What To Ask For At The Nail Salon? Explore The Options

The first trip to a nail salon seems daunting for some of us, especially when we’re getting our very first manicure. After all, we’re new to the manicure world, and any technical terms can leave us confused and intimidated. 

What to ask for at the nail salon? And, how to ask for it in the right way? No worries; with a bit of preparation beforehand, you can stride into the salon with more confidence and feel at ease to ask for what you have in mind!

What Are Your Options For Getting Your Nails Done?

Basic Polish

A basic manicure involves nail cleaning, cuticle cutting/pushing, filing, shaping, and applying a polish of your choosing. Go fancier with nail art for an extra charge if you want. 

Basic manicure
Basic manicure
  • Average cost: $10-$15
  • Average time of application: 30 minutes
  • Average lifespan: 5 days without chipping
  • How to remove: Basic nail polish can be easily removed with cotton pads soaked with polish remover or acetone

Shellac Manicure

Shellac and gel manicures are usually mistakenly used interchangeably. However, the difference lies in the actual polish. Shellac is a special polish formulated and patented by the brand Creative Nail Design (CND). 

It’s intrinsically a flexible blending of half regular polish and half gel. The result is a hard, glossy finish that is long-lasting and resistant to chips and smudges. 

Shellac manicure
Shellac manicure
  • Average cost: $25-$40
  • Average time of application: 45-60 minutes
  • Average lifespan: 2-3 weeks without chipping
  • How to remove: The brand also offers a special formulation that breaks the coating into microscopic pieces for hassle-free removal. 

Acrylic Nails

The nail tech basically mixes a powder (polymer) and a liquid (monomer) to create a hard acrylic enhancement. It is then shaped by nail forms into the desired nail shape (square, round, coffin, etc.) before nail art or embellishments are applied if you wish.  

Acrylic nails
Acrylic nails
  • Average cost: $35 per full set and $15 per fill
  • Average time of application: 1.5 hours per full set, 45 minutes per fill
  • Average lifespan: Up to 3 weeks
  • How to remove: It’s a safer choice to have your acrylic manicure removed at the salon. The removal includes trimming the length, eliminating the color, and filing the acrylic material. 

Gel Nails

A gel manicure follows most of the same steps as a regular polish manicure – cutting, filing, shaping, and cuticle cutting (if you prefer). 

However, the nail tech will use a gel-based polish instead of traditional polish to paint your nails, followed by the curing under UV or LED light to harden the polish. Gel polish is studier and stays shiny and chip-free longer than its traditional counterpart. 

Gel nails
Gel nails
  • Average cost: $20 and up
  • Average time of application: Up to 45 minutes
  • Average lifespan: Up to 3 weeks
  • How to remove: Gel polish can be soaked off using 100% acetone at home. However, if not properly removed, there is a high risk of nail damage, so it would be better to leave the work to the professionals. 

Gel Extensions

Gel nail extensions involve the addition of fake tips to extend your natural nails. These extensions are then strengthened and secured by covering them in a gel. 

Gel extensions
Gel extensions
  • Average cost: $50 and up
  • Average time of application: 1-2 hours 
  • Average lifespan: Up to 3 weeks
  • How to remove: You need to polish the surface of the nail polish to break the texture of the nail polish. Next, place a cotton ball soaked in acetone on top of the polished nail surface. Fix nails for 20 minutes with aluminum foil to completely remove nail polish.

Dip Powder

Dip manicure uses pigmented powder instead of regular nail polish. It gives you the super-pigmented color that can hold on strong for 3 weeks or longer. The best thing is that this powder does need to be cured or sealed under UV light. 

Dip manicure
Dip manicure
  • Average cost: $30 or beyond
  • Average time of application: 45 – 60 minutes 
  • Average lifespan: Up to 3 weeks
  • How to remove: Dip powder can be soaked off with 100% acetone.

Paraffin Manicure

With paraffin manicure, the nail tech will dip your hand into a colorless, odorless, petroleum-based wax. When the paraffin hardens

Paraffin manicures are highly recommended for those with dry and cracked nails that want to restore them to health. 

It’s worth mentioning that paraffin manicure is not for everyone. If you have sensitive skin or suffer from psoriasis, give this paraffin a miss, as the manicure might worsen your conditions. 

Paraffin manicure
Paraffin manicure
  • Average cost: $40 and up
  • Average time of application: Around 30-60 minutes
  • Average lifespan: 1-2 weeks
  • How to remove: Simply soak off the manicure

How Do You Say What You Want To Your Nail Tech?

It is important to know what type of manicure, the shape, color, and design you’re after. 

Once you have a clear idea of what you want, look at the salon’s menu to see the types of service they’re offering. Most salons use the universal language to name manicure types, so it should be easy for you to spot your desired manicure on the list. Then, tell them exactly what you need in a friendly tone. 

If you are unsure whether the salon offers a certain service, simply ask your nail tech about it. Maybe they use a different name for it, or perhaps it’s still there in the menu, but your eyes miss it. 

Just utter the name, as most nail techs can immediately understand what you imply. Even when things get quite confusing, and you and the nail tech are not exactly on the same page, show them the picture you’ve collected from the Internet because a picture is worth a thousand words, right? 

In terms of nail preferences, it’s best to be clear about yours as much as possible. Your nail tech cannot read your mind, after all! This is especially true if you’re looking for something less traditional or the latest nail craze, have pictures ready on your phone to ensure you’ll get exactly what you want. 

What To Prepare Before Going To A Nail Salon?

Here are the things you should know/do before heading to a nail salon for the best salon experience: 

Choose The Right Nail Salon

Take your time to research salons. Look for trained and experienced technicians, especially in the manicure type you’re planning to do. This can be done in several ways, such as scouring online reviews, asking your nail-obsessive friends, etc. 

But the most important thing to check out is the sanitation and overall quality of the salon. Any place where cutting and clipping skin occurs carries a risk of infection. 

Nail salons carry high risk of infection, so choose wisely!
Nail salons carry high risk of infection, so choose wisely!

Check if the salon cleans its tools with an autoclave or other similar FDA-approved cleaning equipment (as licensed salons must do so). Autoclaves are significantly more effective at disinfecting all the microscopic impurities that might linger on the salon tools. 

Otherwise, if they just soak things in rubbing alcohol, pick them up and re-use them, then stay away!

You should answer these questions to determine to know if the salon is doing enough to maintain proper cleanliness:

  • What does the salon look like? Is it clean?
  • Are the salon and nail technicians licensed?
  • Does the nail tech disinfect the tools and discard any disposable items after the client leaves? Are these tools properly disinfected?
  • Does the nail tech wash their hands before starting the manicure? Do they ask the client to wash her hands?

Avoid Shaving 

It makes sense to get rid of these overgrown leg hair before getting a pedicure. However, you’d better skip the leg shave if you’re heading to the salon on that same day. Shaving makes skin more sensitive to the products used in the manicures, and you can experience stringing along the way. Nail techs don’t judge, after all!

What To Ask For When You Get Acrylic Nails? 

It’s best to make an appointment via phone call and let the customer agent know that you would like to have acrylic nails. This type of manicure is more time-consuming than other techniques so they can budget their time into the schedule for you. 

Tell your tech that you want acrylic tips, and be specific about the desired shape and length. Typically, the nail tech will shape from long fake tips affixed to your nails. 

Would you like to wear a gel polish over the acrylic tips? Make sure you let your tech know beforehand, so they can prepare the color and smoothly work through the process. Don’t be afraid to be as informative about your preferences as possible at the salon to get what you want. 

The Bottom Line

What to ask for at the nail salon? We bet you have plenty of options after finishing this article. It all comes down to your preferences to pick out the right choice and get yourself perfectly ready to ask for it at the salon. 

However, if you’re unsure of anything, feel free to voice it with your tech. You’ll only get your dream manicure when you two are speaking the same language!


How long does it take for nails to dry completely after applying nail polish?

Normally, nails after applying the top coat will need to wait 5-10 minutes to dry. However, after the above period, you still need to limit touch and avoid water so that your nail polish has time to stick and be completely durable. Within 3 hours of manicure, your nails will be completely dry and hard as enamel.

Any tips for strong and durable nails after nail polish?

Some notes to make the nails last as long as possible:

– Avoid direct contact with water for too long

– Do not remove the nail polish yourself, let a professional handle the damaged nail polish for you.

– Strengthen nails after work by applying cuticle oil, and moisturizer regularly.

Should I bring my own manicure tools to the salon?

The answer depends on you.

Most salons have rules for cleaning and sterilizing nail tools before doing nails for customers. However, if you are a careful person and do not like to share things with others, you can completely bring your manicure with you when you go to a manicure. Remember to wash and sterilize your tools before you bring them in to ensure hygiene. The simplest way is to wash the nail tools with antibacterial soap, dry, and rinse them with alcohol to sterilize.

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