What’s not to love about manicures? They’re stylish, durable, and easy to customize thanks to the different colors, shapes, and methods available with different types of manicures. The options are great if you love to mix things up. However, it gets tough to decide what you want after you’ve spent hours scrolling through nail art inspiration online and seeing all of the different price ranges for nails.

Your availability, budget, and willingness to keep up with maintenance are a handful of things you need to consider before splurging on a stylish manicure. In our guide, we’ll go over common types of manicures to help you find what works best for you.

What is a manicure? 

A manicure is a beauty treatment for your hands. In a manicure appointment, your nails are cut, filed, and shaped. You’ll usually have a cuticle treatment and tidy-up, and enjoy a nice hand massage. Depending on the salon, some will wrap your hands in warmed towels to let the massage cream soak into your skin. 

The final step of a manicure appointment is painting your nails. This process will depend on the type of manicure you desire. Below is a chart of various types of manicures, costs, and more. 

Type of ManicureCostAppointment TimeLongevity
Basic $20-$40 30-45 minutesUp to seven days
Paraffin$50 + cost of manicure50 minutes
Hot Stone$40 50 minutes
French$5-$15 + cost of manicure45-60 minutesUp to a week with regular polish
Two to three weeks with gel
Reverse French$5-$15 + cost of manicure45-60 minutesUp to a week with regular polish
Two to three weeks with gel
American$15-$2545-60 minutesUp to a week with regular polish
Two to three weeks with gel
Vinylux$10-$11 per bottle30-45 minutes7+ days 
Gel$25-$6545-60 minutesUp to three weeks
Gel Extensions$80-$350One-two hoursThree to four weeks
Shellac$30-$10045-75 minutesTwo to three weeks
Acrylics$25-$12045 minutes – two hoursSix to eight weeks
Press-on$10-$20 15-30 minutesOne to two weeks
Dip Powder$30-$5045-60 minutesTwo to four weeks
Plexigel $40-$80One hour and 15 minutesUp to three weeks
Polygel$5045-60 minutesUp to three weeks
Sculpted$100One to one and half hoursUp to three weeks 

Basic manicure

Women getting nails buffed at a salon

A basic manicure focuses on cleaning up and shaping your nails. You can expect a nail tech to trim, file, shape, and buff your nails. They’ll also cut and push back your cuticles. Then, they’ll give you a light hand massage. Most manicures start with these steps to prep your nails before applying color.

Basic manicures are also called standard and natural nail manicures. Basic manicures are normally finished up with some nail polish at the end, but you can skip this step if you don’t want polish. This type of manicure is a great choice if you want a quick touch-up and like to change colors often.


Basic manicures cost between $20 and $40. Prices for this and other manicures vary depending on your salon, location, and if you want any nail art or add-on services.

Appointment time

Basic manicure appointments normally take between 30 and 45 minutes. Appointment times for all manicures vary based on your nail tech’s skill level, technique, and add-on services. 

How long it lasts

Basic manicures can last up to seven days. You can make a basic manicure, along with any other manicure, last longer if you come in with clean hands and nails. Healthy and moisturized nails are also crucial for long-lasting manicures.

How it affects your nails

A manicure with regular polish shouldn’t damage your nails. It easily comes off with nail polish remover. Regular nail polish tends to chip off on its own and makes removal easier.

For any manicure, you should not pick or peel it. That’s your one-way ticket to damaging your natural nails. Instead, follow your nail tech’s instructions for removing. Want an even safer method? Go back to your salon for removal.

How to remove

Polish from a basic manicure is easiest to remove. You can use regular nail polish remover to remove it with a few different methods.

First is the soaking method. You can take a cotton ball and rip it into strips or use a cotton pad. Apply polish remover to the cotton and tape them onto your nail. Remove the strips after a minute or so. This soaking method is similar to others needed for more durable manicures.

It’s less abrasive to apply the remover directly onto your nail than to soak your fingers in a bowl of remover. Regardless of how you soak, you’ll need to wash your hands and moisturize both your hands and nails afterward.

The second method uses pressure and a little elbow grease. Apply polish remover to your cotton ball or pad. Then, hold it against your nail for a few seconds to start breaking down the polish. Start rubbing your nail to get the polish off. This method works for regular nail polish, but isn’t strong enough for longer-lasting manicures.

You can also use non-acetone polish remover if you don’t mind waiting a little longer for it to work. It’s not as strong as acetone and acetone-based remover. It also doesn’t work well with dark colors, but it’s less harsh on nails than acetone and acetone-based polish remover.

Paraffin manicure

someone receiving a paraffin manicure 

A paraffin manicure focuses less on nail design and more on moisturizing dry hands. First, your nail technician will melt paraffin wax and massage your hands with oils while the wax heats up. They may also exfoliate your hands to get rid of dead skin cells. 

When the wax is cool enough to touch, they’ll either dip your hands in it or brush it onto your hands. You’ll have a few layers of warm wax on your hands. Your nail tech will then cover your hands with plastic gloves and a warm towel. You’ll wait up to 30 minutes for the wax to set.

After the wax is cooled, your nail tech will remove the wax to reveal silky smooth hands. The rest of your manicure will proceed as normal.  

Dry nails are required to have most polish stuck to your nails. If they’re applying color to your nails, they’ll use a dehydrator to remove excess oils and moisture from your nails. Some nail techs may add color before getting into the paraffin portion of your manicure. 


Paraffin manicures cost up to $40 extra on top of the cost of a regular manicure.

Appointment time

Paraffin manicures take about 50 minutes.

How it affects your nails

Paraffin wax manicures are safe for most people. It adds moisture to your hands and removes dead skin cells. The process also relieves pain and increases blood flow.

However, this treatment isn’t recommended for everybody. People with poor blood circulation, diabetes, or sensitive skin should avoid paraffin wax manicures and other paraffin treatments. This also isn’t for you if you have cuts or rashes on your skin. Call your doctor to check if this treatment is safe for you to try.

You can also burn yourself if you don’t give the wax enough time to cool. This is easily avoided if you go to an experienced nail tech. 

Hot Stone manicure

hot stones used in a hot stone manicure

A hot stone manicure is another spa-like treatment that is great for your hands. Your nail tech will use warm stones to massage your hands and arms. It’ll help release tension and boost circulation. A regular manicure follows a hot stone manicure.

Hot stone massages aren’t for everyone. People with a history of blood clots, diabetes, and a low platelet count shouldn’t opt for this service. Your doctor can advise you on whether this is a safe service for you.


Hot stone manicures cost $40 and above.

Appointment time

A hot stone manicure takes up to 50 minutes.

French manicure

french manicured nails  

French manicures are known for their iconic white tips and square shape. For this manicure, your nail tech will paint a pink or beige color on your nail with classic white tips to finish off your nails. You can mix and match colors to stray from the classic French manicure.


French manicures normally cost an additional $5 to $15 extra on top of the cost of a basic manicure. 

Appointment time

French manicures last between 45 and 60 minutes.

How long it lasts

A French manicure done with regular polish can last a few days. A gel French manicure can last two to three weeks. We’ll go more in depth on gel manicures later on in our guide.

How it affects your nails

French manicures shouldn’t damage nails if they’re properly removed.

How to remove

Use nail polish remover to remove regular polish manicures. If you get a gel French manicure, you’ll need to soak your nails in acetone.

Reverse French manicure

a woman with a reverse french manicure

If your tried-and-true nail design is a French manicure, why not mix it up with a reverse French manicure? With a reverse French manicure, instead of painting your tips white, your nail tech will paint a crescent shape over the bottom part of your nail, also known as a “half moon.”


Similar to a regular French manicure, a reverse French manicure will normally cost an additional $5 to $15 extra along with the cost of a basic manicure. 

Appointment time

A reverse French manicure lasts between 45 and 60 minutes.

How long it lasts

A reverse French manicure with basic polish should last several days. If done with gel, it should last two to three weeks. 

How it affects your nails

Reverse French manicures shouldn’t damage nails if they’re properly removed.

How to remove

Use nail polish remover to remove regular polish manicures. If it’s a gel reverse French manicure, you’ll need to soak your nails in acetone.

American manicure

American manicured nails

An American manicure looks similar to a French manicure. The application process is the same, but the colors and shapes are different. American manicures use natural colors for the full nail and off-white colors for the tips.

In other words, an American manicure goes with a nude base and cream tips instead of the classic pink and white you’ll see with French manicures. American manicures have a more natural, rounded shape compared to typical French manicures. You can also nix the subtle color palette if you want to pair the design with something more bold.


American manicures cost between $15 and $25.

Appointment time

American manicures take between 45 and 60 minutes.

How long it lasts

Like with French manicures, American manicures vary based on what you use to apply color. Regular polish lasts a few days while gel can last two to three weeks.

How it affects your nails

American manicures shouldn’t damage your nails as long as they’re properly removed.

How to remove

Remove regular polish with nail polish remover and gel with a soak in acetone.

Vinylux manicure

nail technician painting nails with vinylux polish

Vinylux is a long-wear polish created by CND, the same company that invented Shellac (which we’ll touch on next). Their system does not use a base coat and is formulated to last at least a week. Their top coats leave your nails shiny.

The best part? The top coat hardens over time as it’s exposed to light. This keeps your nails looking great without the need for multiple coats or a strenuous removal process. Vinylux also dries faster and lasts longer than regular polish. 


Both the Vinylux nail polish and top coat bottles cost between $10 and $11 each. Vinylux manicures aren’t available at every salon, so call ahead to confirm that they offer this type of manicure and what they cost.

Appointment time

Vinylux manicures take about 30 to 45 minutes. 

How long it lasts

Vinylux manicures last for seven or more days. If you’re giving yourself this type of manicure at home, don’t skip the top coat. It locks in your polish and helps it endure everyday wear and tear. 

How it affects your nails

Vinylux’s top coat protects both your color and the nail itself. Vinylux isn’t as harsh on your nails as gel, since this polish is applied without UV lights. It’s also easily removed without soaking. The less soaking and exposure to chemicals, the healthier your nails will emerge from a manicure.

Do your research through CND’s salon finder to confirm you’re going to a certified salon. Their finder can also locate salons certified in other CND products.

How to remove

CND says you can use Offly Fast™ Moisturizing Remover or pure acetone to remove Vinylux. Simply add your remover of choice to a cotton pad, press on to your nail for a few seconds, and rub your nail to remove the polish. 

Gel manicure

a set of gel-manicured nails

Gel manicures are a popular choice since they’re long-lasting and aren’t as tough to remove compared to other long-lasting methods. They also don’t require much upkeep. After prepping your nails, your nail tech will apply several coats of gel polish and cure it under a UV lamp to set it.

We recommend getting a dry manicure with gel polish to avoid oils and creams. Wet manicures that use these products make it difficult for polish to stay on your nail. 

There are two types of gel manicures to consider:

  • Soft gel is a long lasting nail polish that doesn’t do much to protect nails from breaking. It’s easier to remove than soft gel.
  • Hard gel is used to create shapes as well as protect your nails. Hard gel lasts longer than soft gel. 

Some nail techs will layer soft and hard gel to get the best of both types. In this case, you’ll need to go through a few extra steps to remove all of the layers.

Difference between gel and acrylic manicures

If you’re looking for a long-lasting manicure, you’re probably deciding between acrylics and gel. Gel manicures use gel polish while acrylics use a liquid and powder. Acrylics are harder, but less flexible and are more prone to chip. However, some nail techs may mix and match these methods when doing fills.

Difference between gel and Shellac manicures

Shellac is similar to gel manicures since it’s a type of gel polish. Shellac is easier to remove than most other gel polishes on the market. If you want a Shellac manicure, double-check that your nail tech is using Shellac polish. Some people use “Shellac” and “gel” interchangeably.


Gel manicures can cost from $25 to $65.

Appointment time

These manicures take about 45 to 60 minutes.

How long it lasts

Simple gel nails last up to three weeks and should get removed afterwards. The longer a gel manicure stays on, the harder it is to remove. All long-lasting manicures and extensions can weaken your nails over time if you don’t give them a break. You can also introduce bacteria in between the gel and your natural nail if you keep it on for a long time.

How it affects your nails

Gel manicures can damage your nails if you get them often. If your nails start to feel brittle or thin, it’s probably time to give your nails a break. When you’re in between manicures, spend time moisturizing your nails and hands every day to nourish them.

How to remove

You can remove soft gel polish by soaking your nails in acetone. For hard gel, you’ll need to file down your nails before you soak your nails in acetone. We recommend seeing a nail tech to safely remove gel manicures.

Gel extensions 

nail technician applying gel extensions

Gel extensions add length and fully cover your nail. This type of manicure mainly uses gel, primer, and a top coat. There are two methods to apply gel extensions.

The first method involves building out the nail with hard gel. After prepping your nails, your nail tech will attach a nail form under the tip of your nail to help them create a shape. They may apply multiple coats depending on your desired shape and length.

The second method involves pre-made gel extensions that stick on like press-on nails. Your nail tech will use a bonder and a primer to prep your nails for the extensions. Then, they’ll apply some gel to your nails before applying the actual extension. Finally, they’ll apply the extension and add a couple layers of gel on top.

Difference between gel extensions and acrylics

Gel extensions last about the same time as acrylics. Gel is more flexible and thinner than acrylics, so they’ll feel more comfortable to wear and can endure chips. Gel extensions tend to have a more natural look while acrylics are better for dramatic looks and lengths.


Gel extensions vary greatly between salons. You can find them from $80 up to $350 depending on where you go and what art you want. The more intricate the design, the higher the price.

Appointment time

Gel extensions take about one to two hours to apply. 

How long it lasts

Gel nail extensions can last between three to four weeks.

How long it lasts

Since gel extensions come off easily with light filing and soaking, you won’t experience much damage to your nails compared to other types of extensions. You can run into trouble if you over-file your nails or neglect nourishing your nails after using acetone.

How to remove

Start by filing off color from your nails. Then, soak some cotton balls in acetone. Wrap the cotton balls on top of your nail with foil and let it soak for up to 20 minutes. We recommend heading over to a nail technician to let them take care of the removal process.

Shellac manicure

 a set of gray shellac manicure nails

This type of manicure is a great choice if you like the shine and durability of hard gel manicures, but aren’t a fan of filing the gel off your nails. Like Vinylux, CND is also the creator of Shellac. Shellac is a gel polish and is cured under a UV light.


Shellac manicures can cost between $30 and $100.

Appointment time

Shellac manicures take between 45 minutes and 75 minutes. 

How long it lasts

Shellac manicures can last between two to three weeks.

How it affects your nails

CND claims that the Shellac system leaves no nail damage if used as directed. 

How to remove

Remove Shellac polish at home by first buffing the top of your nail to start breaking up the gel. Then, soak your nails in an acetone or non-acetone remover like you would with regular gel polish. To be extra safe, go to the salon for professional removal. 


a set of acrylic nails

Acrylic nails are a popular method for making your nails long and glamorous. To achieve this look, your nail tech will mix liquid monomer and powder polymer to create a paste. They’ll apply it to your nail, then buff and clean the paste to match your desired shape.

For extra length, your nail tech will apply artificial tips to your nails and apply the acrylic paste on top of it. Acrylic nails are tough, but are more prone to chipping since they’re not flexible. You can try some DIY tricks for fixing broken nails if you chip your nail and don’t have time to run to the salon.


Acrylics can cost between $25 and $120. Fills can cost between $15 and $20.

During a fill appointment, your nail tech will fill in areas of new growth between your manicure and cuticles. They’ll file down any lifting from your acrylics and reshape your nails so they look fresh.

Appointment time

Acrylic nails can take between 45 minutes and two hours to apply. 

How long it lasts

Acrylic nails can last up to six to eight weeks if you get fills every few weeks. 

How it affects your nails

Acrylics aren’t as damaging as most people think. Removal requires filing, soaking, and buffing to get it off. The removal process can damage your nails if you do it incorrectly. You can also damage your nails by picking at your acrylics.

We recommend going to a nail technician so they can oversee the entire process. However, you can remove acrylic nails at home if you’re confident and have the right tools. You can also minimize damage by taking your acrylics out after a month and taking a manicure break afterwards.

How to remove

To remove acrylics, you’ll file off as much as you can from your nails. You’ll then soak your nails in acetone and buff off the remaining pieces. You may need to soak and buff your nails a few times to get it all off. 

Press-on nails

a nail technician applying press-on nails

If you aren’t a fan of a long application process, opt for press-ons. They come in many shapes, colors, and designs. You can even order a custom design. Press-ons are easy to find, customize, and apply on your own.


Press-ons are affordable and range between $10 and $20.

Appointment time

Applying press-ons can take about 15 to 30 minutes on top of a basic manicure. They’re also easy enough to put on at home. If you want some guidance, visit your local nail tech for some tips.

How long it lasts

Press-ons can last a week or two depending on how you affix them to your nails. You can use nail glue or adhesive tabs. Either product may come with your pack of press-ons. Glue lasts longer than the tabs, but takes more effort to remove. Press-on nails are great since you can put fallen nails back on.

How it affects your nails

Press-ons can damage nails if you improperly remove them. Nail glue is safe to use on nails, but you can use adhesive tabs instead of glue to minimize potential damage. Press-ons are less abrasive for your nails since it doesn’t require intense buffing, filing, or soaking when applying or removing them.

How to remove

Apply nail polish remover to your nails to weaken the glue or adhesive. You may be able to get away with non-acetone remover or other alternatives depending on what you originally used. We recommend asking your nail tech for tips before you start concocting DIY nail removal recipes at home.

Although some of your press-ons may naturally pop off before you remove them, you should never rip them off. You can damage your nail by forcing off press-on nails. 

Dip powder manicure

a nail technician applying dip powder to a nail

Dip powder manicures use a powder to apply color to the nails. First, your nail tech will prep your nails and apply a primer to help the powder bond with your nail. After applying a base coat, your nail tech will either dip your fingertip into a pot of powder or pour powder onto your nails.

Finally, they’ll apply a top coat. They may do this process a few times depending on the color. Unlike other manicures, there’s no drying time or heat lamp needed. 

Difference between dip powder and acrylics

Dip powder and acrylics both use powders instead of polish to apply color. Dip powder uses resin as its bonding agent while acrylics use a liquid monomer. Because of this, acrylic manicures have a strong chemical smell during the application process.


Dip powder nails cost between $30 and $50.

Appointment time

A dip powder manicure takes between 45 and 60 minutes.

How long it lasts

Dip powder nails last between two and four weeks. 

How it affects your nails

Dip powder can start to thin out your nails over time. It’s not as damaging compared to acrylics since it doesn’t involve harsh chemicals or an intense removal process. Like other long-lasting methods, you should give your nails a break every few months if you notice your nails getting thin or brittle.

Dip powder manicures can also pose a health risk depending on the application. You can risk infection if the nail tech dips all of their clients’ fingers into the same pot. Infection risk is also high if they collect leftover powder into the pot.

Many nail technicians have moved away from the actual dipping method, but keep an eye out. Go to another salon if you see nail techs using unsanitary methods.

How to remove

Buff off the top coat first. This helps the acetone penetrate the dip powder. After that, soak your nails for up to 15 minutes in pure acetone. Wipe off any excess with cotton pads and repeat if needed. 

Plexigel manicure

applying plexigel to nails

The Plexigel system is one of the newest innovations from CND. It’s a semi-hard gel that can repair, plump, fill, and add length to your nails. It’s more durable than soft gel and more flexible than hard gel. You can use the Plexigel system to fix up manicured nails or start fresh with a new manicure.


Plexigel manicures can cost between $40 and $80, but varies a lot since this is a new system. Costs may fluctuate as more salons roll out this system.

Appointment time

Plexigel manicures can take up to one hour and 15 minutes. As more nail technicians gain experience with the system, appointments will probably go quicker.

How long it lasts

Plexigel manicures can last up to three weeks.

How it affects your nails

Plexigel is meant to protect the nail while also solving common issues like cracked or flat nails. Improper removal will be your main source of nail damage.

How to remove

CND recommends using an e-file first on the nail. Then, they recommend wrapping the nail with cotton pads soaked in their Offly Fast™ Moisturizing Remover or pure acetone. We recommend going to a professional nail tech, especially since this is a new system. 

Polygel manicure

nail technician buffing polygel on a nail

Polygel is best described as a hybrid between acrylic and gel nails, as it has the durability that acrylic nails offer with the ease of gel application. Poylgel is a mixture of gel and acrylic powder, which makes it easy to apply and shape on the nail. 

First, your nail tech will prep your nails and apply a primer or gel base coat. They’ll then dip a brush in a slip solution, pick up a pea-sized amount of polygel and pat and sculpt it onto the nail. They’ll then cure the nails and repeat the process, depending on the desired color. To finish, a gel top coat is applied and cured. 


Prices will vary, depending on the salon and if you’re adding tips or need a fill-in. Prices for a set of polygel nails will typically start at $50. 

Appointment time

A set of polygel nails should take between 45 minutes and one hour to complete. 

How long it lasts

Polygel nails should last about three weeks when done correctly, at which point you’ll likely want a fill-in. 

How it affects your nails

Polygel shouldn’t be damaging to your nails when properly applied by a professional nail technician. If you’re worried about possible damage, avoid doing them yourself and go see a professional at a quality salon. 

How to remove

The easiest way to remove polygel nails is by carefully filing your nails down and smoothing them over with a nail file. You can use varying grits for your file and buffer the closer you get to your natural nail. 

You can also opt for soaking your nails in acetone to soften the polygel and then use a cuticle pusher to carefully scrape off leftover residue. 

Sculpted nails

nail technician molding a sculpted nail

Sculpted nails are a form of gel extensions that are molded off your natural nail. Your nail technician will use a builder gel to sculpt out the shape of the nails onto nail forms. Once the desired shapes are achieved, the nails will need to be cured. 

Once the nails are cured, the forms may be removed. Your nail technician may then choose to build another layer of gel onto your nail and repeat the process of curing until they achieve the final look. 


The cost for sculpted nails leans on the pricier side. Prices usually start at $100. 

Appointment time

A set of sculpted nails should take from one to one and a half hours to complete. 

How long it lasts

Sculpted nails can last up to three weeks. 

How it affects your nails

Sculpted nails shouldn’t affect the health of your nails when applied and removed properly. If you’re worried about removing your sculpted nails at home, go to a professional nail technician to remove them with proper tools. 

How to remove

Similar to gel polish, sculpted nails can be removed with gentle electric filing and an acetone soak. 

Tips for getting a clean manicure

The not-so-fun side of manicures is cleanliness and safety. Getting a manicure can come with infection risks if the salon doesn’t have proper cleanliness procedures. You can also end up with infection or irritation if you don’t take care of your manicure after you leave the salon. Below are a few tips to know before you head out to your appointment.

  • Read reviews and confirm certifications before booking your appointment. Read reviews ahead of time to see how others feel about this salon.
  • Check the salon’s cleanliness guidelines. If it’s not posted on their website, call ahead to hear how the salon keeps their work stations clean. 
  • Ask your nail tech to wash their hands before your manicure. This is especially important if they just finished up another appointment.
  • Don’t rip off nail extensions once it starts to peel. You can hurt yourself and potentially peel off the top layer of your nail.
  • Don’t pick at any type of manicure. This is another way to accidentally peel off your nail.
  • Avoid keeping your nails on for more than a month. Bacteria can start to grow in between your extension and your natural nail. Some manicures also get increasingly difficult to remove over time. Ask your nail tech for tips to know when it’s time to remove your extensions.
  • Opt for professional removal, especially for long-lasting manicures. It’s tempting to save a trip and some money by removing manicures at home. Some types of manicures are easy to remove, but it’s much safer to leave all removals to the nail technicians.

Types of manicures FAQ

Here are frequently asked questions about different types of manicures. 

Are acrylic nails better than dip nails?

This depends on your personal preference and what you’re looking for in a manicure. For longevity purposes, dip nails last longer than acrylics, as they don’t require fill-ins every few weeks. 

However, acrylic is far less damaging to nails than dip powder. Dip nails are becoming less popular for nail technicians to offer, so you may find acrylic to be more accessible. 

What type of manicure lasts the longest?

How long your manicure lasts will depend on if it was applied correctly and how well you take care of it. Acrylics are best known to be the most durable nail option, as they’re less prone to breakage. Acrylic nails can last up to three weeks, while regular polish lasts around a week. 

What type of manicure is best for nails? 

The least damaging type of manicure is a basic manicure. You can choose polishes that avoid harsh chemicals and specifically promote nail growth. More companies are starting to offer organic nail polishes that are formulated without harmful benzophenone-1 and benzophenone-3, like Olive & June.  

Who knew that there were so many types of manicures out there? Whether you’re into flashy colors or subtle shine, there’s a look out there for you. If you have more questions, look through our community of beauty professionals to find a nail tech in your area.