The Ultimate Guide To The Different Types Of Manicures

I’m sure by now you are well aware that a manicure goes well beyond a simple nail polish applied hastily on a Sunday evening. In fact, many different types of manicures exist, both for DIY or exclusive to salons. Keep reading to know all about the different types of manicures, and which one would work best for you.

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Basic Nail Polish Classic Manicure

A basic manicure uses regular, non curing nail polish. This is your vanilla DIY manicure that most people will have done at home at least once. It’s easily accessible, cheap but sadly it doesn’t last long. Even with your best intentions and expert application, you can expect your basic nail polish manicure to chip within days.

A basic manicure at a salon will often include nail filing and shaping, and cuticle maintenance. Sometimes you’ll even get a hand massage! Expect to spend between 30 and 60 minutes at your nail technician’s station.

What about nail art? Using nail polish for nail art is easy. However, unlike gel or acrylic nails, you won’t be able to extend or change your nail shape so your options may be more limited.

Unlike nail polishes that use a lamp, regular nail polish doesn’t fully dry for a few hours after application. A quick dry coat such as Seche Vite can make it dry to the touch within minutes. However,  dents and chips can still happen if you aren’t careful.

Vinylux Manicure

Vinylux is a professional nail color system created by CND, of Shellac fame. It is a step above regular nail polish available both in salons and to buy at home, and with proper application it lasts longer than regular nail polish and has the glossier look of gel.

It’s a two part system, with a color coat (no base coat required) and a top coat that hardens when exposed to natural light. Applying this glossy top coat is what gives this type of manicure extra resistance to chips and dents.

Vinylux is easy to remove using an acetone based nail polish remover and a cotton or cosmetic pad. There is no need to soak it with acetone or filing the nail. The brand claims this type of nail polish is actually better for your nails than bare nails, as it shields them from the environment and it’s easy to remove.

Gel Manicure And Gel Extensions

Gel polish is one of the most long lasting types of manicures, considerably more when compared with regular nail polish. This type of gel hardens by exposing it to UV light using a LED lamp. This makes it dry instantly as long as it’s done properly, which means no chips or dents for 2 to 3 weeks.

Soft gel is slightly porous, and that allows it to be removed with an acetone soak and minimal filing. This kind of polish also remains glossy for the duration, which makes it the perfect choice if you are going on a holiday or won’t have time to take care of your nails. However, it’s not hard enough to extend the nails, for which you’ll need a hard gel.

Hard gel can be applied over natural or fake nails, and you can use nail forms to shape and extend the gel fluid to achieve all sorts of nail shapes. Just like acrylic, you can achieve hard as nails nails that won’t break without having to grow them yourself.

But with great durability comes great removal pains. You can’t just remove a gel manicure with nail polish remover, nope. It’s a process that can damage your nails if not done properly, so if you decide to DIY gel nails you’ll need to learn how to remove them safely as well. Or go to a salon instead.

To remove hard gel nail polish you will need to use an electric file to sand away the gel, making sure not to sand your natural nails in the process to avoid damaging them. A nail technician that is too rough or uses a rougher file just to be quicker can leave your nails damaged for months and cause a lot of pain.

Taking care of your nails in between gel manicures (particularly if you use hard gel) is key to healthy natural nails. Apply a nail oil daily, and try to stay away from water as much as possible as the surface of your natural nail will be more porous than usual.

There are some nail polishes designed for when you are taking a break from gel and acrylic manicures. Those air-dry offer a layer of protection for your nails and their formulas include nutrients to keep your nails stronger.

Shellac Manicure

Shellac is a salon-grade, professional type of lamp-cured nail polish and gel hybrid. In fact, many people refer to Shellac nails when talking about gel manicures, but the term refers only to a particular brand manufactured by CND. According to the brand (and people’s experience) it’s better than regular gel polish because it’s much easier to remove with no nail damage, while still lasting the 14 days you’d expect from gel nail polish.

Shellac is a hybrid of gel and nail polish, and thus requires a UV lamp to cure (or dry). It is less hard than gel, but still requires an acetone soak to remove. Which you can do at home, or visiting a salon. Unlike with other types of manicures, there is no need for downtime in between Shellac manicures. However, this is only with careful and professional removal and application.

The dangers of shellac manicures are similar to gel: excessive scrapping and acetone soaking can damage or dry your natural nails. Pulling or ripping shellac nails without properly soaking will also cause damage to your natural nails, so just don’t do it. It also hurts. However, Shellac is one of the less damaging types of manicures which still last a long time.

Acrylic Nails

Acrylic nails are a similar type of manicure as gel that dry without using a lamp. You can use them to extend your natural nails and build a fake nail which you can then decorate with regular nail polish. A mixture of acrylic powder and a liquid layers over your natural nails, creating a protective hard transparent surface. It doesn’t require a lamp, as it dries in contact with air.

At a salon, you can expect to spend between 1.5 and 2h getting an acrylic nails manicure, which will last for two or three weeks. Infills are a way to extend your manicure: you can use more acrylic mixture to fill in the space left by your natural nail growth, which takes much less time. They are one of the oldest and widely known types of manicures, so finding a salon that does acrylic nails is not usually a problem.

Applying acrylic nails so they last the full two or three weeks take a bit of practice. Besides dehydrating your nail bed throughly with an alcohol mixture you will also need to slightly file the nail surface to give the polish more adherence. This means your nails may feel weaker after removal, and cuticle oil is a must have. This is one of the more long lasting types of manicure, and a traditional favourite at nail salons and for eye catching nail art.

You can visit a salon to get your acrylic nails removed, or you can do an acetone soak at home with basic supplies: cotton balls, acetone nail polish remover and aluminum foil. A cuticle pusher is useful to gently encourage the polish to release, but you should NEVER pull or rip them off. A broken acrylic nail may necessitate repairs at a nail salon or at home.

Dip Powder Nails

Dip powder manicures are a relatively new type of manicure, the perfect choice if you find gel and acrylic too messy. Instead of using a liquid nail polish, the color comes from dipping your base coat covered nails in a type of acrylic powder.

A sealant is used between coats as the adhesive for the powder. Said powder never sticks to anything else, so as long as they are sealant free your cuticles and fingers will be safe from rogue nail polish. Unlike other types of manicures, dip powder nails don’t require a UV lamp to cure. However, you can top them with a gel nail polish which you’ll need to cure under the lamp.

Typical in order to apply a dip powder manicure you’ll prepare your nails like you do for gel or shellac. Then apply a base coat, and a primer. Then the dipping bit happens! Slowly dip each finger on the powder, then remove excess with a brush and dip again. Then another sealing polish to seal the tops and you are done. Or you can choose to have a gel layer on top for nail art, for example.

Dip powder nails are only used for color, they can’t extend or harden your natural nails. They are removed similarly to gel or acrylic, using an acetone soak. However, you may need to soak for longer as they can be quite stubborn. You can remove SNS nails at home or at a salon before your next manicure.

The list of SNS nails pros and cons is quite extensive. In terms of durability, dip powder nails are generally softer and more flexible than gel or acrylic. This makes them more prone to chips and breakages but at the same time more comfortable. They can last 3 or 4 weeks if you are a bit careful.

It sounds perfect right? Dip powder manicures also have some cons. To start with, the color match is a bit more difficult than with liquid nail polishes. Figuring out which color you’ll get after mixing the powder and sealant requires practice. If you like mixing powders or special effects you’ll need trial and error.

This type of manicure can become quite thick if you add too many layers or don’t brush excess properly.

Stick On Types Of Manicures

Press-On Nails

Press-on nails are probably the quickest way to get a fool-proof manicure that will last for over a week. They are essentially DIY fake nails that stick to your natural nails.. Once you know how to apply them, they can look as natural as regular nail polish.

Usually press on nails come with pre-applied acrylate based nail glue on the back. You can apply them very quickly. However you may need to fiddle with sizes or file the ends so they fir your nail beds.

You can remove them easily by peeling them off. Even better, use some nail cuticle oil and wood orange stick to push them gently from the side. They work well to protect your natural nails.

Press On nails aren’t as versatile as other types of manicures. You can’t change the shape or design. They can also fall out at the most annoying times. Press-Ons can also be quite thick and sometimes feel uncomfortable,. After all you have little plastic covers on your nails!

However, to quickly fix nails to make them look decent, they are cheap, cheerful and awesome.

Nail Wraps

Nail wraps are pre-painted nail stickers that you stick to your natural nail. You’ll need to apply a base coat to protect your nail, and then the nail wrap on top of it. Pull the nail wrap over the edge of your nail, then cut or file to size and done! Perfect nail art with no effort that will last longer than your regular manicure and won’t hurt your nails.

You can buy nail wraps in an endless variety of designs. This makes them a very accessible way into nail art. They are also perfect when you just don’t have time or patience for a full manicure. You can have your nails ready to go in less than 20 minutes, and with practice well under 10.

In this handy guide to nail polish and manicure types we have explained the most popular types of manicures. You don’t need to wonder anymore when you get to your nail salon (Or nail supply store!). However, new techniques and products appear constantly so feel free to comment with anything we have missed!