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Many women here are no longer content with just a simple manicure and pedicure.

They want loud, colourful, sparkly, intricate – and hardy – designs on their nails.

Ms Sandra Cameron, 43, who has been living in Singapore for the past 10 years, is one such example. The French public relations consultant discovered the nail artists at boutique-nail bar-cafe Manicurious and goes there once every three weeks to have her nails painted.

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So far, the fashion lover has had them covered in a Dries Van Noten-inspired paint splatter print, a colourful Ke Hana motif, as well as a black, grey and nude design inspired by a Dior runway suit.

“I always take along something for inspiration, such as a fabric print or a runway look,” she says. “I think nail art is a fashion statement and an extension of my accessories. Manicures in plain colours are boring.”

Each time, she spends about $100 to get her nails done.

Ms Olivia Chua, 30, an industry veteran of 11 years and owner of the Plush Nails salons, estimates that the number of nail parlours offering nail art here has increased three-fold since she first started out as an apprentice.

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The local professional nail art scene has also become increasingly sophisticated with new technology and products, such as gel paint for finer strokes and gel overlay that can be sculpted to give nail art more dimension.

Realistic-looking handmade acrylic powder confections, finely painted storybook characters and colourful, tiny Aztec-inspired designs are now par for the course.

Ms Chua notes that while complicated nail art designs from Japan and South Korea have always been around, women here are slowly becoming more receptive to them.

Celebrities who sport elaborate nail art at red-carpet events, and tweet about or post on Instagram their favourite designs, help to popularise the trend.

And with the rise of social media platforms, nail art lovers around the world can swop ideas easily.

There is no limit to how elaborate one’s nail art can be. If one is feeling adventurous, she can go all out with Lady Gaga-inspired elaborate three-inch talons.

If one works in a corporate environment, she could opt for something more subtle, such as a French manicure with a pink-and-white diamante 2-D rose on just her thumb.

Prices for nail art generally range from $3 to $30 per nail, excluding manicure and a gel overlay.

The prices vary across beauty chains to home-based businesses, as well as according to the level of workmanship.

As more women are exposed to nail art, nail technicians here are constantly challenged when their customers take along pictures of outrageously intricate designs they want recreated on their own nails.

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Ms Phyllis Wong, 22, owner of home-based outfit D’Nail Palette, says her customers always come prepared with pictures of the looks they want.

“I prefer my customers to e-mail or send me the pictures on WhatsApp beforehand so I can plan ahead,” she says.

Urban picked the brains of nail art fanatics, nail art instructors and beauty magazine editors to find out who the go-to nail artists in town are and narrowed the list to four who are at the top of their game.

This story was first published in The Straits Times on October 11, 2013. For similar stories, go to You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.