Gel or Dip Powder? A Guide to the Different Types of Manicures—Plus, How Much They Cost
Find your perfect manicure match.
There was once a time when a manicure meant one thing: basic polish, swiped onto just-filed nails, finished with a shiny top coat. Today people gawk when you ask for regular polish at the salon. It's been cast aside for shiny new versions, defamed by those who say it doesn't hold up in a crisis. Here lies the classic manicure, chipped and forgotten.
Now every nail salon touts a menu as extensive as everyone's favorite chicken joint, and things get confusing faster than you can say "shellac." Don't even get us started on nail shapes; that's a talk for another time.
We're breaking down the different types of manicures—and the varying manicure prices—to help you avoid any major mani disasters. Because once the polish is on, we're committed. Lest we sit another hour to have it redone. *never* Maybe it's time to try something new? Don't knock a nail polish until you've tried it.
Here's your handy guide to the types of manicures you'll find at the nail salon.
What it is: This is the brass tacks of the nail world. Pick a level, basic to deluxe, and get your hands pampered, cuticles clipped, nails filed, and polish applied.
How long does it last: Up to a week with minimal chipping.
Who it's for: If you're not one to carve out time to get a gel manicure soaked off at the salon in two weeks' time, a basic manicure is your best bet. Likewise, it's a solid choice if you're in a rush or wildly impatient.
How much does it cost: Around $20–40, plus tip.
What it is: This is the most popular manicure you'll hear about right now. Think of it as a souped-up version of a basic manicure that uses a UV light to cure and harden liquid polish, which is what makes a gel manicure last up to three times longer than regular polish. There's one catch: You'll have to go back to the salon to get it soaked off. Don't dare try to pick it off; that's a one-stop shop to stripped nails.
How long does it last: Around two to three weeks.
Who it's for: If you love your signature OPI or Essie color but need it to last past the weekend, a gel mani will do the trick. Nowadays most salons carry your favorite nail colors in both regular and gel polish.
How much does it cost: Around $25–45, plus tip
Dip powder manicure
What it is: This manicure is newer on the scene but quickly closing the popularity gap between itself and the gel mani. Each nail color comes in the form of a pigmented powder, which your nails are dipped into after being applied a clear liquid formula. The most popular type, SNS, is marketed as "better for your nails" than any other longwear polish, such as gel. You'll also need to get it professionally taken off at the nail salon.
How long does it last: Around three weeks (four weeks, if you're lucky).
Who it's for: This is every on-the-go girl's secret weapon. You'll instantly notice that it feels more hardy and resilient than any other polish, which is why it tends to last longer.
How much does it cost: Around $35–50, plus tip.
What it is: This might evoke mental images of the crazy-long, in-your-face French manicure of the early 2000s, but acrylic manicures are still kicking. While a cooler take on the classic French mani is currently coming back into style, you can customize an acrylic manicure to look any way you'd like. It's basically a combination of liquid and powder polishes that are applied over your natural nail and false tips.
How long does it last: Around two to three weeks; you can go to the salon for fill-ins if the false nails break.
Who it's for: Have you always lusted over the almond nail shape, only to be let down by your nails never growing long enough? This one's for you. Acrylics are great for those who want longer nails (or are prone to biting!), as it will feign the appearance of naturally longer nails, all while providing a tough protective layer to keep you from biting your nails.
How much does it cost: Around $35 and up, fill-ins are $15 and up.
What it is: This isn't a different type of application, but rather a different finish from the traditional shiny top coat finish. The nail color is instead topped with a mattifying coat (like this one by OPI) that makes the nail color appear muted and non-shiny. Not all salons offer this service, but many are able to do it in varying applications, from classic to gel to dip powder.
How long does it last: Depends on the application type.
Who it's for: This is for the rule breaker who likes to switch things up. Matte manicures tend to look best with vibrant or darker hues, so it might be the refresh your mani needs this fall and winter.
How much does it cost: Depends on application type; no extra charge.
We ladies do love options, don't we? Well consider yourself fully briefed for your next nail appointment.