Getting your nails done is a pampering experience that makes your hands look polished and put together. But between deciding on a style, accounting for extra services, and factoring in salon wait times, how long does it really take to get your nails done?
As someone who gets regular manicures and pedicures, I’ve learned that the time involved depends on several key factors. In this article, I’ll walk through the typical duration for common nail services so you can plan your next nail appointment accordingly.
Time Required for a Manicure
If you’re getting a basic manicure, you can expect the process to take around one hour from start to finish. This includes soaking your nails, shaping them, pushing back cuticles, and applying a few coats of your chosen nail polish.
However, there are a few factors that can lengthen the manicure process:
- Additional nail services – If you add on extras like a paraffin wax treatment or hand massage, it will tack on time.
- Short-staffed salon – If the nail tech is juggling a lot of clients, it may take longer between steps.
- Acrylic manicure – Getting acrylic nails applied rather than regular polish can make the appointment take up to two hours.
So while an average manicure takes about an hour, know that extra services, salon staffing, and acrylics can all extend the duration.
What’s Included in a Basic Manicure
To understand why a manicure takes an hour, it helps to break down what’s included in the standard process:
- Soaking – Your nail tech will have you soak your hands in a warm bowl of soapy water for 5-10 minutes to soften the skin and nails.
- Exfoliation – They’ll gently scrub your hands with an exfoliating scrub to slough off dead skin. This takes just a couple minutes.
- Nail shaping – Using a nail file, they’ll shape your nails and smooth the edges. This takes 5-10 minutes depending on nail length.
- Cuticle care – Your tech will use a cuticle pusher to gently push back your cuticles, then trim off any excess with nippers. This step takes about 5 minutes.
- Polishing – Applying your chosen nail polish and letting it dry comprises the bulk of the appointment. Your tech will apply 2-4 thin coats, allowing each to dry for a few minutes in between. This takes 15-20 minutes total.
All the steps combined make for a process lasting about one hour from the initial soak to the final coat of polish. Now let’s look at how gel manicures compare.
Gel Manicure Duration
The process for a gel manicure is very similar to a regular manicure. You get the same soaking, shaping, cuticle care and polish application.
The main difference is that gel polish is cured under a UV or LED lamp between coats. Each coat takes about 30 seconds to cure.
With 2-3 layers of gel polish, the curing time adds roughly 15 minutes to the total appointment duration.
So while a regular manicure takes one hour, you can expect to be at the salon for 1 hour 15 minutes for a gel manicure. The more coating involved, the longer the appointment will run.
Now let’s look at the most lengthy nail service: acrylics.
How Long Does It Take to Get Acrylic Nails?
Of all the nail options, acrylics are the most time-consuming to apply. A full set requires extensive shaping, filing, and layering to get an evenly sculpted look.
Here is an overview of the acrylic process:
- Prep – Your nails are cleaned, shaped and prepped with a pH-balancing solution.
- Application – Acrylic powder and liquid are mixed into a paste and applied to each nail, then shaped individually as it hardens.
- Filing – Once fully set, the acrylics are filed to a smooth, even finish.
- Polish – Regular or gel polish is applied on top for color and shine.
With all the steps involved, including polish, a full set of acrylics takes approximately two hours from start to finish.
If you get very elaborate nail art or designs added on top, it can tack on even more time. The complexity of the look drives the duration.
Time Needed for Acrylic Fills
Once your acrylics are in place, you’ll need periodic fills to maintain the look. The fill process involves filing down the grown-out portion and filling it in with fresh acrylic.
For a basic fill with regular polish, you can expect the appointment to take 30 minutes. Gel polish or ornate designs will take closer to 45 minutes to an hour.
So while less time than a full set, allow a half hour to an hour to maintain your acrylics.
Tips for Saving Time at the Nail Salon
Now that you know how long standard nail services take, here are some tips for shortening the duration:
- Communicate time limits – Let your tech know upfront if you’re rushed for time. They may be able to streamline certain steps.
- Skip extra treatments – Stick to the basics. Add-ons like paraffin dips and hand massages tack on time.
- Use quick-dry polish – Ask for fast-drying polish which cuts down on drying time between coats.
- Get nails reshaped vs trimmed – Shortening your nails with a file rather than nippers saves 10 minutes.
- Bring your own polish – Supplying your own color avoids the time spent browsing the salon’s polishes.
- Get a pedicure – In a rush? Pedicures take half the time of manicures.
Using these time-saving tips, you can often shave 10-15 minutes off your nail appointment. Just communicate your timing needs with your tech.
How Long Does It Take to Do Your Own Nails at Home?
If going to the salon isn’t convenient, you can always opt to do your nails at home. Here is how long common DIY nail services take:
- Basic polish manicure – Filing, cuticle care and 2 coats of polish takes about 15 minutes. Adding a 10-minute soak and exfoliation brings it to 30 minutes total.
- Gel manicure – Applying gel polish and curing each coat takes around 30 minutes. Factoring in prep brings it to 1 hour.
- Acrylic nails – Shaping, applying and filing acrylics is extremely difficult without training. But if properly prepared, it takes around 2 hours like at a salon.
So while home manicures take less time without all the extra treatments, they still require a time investment. Make sure you allot 15-30 minutes for polish changes and significantly longer for gels or acrylics.
How Nail Design Complexity Impacts Duration
If you’re getting a painted design or artwork on your nails, it will take longer than a simple polish change. Here’s how design complexity adds time:
- Solid color manicure – The quickest option. Takes 15-20 minutes.
- French tips – Painting white polished tips adds 5 minutes.
- Single color design – A floral or geometric design in one color takes 30 minutes total.
- Multi-color details – Intricate multi-color images can take 45 minutes to an hour.
- Nail art embellishments – Rhinestones, glitter, foil, striping tape or decals takes up to 1 hour.
The more detailed and multi-layered the design, the more time required for precise painting and drying. Discuss desired designs beforehand so the tech can accommodate the time needed.
How Long Do Pedicures Take?
Now let’s talk pedicures. Since feet have thicker nails and calluses, pedicures generally take less time than manicures.
Here’s the rundown:
- Traditional pedicure – Trimming, exfoliating, massaging and polishing feet takes around 30 minutes.
- Gel pedicure – The added UV curing time brings it to approximately 1 hour.
- Luxury pedicure – With extras like paraffin wax or extended massage, allow 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Since pedicures are less detailed than manicures, they make a good option when you want pampering but are short on time. A standard pedi can be done during a lunch break or quick salon visit.
Tips for Quick DIY Pedicures
Similar to manicures, you can also save time by giving yourself a DIY pedicure at home. Here are some tips:
- Soak feet while prepping tools to soften skin and nails.
- Use a foot scrubber or pumice stone to exfoliate quickly.
- Use cuticle remover liquid to avoid trimming.
- Apply a fast-dry polish and wave feet to speed up drying.
- Stick to solid colors or French tips instead of complex designs.
With these time-saving steps, an at-home pedicure can be completed in just 30 to 45 minutes. Perfect for busy weeks!
When you’re deciding how long to budget for your manicure or pedicure appointment, the biggest factors are:
- Nail services chosen – Manicures take longer than pedicures, acrylics longer than regular polish.
- Salon staffing and wait times – Add buffer time for potential delays.
- Design complexity – The more intricate the look, the more time needed.
Using the estimates provided above, you can plan your nail appointments accordingly. Just be sure to add buffer time for unexpected delays or add-ons.
The bottom line is that most manicures take an hour, pedicures 30 minutes, and acrylic sets two hours. But you may be able to condense these times with the right strategies.
Next time you visit the nail salon, use these tips to help shorten your appointment if needed. And you’ll avoid having to rush through the relaxing experience.
Getting your nails done should be a stress-free pampering break, not another time-pressure in your busy schedule. With the right expectations, you can make sure your manicure and pedicure appointments remain a soothing, rejuvenating me-time treat.