What I love most about a trip to the nail salon is it’s basically an oasis of endless possibilities. That being said, most trips to the salon still begin with me staring down the “services” menu trying to figure out if I’ll stick to a regular manicure or treat myself to something more creative like a shellac manicure or the rainbow french manicure. Then, I factor in how much time I have to spare, consider extra add-ons like massages and hot oil treatments, ponder designs, and my head is left spinning before I even sit down to begin the treatment. That’s why I turned to Vivian Cardenas of NYC-based nail salon Vanity Projects and Miki Higuchi of NYC’s Aikiko Nails to break down every type of manicure there is out there.
A basic manicure is your standard manicure. “The nail tech will start off by soaking your hands in warm soapy water to soothe and soften dead skin cells,” Higuchi says. “Then, the nail tech will file and buff, clean the cuticle, and massage your hands with a hand cream. Painting the base coat, color, and top coat is next and then a cuticle oil is applied.”
How long does it take? A basic manicure takes up to 30 minutes.
How long does it last? A basic manicure can last anywhere up to seven days.
How do you remove it? The polish can be removed with nail polish remover or acetone.
Does it damage the nail? No. A basic manicure can go a long way in helping to revive your nails, hydrating them and keeping good nail health in trimming your nails/cuticles regularly.
“A gel manicure includes the same basic manicure process but with the addition of a gel polish cured under UV light twice, then the top coat is applied to cure the nail,” Cardenas says.
How long does it take? A one-color gel manicure takes up to 45 minutes.
How long does it last? A gel manicure can last anywhere between two to three weeks.
How do you remove it? Gel polish is removed with an acetone soak-off, but it’s best to return to the salon for take-off.
Does it damage the nail? A gel manicure should not affect the nail health if done and removed by a professional technician. A client risks damaging their nails when they peel, chip or lift the gel polish, as they are removing it improperly.
An acrylic overlay is the combination of a liquid monomer and powder polymer that creates a hard protective layer over your natural nail.
How long does it take? An acrylic overlay manicure can take up to an hour and 30 minutes.
How is it done? “Acrylic manicure has the same steps as a gel manicure but with the use of liquid monomer and powder polymer to build over the natural nail and is then coated with polish or cured with a UV light should the client get a gel manicure on top,” Cardenas explains.
How long does it last? An acrylic overlay can last up to 2-3 weeks.
How do you remove it? An acrylic overlay is soaked off with acetone.
Does it damage the nail? If its done and removed by a professional technician, no.
The 2000s french manicure is back, y’all! “A French manicure is a manicure that has a sheer pink or beige tone with a white polish tip on each nail,” Cardenas says.
How long does it take? A French manicure can take up to 45 min to an hour.
How is it done? A French manicure is done by servicing a basic manicure and applying a sheer pink or beige tone and a white polish tip on each nail.
How long does it last? A French manicure can last up to two to three weeks if done in gel or up to seven days if done in regular polish.
How do you remove it? It can be removed with acetone if in gel or with nail polish remover if done in regular polish.
Does it damage the nail? It should not affect the nail health if done and removed by a professional technician.
Regular nail polish takes long to dry and gel can sometimes lead to damage if removed incorrectly—a shellac manicure is your happy medium. “Shellac is the brand name,” Higuchi says. “It’s a patent pending nail product created by Creative Nail Design (CND). It is a hybrid, meaning half nail polish, half gel and can be applied similarly to nail polish on your natural nails. It is cured through UV lighting.”
How long does it take? A shellac manicure can take up to 45 min.
How is it done? It follows the same steps as a gel manicure.
How long does it last? A shellac manicure can last up to three weeks.
How do you remove it? A shellac manicure can be removed with acetone.
Does it damage the nail? You can risk damaging your nails if you peel or remove the product incorrectly.
Feeling bougie? Add a paraffin manicure to your nail treatment, which hydrates the skin. “A paraffin manicure is known for its treatment of extremely dry skin. The heat of the wax opens the pores and increases circulation to the hands,” Higuchi says. “A paraffin treatment can also temporarily alleviate sore muscles and joints.”
How long does it take? About 50 minutes
How is it done? First, you heat up wax, then dip the hands in the wax and wait for about 20-30 minutes. After that, you peel the wax off and massage a lotion or cream onto the hands.
How long does it last? Anywhere from one to two weeks.
How is it removed? You would soak off the manicure.
Does it damage the nail? No
“A hot stone manicure is a therapeutic manicure that requires the use of a hot stone during the service of a basic manicure with warm stones, nourishing oils and a therapeutic massage,” Cardenas says.
How long does it take? A basic manicure service with hot stone is a 50 minute service
How is it done? A hot stone manicure is a treatment completed before applying gel/polish and includes warm stones, exfoliation, nourishing oils and a therapeutic massage.
How do you take it off? You take off the hot stone and clean off any excess oils on the hand.
Does it damage the nail? No, a hot stone manicure is a therapeutic service that promotes relief and restorative treatment to the hands.
Dip Powder Manicure
Another happy medium, “a dip powder manicure falls between a regular mani and a fake acrylic nail,” Higuchi says. “Instead of using UV rays to seal in your polish, the color comes from a pigmented powder.”
How long does it take? About 40 minutes
How is it done? A base coat is applied to the nail, then the nail is dipped into a powder and sealed with a top coat.
How long does it last? About three weeks
How do you take it off? You can soak it off
Does it damage the nails? No