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Summer’s over but our manis and pedis still need to be on point. Not sure with technique is best for you? We got you covered—literally!*

MANICURE

What is it? A base coat, two color coats, and top coat are applied to natural nails after the nails are filed, shaped, and the cuticles cut.

How long does it take to apply? 15–30 minutes

How much does it cost? $7–$25

How long does it last? 3–7 days

How do you remove it? At home or salon with nail polish remover.

Are chips and/or smudging possible? Yes.

Pro: No damage is done to nails over time.

Con: Only lasts a few days.

Acrylic Nails

What is it? A mixture of liquid acrylic (monomer) and polymer (an acrylic powder) is applied to the nail and usually hardens within minutes.

How long does it take to apply? 1–1.5 hours

How much does it cost? $20–$50

How long does it last? 2 weeks (up to 6 weeks with biweekly fill-ins).

How do you remove it? Soak nails in acetone for 20–30 minutes.

Are chips or smudges possible? Yes, but unlikely.

Pro: These nails are robust and durable.

Con: Strong smell of the acrylic during application and can damage your natural nails.

UV Gel Nails

What is it? A super-thin coat of gel painted over the natural nail and then cured under a UV light.

How long does it take to apply? 45 minutes

How much does it cost? $30–$70

How long does it last? 2 weeks.

How do you remove it? Recommended you return to the salon to have them soaked and filed off.

Are chips or smudges possible? Chips are possible, especially if the gel is applied too thinly.

Pro: The UV light immediately sets the formula so no drying time, plus the applications are odorless.

Con: Like acrylic nails, need to be filled approximately every 2 weeks or so.

Virtual Nails by Dashing Divas

What is it? Clear, full-cover nails that are secured with a special glue.

How long does it take to apply? 1 hour

How much does it cost? $25–$35

How long does it last? 1 – 2 weeks

How do you remove it? Soak them for 10–15 minutes in the special “Magic Melt” solution (a combination of acetone and lanolin).

Are chips or smudges possible? No, but the nails can pop off after some time.

Pro: There’s no need for fill-ins. Your natural nails grow UNDER the set.

Con: It’s recommended that you return to salon to remove.

Find a salon: www.dashingdiva.com

MINX

What is it? A solid film with an adhesive back that is heat activated.

How long does it take to apply? 30 minutes

How much does it cost? $45–$65, mani; $65–$85, pedi.

How long does it last? 1–2 weeks (pedicures can last up to 4 weeks).

How do you remove it? With heat by either the manicurist or the client. At home, blast nails with a blow dryer and peel off.

Are chips or smudges possible? No, but if not applied securely the edges may begin to peel.

Pro: No drying time.

Con: The nail bed has to be completely dry, so don’t expect relaxing hand massage or hot hand soak.

Find a salon: www.minxnails.com

SHELLAC BY CREATIVE NAIL DESIGN (CND)

What is it? A “hybrid” of traditional nail polish and UV gel polish. It paints on like polish–base coat, color, top coat–and is cured in a UV light.

How long does it take to apply? 30 minutes

How much does it cost? $40–$45

How long does it last? 2 weeks.

How do you remove it? Use the Shellac Remover Wraps and the polish breaks off in 10 minutes. Push off the remains with an orange wood stick.

Are chips or smudges possible? No.

Pro: The Shellac Remover Wraps limit fingers and skin exposure to acetone by keeping the cotton pad on just the nail. Built-in adhesive tabs secure them in place.

Con: The product recently launched in May, so most salons don’t offer this service yet.

Find a salon: CND

*Note: All prices and application times are approximations. Actual price and application time vary by salon and location.

– Audra E. Lord

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  • sweet pinky

    Sadly Virtual Nails were a horrible horrible decision for me. If you “lose” a nail w/in approx. a week they’ll replace it free of charge. If memory serves I lost more than one in abt a week and was likely to spend more time in Dashing Diva than home/work. On the plus side, it helped me stop biting my nails and grow them out for real.

  • FauxBLAsian

    Manicures that require the use of UV rays have the same con as when getting a tan; you are subject to the possibility of getting skin cancer from repeated exposure. You can look it up. If you must get it anyway, doctors recommend that you put sunscreen on your hands….just an FYI

  • binks

    I usually stick to my regular manicure but when I do apply nails it is the gel nails. But another con that should be added to those that sometimes it hurts when they “cure” your nails under the UV light, so if you don’t like any pain or discomfort then you should opt for the other version

  • Najat

    I am giving myself manicures to cut down on costs and see how creative I can get at home…so far it is sooo frustrating to spend so much time doing my own nails and they are ruined by the end of the week. Hmph.

  • dee

    I used Gelish polish and I LOVED it!!! I can’t wait to get my next gel-polish manicure my nails stayed beautiful and didn’t chip at all!!! I’m trying CND Shellac next!