It’s no secret that I enjoy blogging about nail care and manicures. From gel polish to cuticle oil, we’ve discussed this topic quite a bit. Since this topic is a popular theme for us, why not take it up a notch? It’s time to go above and beyond and make one comprehensive post that’s all about nails.
In this post, I’ve compiled every option for DIY and professional manicures. You’ll find info about prices, pros and cons, a few product recommendations, and so much more. I’ve even covered what you need to know about nail care and nourishment. Read on to learn everything you need to know!
Professional Manicure Using Nail Lacquer/Polish – Best Cheap Manicure Option
Professional manicures using basic nail lacquer (also called polish and enamel) are simple. The manicurist will file and buff your nails to make them shapely and even. A base coat will be applied to your nails. Then a color of your choice is applied, followed up by a top coat.
- Cost: $10 to $45 depending on location
- Durability: 7 to 10 days
- Appearance: You have a ton of options when it comes to basic nail polish manicures. Most salons offer a huge range of colors and finishes. Some finishes include matte, glittery, and metallic.
- Pros: Inexpensive compared to other salon manicures, quick, and lots of variety to choose from.
- Cons: Not as long-lasting as other options; not as durable as other options.
Overall, professional manicures using basic nail polish are a solid option if you want an affordable treat. If you’re getting this type of manicure for a special event, make sure to get it no more than 1-2 days prior to the event. This should ensure your nail polish manicure looks great when you need it most.
DIY Manicure Using Nail Lacquer/Polish – Best Simple Manicure Option
This is undoubtedly the classic go-to for DIY manicures. Drugstores and other retailers have nail enamel, base coats, and top coats just like you’d find in a salon. You can also purchase a nail care kits for shaping, buffing, and styling right at home.
- Cost: $2 to $25 per bottle of nail polish
- Durability: 7 to 10 days
- Appearance: Once again, your options are virtually endless when you give yourself a simple polish manicure. There are thousands of colors, brands, finishes, and more.
- Pros: Very affordable, endless options, done in the comfort of your own home.
- Cons: Not as long lasting as other options; not as durable as other options.
If you’re on a budget and want something simple, a DIY manicure using traditional polish is the way to go. You can even get creative with nail art tools. Make sure to check out our post on drugstore nail polishes for high-quality, affordable options.
Professional Acrylic Nails – Best Long Lasting Manicure Option
Acrylic manicures consist of fake nails being placed over your natural nails. They combine a liquid monomer and powder polymer, which forms a highly durable layer over your nails. Acrylic nails are also referred to as “fake nails” or “artificial nails”.
- Cost: $30 to $50 for basic nails; $50 to $80 for nail art and designs
- Durability: 2 to 3 weeks before touch ups are needed; overall life is 2 to 3 months
- Appearance: The length and shape of acrylic nails depend entirely on your preferences. Some people prefer a short, square shape. Others opt for long, tapered styles. You can choose either regular nail polish or gel nail polish to paint over the clear acrylic nails.
- Pros: Very durable, very versatile as far as design goes, all nails look uniform in shape/style.
- Cons: Most expensive option, damages your natural nails, regular touch-ups are needed every few weeks.
It’s easy to see that there are many benefits to getting professional acrylic nails. Unfortunately, you’ll have to deal with the damage caused to natural nails. We’ll discuss how to handle this later in this post. You’ll also need to budget well if you want acrylic nails and touch-ups on a consistent basis.
Drugstore Press-On Nails – Best Acrylic Manicure Alternative
Press-on nails are plastic nails that you attach to your nail beds using adhesive. The adhesive is usually a pink nail glue that’s similar to super glue. Press-on nails look similar to acrylic nails.
- Cost: $5 to $10 on average (based on Amazon pricing)
- Durability: up to one week
- Appearance: Press-on nails come in many different styles. French manicure styles – pink/nude colored nail beds with white tips – are popular. You’ll also find solid colors and various designs.
- Pros: Inexpensive, easy to apply, easy to remove, multiple options to choose from.
- Cons: Not very long lasting; nail glue can be messy to work with.
Overall, press-on nails are a fun option if you want to spice up a DIY manicure. From personal experience, they tend to last about five days. For how affordable they are, that’s really not bad at all. I recommend Kiss Everlasting Nails because they’re affordable and you can choose from many different styles.
Professional Gel Manicures – Best Mid-Range Manicure Option
Gel manicures look a lot like regular polish manicures, but they have a durability that’s similar to acrylic nails. Gel polish manicures require a base coat, color coat, and a top coat. In between each coat, your nails are placed under a UV light. This cures (hardens) the gel polish, and the gel is bonded to your natural nails.
- Cost: $35 to $45
- Durability: two weeks
- Appearance: Gel nail polish has a very glossy, smooth finish to it. You can choose from whatever colors and brands your salon offers.
- Pros: Long-lasting, very resistant to chipping and peeling, less damaging than acrylic nails.
- Cons: Expensive if manicures are done regularly, causes some damage to nail beds, UV lights can damage skin.
Gel manicures offer durability, and the price point is a good middle ground for most people. The downside is that the cost of consistent gel manicures can add up quickly. If you like the look of traditional manicures but want something longer lasting, this may be your best bet.
DIY Gel Manicures – Best DIY Manicure Option
DIY gel manicures are pretty much identical to professional gel manicures. In order to do this type of manicure at home, you’ll need a home gel polish kit. These kits come with LED lights, gel polish, and the other tools you need. The application process is the same as a salon gel manicure.
- Cost: $60 to $90 for at-home home kits (based on Amazon prices)
- Durability: two weeks
- Appearance: Gel nail polish has a very glossy, smooth finish to it. You can choose from essentially any color imaginable. Kits come with a set number of colors, but you can purchase additional colors easily.
- Pros: Long-lasting, very resistant to chipping and peeling, less damaging than acrylic nails, can touch up easily at home.
- Cons: Often causes some damage to nail beds; UV lights can damage skin.
If you’re a fan of gel manicures, this option is an excellent investment. In the long run, you save a ton of money by skipping the salon while still getting similar results. We picked kits for every need and featured them in our post where we reviewed some of the best home gel polish kits. Just make sure to implement the nail care tips at the end of this article.
DIY Nail Polish Strips/Wraps – Best Mess-Free Manicure Option
- Cost: $8 to $12 (based on Amazon prices)
- Durability: 7 to 10 days (based on product descriptions)
- Appearance: Nail polish strips look like regular nail polish once they’re applied. There are dozens of different colors and designs to choose from.
- Pros: Mess-free, no odor, inexpensive.
- Cons: Not very long lasting; can be difficult to apply.
Nail polish strips are fun to try out, but they’re not for everyone. But since they’re inexpensive, consider giving them a shot! There are lots of cute patterns and prints to consider. I’ve tried a few different brands, and Sally Hansen Salon Effects Real Nail Polish Strips work best for me. They last about one week in my experience, so that’s not bad for how affordable they are.
The Importance of Routine Nail Care
Regardless of what option you choose, it’s so important to take good care of your nails. Acrylics, polish, and polish remover all cause damage. Fortunately, there are a few ways to keep your nails in prime condition. Consider these quick nail care tips:
- Use a nail hardener. Nail hardeners contain several different nutrients that nails need. Our post about nail hardeners features several excellent options.
- Take a biotin supplement. Biotin, also known as Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H, is essential for nail health and growth. As an added bonus, biotin supplements are inexpensive and contribute to hair health and growth, too.
- Take breaks between manicures of any kind. When your nails are covered in acrylics, gel, or lacquer, they can’t stay in good shape. They need to be able to regenerate and grow. It’s important to take breaks, especially if you wear acrylic nails.
- Use a cuticle cream or oil. Your nail cuticles create a protective barrier to keep bacteria out of your nails beds. Cuticle health is a crucial part of overall nail health. Read our post Best Cuticle Cream & Oils: Affordable Options for Noteworthy Nails for some affordable recommendations.
No Shortage Of Options For Doing Your Nails
It’s easy to see that your options are plentiful when it comes to manicures. You can spend $10 and get what you need for a DIY manicure at home. You can splurge and go to the salon for ultra-durable acrylics. With this post in mind, it’s easy to see which choices suit your needs the best!
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