Atlas Studio Gives You Manicures

I just learned it's going to cost me $15 to remove this manicure I just got. And, believe it or not, I'm okay with that.

I finally paid a visit to Atlas Studio in Costa Mesa. The place is known for its Japanese 3D-art manicures—think about the most overly kawaii thing you've ever seen in your life, but on your nails. The difference? These baubles don't just lay flat on the nail, as they do with European and American nail art.

These things pop up and protrude, and the entire nail is often dripping with add-ons—beads, Hello Kitty, cat paws, stars, hearts, pearls, Keroppi, the Union Jack, snowmen, roses, leopard print, bow, palm trees . . . you name it, the shop either has it or can hand-paint it just for you. Does it matter that it's highly inconvenient for the wearer? Nope.

Actually, during my visit on a Friday afternoon, I had to talk nail technician Mika out of anything too crazy: So, no, no Thumper or Bambi for me. (Her own nails featured a tanned Hello Kitty in a grass skirt, with a pink plumeria design. She admitted that her hair gets trapped in Hawaiian Hello Kitty sometimes.) I opted for a sky-blue gradation that faded into a clear coat with some glitter (glitter's okay, right?) thrown on top. Then, figuring that I was being decidedly un-fun, I agreed to a tangerine-, navy- and white-striped design for both my ring fingers—Mika later added a few flat, shiny sparkles to polka dot the nails.

The attention that went into doing each of my nails was pretty amazing: Calgel is a UV nail polish cured under a UV lamp between thin coats for 20 seconds. Mika was precise, careful and a perfectionist. After sanding down my cuticles and nail surface, on went a thin, clear coat. With a tiny brush, Mika applied several coats of the baby-blue color to the tips of my nails, with a break between each coat in the UV machine. She then flipped the brush onto its side and dabbed at the edges of the blue to make it “fade” into a lighter and lighter color. No nail technician here pretending to not see a smudge or tiny hair trapped in a fresh coat of lacquer. Mika even removed paint from my nails a few times until the design was to her liking.

So here's the bad news: My experience cost $55 ($45 for the Calgel, plus $10 for the art), but your bill can run into the hundreds if you choose to get really fancy. The prices at Atlas can run a bit high, but did I mention Calgel manicures last at least three weeks? Atlas also offers spa pedicures, acrylics, eyelash extensions and perms, facials, even nail classes. It's recommended you call a few days in advance for an appointment.

This column appeared in print as “Atlas Got a Manicure.”

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