Every Type of Manicure, Explained

Every Type of Manicure, Explained

Getty | Jeremy MoellerGetty | Jeremy Moeller

A quick glance at the nail-salon service menu might be more confusing than clarifying. You’ll find a number of different options, from spa treatments to manicure and pedicure types — and while it’s nice to have options, it’s tricky when you don’t know exactly what they entail.

You’re probably familiar with the fundamentals, like regular and gel manicures — but when terms like “Russian manicure” and “gel extensions” get thrown into the mix, things can get a little confusing. There are about six different manicure types available to you: basic, gel, acrylic, Russian, dip powder, and gel extensions. Knowing each is essential toward ensuring you leave the salon happy. Even if you already have a signature nail technique that you swear by, it never hurts to have a few options on standby in case you decide to switch things up one day. Who knows? You may just discover your new go-to beauty treatment.

For a full breakdown of the different types of manicures out there, keep scrolling.

Basic Manicure

The most rudimentary option on the menu, the basic manicure lays the groundwork for all other manicure styles. With a basic manicure, you’ll experience the standard treatments that come with cleaning and shaping, such as trimming, filing, buffing, and removing cuticles. More often than not, you’ll also receive a hand massage. Many people may not realize that getting nail polish applied at the end of this type of manicure is completely optional — you can go in for just the shaping treatment and leave with bare nails.

If you do opt for polish, the nail technician will most likely apply a base coat, followed by two coats of nail color and a top coat. They’ll then set you up at a hand dryer, where you’ll sit until it’s safe to leave. While every place differs, a standard manicure is always going to be the cheapest option on the menu — usually around $20. Nail polish with this kind of manicure usually lasts for about a week, although a little chipping can occur during that time. You can remove at home with regular nail-polish remover.

Gel Manicure

The gel manicure is another popular option. The prep is very similar to a basic manicure; the differences begin at the polish-application step. Instead regular nail lacquer, special gel nail polish is applied to your bare nail and cured under a UV lamp for a few seconds. Each layer of gel polish needs to be set under the light before another can be applied. Because the light cures the nail polish in seconds, there is no added drying time at the end of this manicure.

The gel manicure’s main advantage is its durability. Gel nail polish can last upwards of two weeks without chipping. However, because it’s so strong, you have to remove it a certain way in order to not damage your natural nails. Again, the price of gel manis varies by salon, but they’re usually about $10 or $20 more than the salon’s regular manicure — so around $30 to $50.

BIAB Nails

A subset of a gel manicure that’s also known as a structured manicure, BIAB nails typically use a builder gel that you can use the same way you do a normal gel nail polish. However, not only do you put your actual preferred nail color and designs on top of this builder gel, but when taking off you manicure, you file instead of soak. This is to make sure that the clear layer of the gel stays on your natural nails and protects them from constantly being exposed to acetone, keeping you nails much more healthy in the long run. As for the cost of BIAB nails, expect to shell out anywhere from $40 to $100 for the manicure.

Acrylic Manicure

An acrylic manicure involves nail extensions made from a “thin layer of acrylic powder mixed with acrylic liquid, applied over a plastic nail tip,” Jenny Bui, Cardi B’s manicurist, says. It’s used to make nails longer and temporarily harden them. Your manicurist should shape your nails as usual before applying the acrylic extensions on top.

Once the acrylics are applied, polish and nail-art designs can be applied to each fingertip. The entire process should take around an hour, and the set should last about two or three weeks before you need to get them refilled. If it’s absolutely necessary, you can try removing your acrylic nails at home by soaking them, but it’s recommended that you go to a salon to get help from a professional. Because it’s more involved, prepare to pay around $100 for an acrylic manicure.

Russian Manicure

If you’re not familiar with Russian manicures, you’re going to want to do your research before getting one, as the treatment is one of the more controversial manicures. “A Russian manicure is a technique, not a design,” celebrity manicurist Elle Gerstein says. “The technique involves very extreme and extensive cuticle care [and requires a manicurist] to have almost surgeon-like precision.”

The technique makes your nails look almost photoshopped because of how clean they are, but cutting your cuticles isn’t recommended by most dermatologists and even some manicurists, as it leaves your nail beds susceptible to infections. But if you want to give it a try anyway, prepare to sit for about an hour or two without nail-polish application. Results last about two to three weeks, and the cost can range anywhere from $50 to $100.

Dip-Powder Manicure

In terms of popularity, dip-powder manicures are right up there with gel and regular manis. The prep for a dip-powder mani is the same as a standard manicure, with trimming, shaping, and filing. A clear base coat is applied before the fingernail is dipped into a pigmented powder — no colored polish is brushed onto the nail itself. Excess powder is removed from the nail, and the process is repeated. To finish, a clear top coat is applied for shine. No fans or UV lamps are involved.

Dip-powder manicures create a hard coating on your nail, temporarily making them strong and keeping them from breaking. The results can last around two to three weeks, depending on how careful you are with your nails. Removal is similar to that of gel nail polish and can be done at home or in the salon. The cost of a dip-powder manicure varies, but be prepared to shell out anywhere from $40 to $70.

Gel-Extension Manicure

A gel-extension manicure adds length to your natural nails. Its look is similar to that of acrylics, but the extensions are thinner and often more natural looking. There are different types of gel extensions, but the most common one is Apres Gel-X. For this manicure, your nail tech will start with basic prep before adhering a clear soft-gel overlay onto your nail and curing it with a UV light.

Celebrity manicurist Britney Tokyo says the manicure can last anywhere from two to four weeks. When it’s time to remove them, you can go back to the salon or try soaking the nails off at home. The cost of this manicure varies, but because it’s still fairly new, you might pay anywhere from $100 to $200 for nails with designs on them.

— Additional reporting by Ariel Baker

Jessica Harrington is the senior beauty editor at PS, where she writes about hair, makeup, skin care, piercings, tattoos, and more. As a New York City-based writer and editor with a degree in journalism and over eight years of industry experience, she loves to interview industry experts, keep up with the latest trends, and test new products.

Ariel Baker is the associate editor for PS Beauty. Her areas of expertise include celebrity news, beauty trends, and product reviews. She has additional bylines with Essence and Forbes Vetted.


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