. Likewise, busy bees with no time for multiple appointments will be more than willing to shell out.
Further experiments: For an extra £25, Nails Inc offers a three-week pedicure that should last even longer than the manicure – unless you do a lot of housework with your feet (£75 with manicure, normally £50). To ensure the skin on your hands looks as good as your nails, invest in Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve (£17, www.kiehls.com).