What Should I Expect at My First Manicure Appointment?

A young woman get a manicure at a spa.
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You've scheduled your first manicure appointment, but you don't know what to expect. Get ready to feel pampered. Here's what happens during a manicure - step by step.

You can choose to get your manicure at a high-end salon or spa, or you can get them at a nail spa. You'll usually get some more pampering when you go to a full-service spa, but you'll usually pay less when you go to a nail spa. Choosing which type of business is best for you can come down to convenience and cost.

Even your neighborhood nail spa will do their best to pamper you but the setting will not be as luxurious as a full-service salon or spa. Certainly, a manicure at your local nail spa will cost less than at a fancier salon or spa but for some people, the extra money is worth it since the facilities are top notch and so are the complimentary extras you receive while getting your nails done. 

Manicure Steps

You'll start with having any current nail polish removed. Next, your nails will be shaped and filed. There are many ways you can have your nails shaped from rounded to square-tipped. Trust your nail technician’s advice; some nails will break much easier if they are shaped wrong. Going with the natural shape of your nail will ensure stronger nails. After shaping your nails the nail technician will apply a cuticle cream onto your cuticles and push them down. Many doctors do not recommend to have your cuticles trimmed since it could lead to infections and irritation, but it's a very common practice to do so.

If you're uncomfortable with having your cuticles cut, tell your nail technician. Cuticles are pushed back and cut so that your nails appear longer and so it will be easier to apply nail polish. You will most likely be soaking your hand while the technician is working on your other hand.

Afterward filing your nails and treating your cuticles most manicures will include a very relaxing hand massage, my favorite part.

The massage will likely include reflexology techniques to completely relax your hands. Enjoy this little piece of heaven.

Now it is time for nail polish. You'll have a hard decision when it comes to polish. Be ready to be wowed by the color selection. If you are unsure of the color, perhaps a French Manicure is for you. Designed to look natural, you'll have a slight line of color at the tip of your nails that ranges from stark white to light pink. You'll then have a glossy clear over your nails which will make them look amazing. Your nail technician may even be able to give you a small design on the nail for an extra fee. When I got my last pedicure, she added a cute little flower on my big toes. You'll be amazed at the talent of some technicians. Even if you do not choose to have a French Manicure your nail technician will apply a clear base coat to your nails, two coats of the color you choose, and then a clear top coat.

After the application of polish, you'll likely put your hands under a UV light specifically made to help dry and harden the nails. This will take about five minutes, but you must be very careful with your nails for hours after your appointment. Nothing is worse than getting a manicure and chipping the polish two hours later.

If that does happen though, call your salon. Many times they'll have you come back in for a quick fix.

Nail Art and Gel Manicures

During the past few years, elaborate nail art designs have become common along with embellishments. While many people enjoy trying to do nail art on their own if you want an extra special design or something more elaborate go to a professional. You can get just one or two nails done with art on them or have every nail decorated.

Gel manicures are also extremely popular because the gel polish stays on your nails for about two weeks without chipping. Gel manicures cost a bit more than manicures with regular polish, but for many people, the extra cost is worth it since their manicure stays looking great for so long. While the manicure process is the same as that when regular polish is used (base cost, 2 coats of the color, top coat) - you need to place your nails under a UV lamp between coats in order to "cure" or set the polish.

There is some controversy over the use of UV lamps for gel manicures, and this type of polish can be difficult to remove. Nevertheless, the popularity of gel manicures only seems to be growing.

Don't Forget: A standard 15-20% tip is the norm for any beauty service, manicure included.

Updated by Hanah Tetro