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 • Nails  • Nailcare Guides  • A Celebrity Nail Artist Shares Her Tips on Joining in the 3D Mani Trend

A Celebrity Nail Artist Shares Her Tips on Joining in the 3D Mani Trend

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Main image – Bhambnails/Instagram

A few years ago, my friend posted a picture on Instagram of her newly manicured hands. She hadn’t opted for a romantic red or even a ballet nude. Oh no, this friend likes to be different.

Each one of her nails had, in fact, been painted a different colour of glitter and over the top was a carefully sculpted, 3D gummy bear. Not a real gummy bear, you understand (they wouldn’t last five minutes on my hands if they were). But it didn’t look far off the real deal. I was in complete and utter awe. 

Fast forward to now and 3D nails are huge. Whether you want sticking out candy canes at Christmas time or Hello Kitty heads poking out of the end of each finger, you name it, there’s a picture of it on the internet. Usually uploaded by some very gifted nail technicians. 

One of these talents is Pria Bhamra, a celebrity nail artist with over 107,000 followers on Instagram, famed for her intricate 3D designs.


Image – Pria Bhambra


After growing up inspired by her mum’s love for painting her nails, going through high school enjoying painting her own and already having a talent for art, she once randomly entered a nail salon in London and asked for a job. “I just started working at the weekends then did a retail job during the week,” she says.

After going freelance, Bhamra decided to dedicate her Instagram account to all things nails, and around a year into being a self-contained freelance nail artist Bhamra noticed her clientele was changing. “I had one client who was a dancer for Little Mix and then that led to Jessie Nelson, whose nails I did for ages, who obviously found me through her.”

The celeb list grew from there. “And then there was a bit of word of mouth through their friends and that’s how I ended up getting more clients like Jorja Smith, who’s still my client now.” 

She has since adorned the nails of the likes of Lily Allen and Serena Williams, and here, she kindly shares her tips for doing – and maintaining – a 3D mani. May your hands never look average again.



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What exactly are 3D nails?

Bhamra explains 3D nails are just that: any nail art that has a textured or three-dimensional surface.

And it seems there are two trends in particular right now that are at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. “Some people just like little water droplets which is a tiny bit of new 3D and still looks really cool even though it’s very simple,” she says. 

On the other hand, she says others are going for a more extreme look. “They want to build full 3D images of faces or objects, and I feel like this might become a bit more of a thing. I think people are definitely into bigger 3D stuff as well as the minimal ones. 



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“It’s becoming more sculptural, moving a bit more towards the art side of things rather than just being a painted nail. It definitely feels more arty, and there’s different products available now as well which is great.”

Bhamra is also currently noticing a few nods to the past. “I’m also seeing animals and lots of nostalgic stuff,” she says. “People are making little Nokia phones charms. I think the possibilities are actually endless now.” 


So how long does a 3D nail appointment really take?

I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the looks I see on Instagram take days. But Bhamra has some surprising news, if you’re willing to keep it simple. 

“It could take a few hours if you wanted to do a full set but if you were doing one nail, maybe 20 minutes to build something.” Not even half of your lunch hour? *immediately looks for single 3D nail inspiration*.


How to find the right 3D nail artist

Finding ‘the one’ is crucial to the end result of your 3D nails. So where do we start? “Definitely through Instagram, or word of mouth,” Bhamra says. Or, be bold. “If you’ve seen someone that’s got nice long nails on the street or something, just ask.”

She also believes that the truly committed artists work for themselves. “I really think that if you’re really into serious nail art and 3D and experimental stuff, the right nail tech for you is probably going to be a freelance,” she says.



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“You need to find someone that is creative and into the nail art world, who wants to learn and try new things and be a bit experimental,” she adds.

Salons are harder for 3D designs though, she says. “People need to check what kind of nail art a salon does because when they’re local ones, they don’t have the time,” she says. 

“They’re not interested in nail art stuff a lot of the time.  From what a lot of my clients have told me, salons often just say no because it’s time consuming and it’s not worth their money to do that.”

And if the salon does do nail art? “You need to find out what products they’ve got because they might not have the products to do 3D nail art,” she explains. 


Prepping for your appointment

Ok, now you’ve found your nail artist, you’ll need to prep for you appointment.

The key is to chat with your nail artist in advance. “If it’s quite complex, your nail artist will need to know beforehand because otherwise it’s a lot to be told in the moment,” Bhamra warns. “For 3D art you definitely need warning because, for most artists anyway, you need to prepare.”

You’ll also need to be detailed when you make your appointment. “You need to explain what you want done and if they need to remove your old product, because obviously that’s not just having the nail art done, you need to prep.” 


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Needing extensions too? Let them know. “That can really add to the length of time,” she says.

To save time, you might also want to show your nail artist an example of what you want in advance. “If you’ve got a photo you like, take it with you or if it’s something really complicated you can send it over to the nail artist before your appointment,” she says.  

“I know a lot of nail artists in the US will then plan out the whole look and even create a mood board ahead of the appointment.”


Maintaining nails in between appointments

Bhamra explains maintaining 3D nails is all in the cuticle oil. “You need to be using one because it will help maintain your extensions, your manicure and your nail art,” she says. “It will help your nails grow healthier, even if you don’t have anything on them.”

And what about when your nails are naked? “I’ve always sworn by Sally Hanson Hard As Nails (£8 from Boots UK /$3.49 from Ulta Beauty US). When I was younger that’s how I used to keep my nails really long all the time.”

And, while we’re at it, how do you keep a normal mani looking polished? “If you’ve just had a regular polish manicure and it goes dull, you can just put another coat of normal nail polish on top so you’ve got that gloss again and it’s nice and shiny,” she says.



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Do 3D nails chip easily?

The good news is that 3D nails are pretty sturdy but Bhamra says it’s what’s underneath that counts. “They’re actually really hard wiring but you need to be careful of knocking them because then you can cause damage to your nail anyway,” she warns.

So, no opening tin cans using your nails then. “You can’t just carry on as normal, using them as tools. You need to be really careful and you can’t be heavy handed with things. If you’re washing up, you need to use gloves and don’t just use them to pick up stuff.” 

You have been warned!



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How to safely try 3D nail art from home

Bhamra has some very clear advice. “No one should really be trying gels or 3D nails from home as it can be really toxic,” she says. 

“If you want to try it though, there’s a clay called Sissi Clay which you just build stuff with so you can make shapes and objects,” Bhamra explains.

“You build it and then cure it and then put it on with a bit of nail glue over a base and topcoat.” The good news is it’s not toxic, “but you’d need to wear gloves because you obviously don’t want too much skin contact as that’s when issues happen.” 

So what would she say is a good design for beginners? “You can use a gel topcoat to create blobs for the water effect.” And what’s her advice on taking 3D nails off? “Always get them removed by a professional because trying to take off 3D nails yourself is going to cause some damage.”


The takeaway

Looking through Pria Bhamra’s Instagram grid, it’s no wonder she’s been so successful. Her talent is nothing short of amazing. She is proof that word of mouth (and a bit of posting online) is everything. 

If you’re thinking of booking an appointment for a 3D manicure, make sure you have a chat with the salon or nail artist in advance and set out exactly what you want them to do. Check you’ve both got the time to create your desired look and take inspiration pictures to help you both stay on the same page.

Try not to attempt 3D nails at home but if you insist on doing so, follow Bhamra’s safety guidelines and, whatever happens, make sure you get them removed by a professional. 

Now I’m off to live my best nail life, in search of someone who will adorn my fingers with gummy bears. And this is exactly why I love the beauty industry!


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Sally Underwood is a journalist, *serious* beauty fan, and Editor-in-Chief of Live That Glow. Formerly Editorial Director of one of Europe's largest newspaper groups, Sally has been a beauty obsessive since her teen years spent dragging her long-suffering (but immaculately-groomed) friends around every beauty counter in London. She now leads Live That Glow's editorial operations.

Expertise: Skincare, Body care
Education: University College London

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