Photo credit: Getty Images

Hands and nails have become a major beauty focus more than ever lately (hello, repeated hand washing!). Enter the ever-important manicure: Not only is it a way to keep your nails healthy and polished, it’s also a way to show your personality and creativity. Manicures let you try color or nail design trends without long-term —and potentially expensive — investments (like clothing) or irreversible options (like cutting your hair).

There are many factors that contribute to choosing your best manicure, including your mood, lifestyle, and budget, current trends, upkeep, how much time you have and how long you want the manicure to last. To help you find the ideal mani style for you, here is a guide to the different types of manicures from nail artist Julie Kandalec, owner of Julie K Nail Atelier in New York City.

Natural Nail Manicure

The au naturel manicure is great for the person that wants to just wear their own nails (it’s also called a classic manicure for a reason). This treatment includes cutting and filing your nails to your desired shape and length, cuticle grooming, a hand massage, and regular nail polish. Any other manicure you get is based on this regimen.

  • How long does it take? About one hour

  • How long does it last? Varies based on the individual, the technique, and the products used, but can last up to seven days

  • What is the price range? From $15 to $45+

  • Does it damage your nails? No

  • How do you remove this manicure? With non-acetone nail polish remover

  • Pros: A natural nails manicure is “easy maintenance and allows you to change your color quickly and easily,” Kandalec says.

  • Cons: It can take time to dry (we’ve all bumped our nails and smudged our polish), and “it doesn’t last long for some if their hands are in water a lot,” she adds.

Press-On Nails

If you want to DIY and get a perfect 10 mani with minimal effort (or dip your fingers into nail designs), press-on nails may be the way to go. “Press-ons are having a huge moment and the trend has staying power,” Kandalec says. Press-on nails you can do at home are now higher quality, easier to use, and more believable, and you can even order custom nails tailored to your style and nails.

  • How long does it take? About 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your skill and comfort level

  • How long does it last? Approximately one to two weeks (they may pop off but you can reapply if needed)

  • What is the price range? About $6 and up

  • Do press-ons damage your nails? No, but if you are concerned, opt for the adhesive, knowing it may not be as strong and long-lasting as if you used glue.

  • How do you remove press-ons? Use acetone nail polish remover to loosen the glue. If you aren’t a fan of acetone, take a cuticle-oil soaked cotton ball and apply it generously to each nail and especially the edges to ensure it gets under the nails to loosen the glue.

  • Pros: Press-on nails are generally easy to apply.

  • Cons: if you aren’t careful or don’t follow the instructions, you could potentially damage the top layer of your nails.

French Manicure

Traditionally, French manicures feature a natural-colored nail with a white tip, and can be done with regular nail polish, gel nail polish, or acrylic. They look clean and classic, but can feature fun twists. “A huge trend currently is a French twist manicure where the tip is different colors, like a rainbow or the shape is off-center for an easy nail art look,” Kandalec says.

  • How long does it take? Tack an additional 10 to 30 minutes onto a basic manicure

  • How long does it last? In polish, about one week; in gel or acrylic, up to three weeks

  • What is the price range? Approximately $10 in a solid color; $15 and up in multiple colors

  • Does it damage your nails? No, this a manicure design.

  • How do you remove this manicure? It depends on the kind of manicure (gel, acrylic, etc.).

  • Pros: A glamorous, timeless look.

  • Cons: French manicures “can be difficult to do on yourself,” she says, but you can use guide strips to help paint the tips.

American Manicure

The French manicure is ubiquitous, but did you know U.S.A. has its own version as well? “An American manicure is similar to a French manicure where the nail tips are lighter, but in a softer, more natural off-white color,” Kandalec explains. It’s a flattering and classic way to wear the style of a French manicure and makes nails look healthy and clean.

  • How long does it take? Approximately 45 to 60 minutes for a natural manicure; two to three hours in acrylic or gel

  • How long does it last? About three to seven days in polish, up to three weeks in acrylic or gel

  • What is the price range? From around $40 to $130 and up

  • Does it damage your nails? No, this is a manicure design.

  • How do you remove this manicure? It depends on the kind of manicure (gel, acrylic, etc.).

  • Pros: An American mani is easier to DIY. “It’s possible to do this yourself at home because the white tip is softer and doesn’t have to be perfect,” she says.

  • Cons: Might be too natural looking for some.

Acrylic Manicure

Trying to get those striking stiletto and coffin-shaped nails? Opt for acrylic, which is a liquid plus powder nail enhancement that’s very strong. There’s a chemistry (literally!) to acrylics: “The powder is a polymer and the liquid is a monomer and when they are mixed together in the proper ratio, they harden on their own,” Kandalec explains, no UV light needed for curing. “Acrylic gets a bad reputation because so frequently they are done very thick, but acrylic can be applied very thinly and in a natural way if it is filed flush at the cuticle.”

  • How long does it take? About two hours

  • How long does it last? Approximately two to three weeks

  • What is the price range? Around $120+ for a new set

  • Do acrylic nails damage natural nails? No, as long as you don’t leave your acrylics on for too long and remove them correctly.

  • How do you remove acrylic nails? If you are at home, soak your nails in acetone nail polish remover for five minutes, then remove the nail polish. Repeat this process until the polish is off. A salon will do similar with 100% acetone.

  • Pros: Acrylics are hard and durable.

  • Cons: The odor of acrylic is very strong during application and not appealing for some.”Sometimes the enhancement is so strong that if you do break a nail, it can cause a lot of pain and potential damage to the natural nail plate underneath,” she says. “But it’s not a reason to avoid it — just be sure to visit a salon with an excellent reputation for best results.”

Gel Manicure

For a durable manicure, consider hard gel. “You can sculpt nails with hard gel, and a professional has to remove it by filing, as it’s acetone-resistant,” Kandalec says. These nails can look very natural while being lightweight and flexible. A hard gel manicure is “much more flexible than acrylic and better for people prone to nail lifting because it flexes with the nail shape nicely,” she explains

  • How long does it take? About two hours

  • How long does it last? Approximately three weeks

  • What is the price range? From about $30 to $120+

  • Does gel damage natural nails? No, as long as you don’t leave the gel on for too long and you remove the polish correctly.

  • How do you remove a gel manicure? Take a cotton ball soaked in acetone nail polish and apply to your finger nails and wrap each nail with foil for about 15 minutes. The polish should easily remove, if not, soak again.

  • Pros: “Hard gel is self-leveling and can leave a very high gloss shine on the nail without even needing to add color,” Kandalec notes.

  • Cons: It does need to be removed by a professional.

Shellac Manicure

Want to give your gel manicure an upgrade? Opt for a Shellac manicure. A Shellac manicure is essentially a gel manicure; however, Shellac is the name of the brand of gel polish created by Creative Nail Design (CND). The brand has bragging rights of being the original gel polish and over 160 colors to choose from.

  • How long does it take? About two hours

  • How long does it last? Approximately three weeks

  • What is the price range? From about $30 to $120+

  • Does shellac damage your nails? No, as long as you don’t leave it on for too long and or remove it incorrectly.

  • How do you remove a shellac manicure? First, buff the shine off the nail polish with a nail file. Then take a cotton ball soaked in acetone nail polish and apply to your finger nails and wrap each nail with foil for about 15 minutes. The polish should easily remove. If not, soak again.

  • Pros: Two times faster removal in comparison to competitors.

  • Cons: It does need to be removed by a professional.

Dip Powder Manicure

Dip powder nails are a powder and glue combination that bonds to your nails for a long-lasting manicure. “This technique was very popular many years ago and just began to resurface in the nail industry recently,” Kandalec shares. (Dip powder nails are also known as SNS nails, though SNS is a brand of dip powder.)

  • How long does it take? About two hours

  • How long does it last? Approximately four weeks

  • What is the price range? Similar to a gel manicure, around $30 to $5

  • Does dip powder damage your nails? No, as long as you don’t leave the gel on for too long, remove the polish correctly, and give your natural nails a break every couple of months.

  • How do you remove a dip powder manicure? First buff the shine off the nail polish with a nail file. Then take a cotton ball soaked in acetone nail polish and apply to your finger nails and wrap each nail with foil for about 15 minutes. The polish should easily remove, if not, soak again.

  • Pros: Long-lasting, durable results.

  • Cons: It’s important to choose a reputable salon for this treatment. Ensure your nail tech allocates a portion of the dip powder from the pot for your manicure, as dipping your nail into the main pot is unhygienic and can spread germs.

Plexigel Manicure

A new type of salon manicure from nail brand CND, Plexigel consists of two different main products— a nail shaper and builder are tailored to your nail needs. “Shaper is for repairs, cracks, and plumping the natural nail, while Builder lets you build out long nails or other shapes,” Kandalec explains. The tough coating naturally protects your nails and is more lightweight in comparison to other nail enhancements, and Plexigel rivals regular gel in terms of how long it lasts.

  • How long does it take? For a new set, about two hours

  • How long does it last? Up to three weeks

  • What is the price range? Starting at $130 for a new set, sculpted on forms

  • Does plexigel damage your nails? No, as long as you remove correctly.

  • How do you remove a plexigel manicure? You don’t. Head to a nail tech trained in the CND plexigel process to have this removed. You can find a technician via their website.

  • Pros: Plexigel easily adds length and shape to your natural nails and is lightweight. The nails can also be rebalanced every three weeks without the need for removal, which saves time.

  • Cons: Only a CND-trained professional can apply and remove it.

You Might Also Like