What to Ask For at Nail Salon: Step-by-Step Guide

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Going to the nail salon for the first time can be daunting. There are so many nail services and different styles that knowing exactly what to ask for can be difficult. The initial walk-in and explanation of what you want can be overwhelming, so before you go, let’s break it down.

In this post, I’ll be sharing what to ask for at a nail salon, a step-by-step guide. This will help you understand exactly what it is you want and how best to explain it to the nail technician to ensure you leave a happy customer.

What to Ask For at Nail Salon: Step-by-Step Guide

There are three steps to knowing what to ask for at the nail salon; here’s a detailed breakdown of what you need to know:

First of all, you need to decide what service you want.

There are so many services available at a nail salon that you need to have an idea in mind of what you want. If you walk in with absolutely no idea of what you want, the nail technician will find it hard to help you and provide the service you want. 

Start with the basics. Do you want to get your nails done, your toenails, or both? Now you’ve got that figured out; what is it that you want to do to them? Do you want a manicure, pedicure, acrylic nails, or gel polish? 

There are so many different things you can do, so here’s a quick run-through of the most popular services:

Manicure – A manicure is a beauty treatment for your nails that helps improve the health and appearance of your nails and hands. A standard manicure consists of nail trimming, shaping, filing, buffing, cuticle trimming, applying cuticle oil and or a hot oil treatment, and a hand massage. You can then choose a natural look with a top coat over your natural nails, or you can get your nails painted with either regular polish or gel polish.

Pedicure – A pedicure is a treatment for your feet that removes dead skin, softens hard skin, and shapes and treats your toenails. It is a manicure of the feet that consists of very similar treatments, and again, you can opt for a coloured polish or a natural finish.

Acrylic overlay – Acrylic overlay is a type of nail enhancement created by acrylic powder and a liquid monomer. When the two are mixed and applied to your nails, it creates a harder layer over your natural nail. It lasts, on average, for 3 weeks; it protects your nails and holds polish much longer than natural nails do.

French manicure – A french manicure is typically a nail look with a nude or sheer pink base with a white tip. It is a timeless classic that so many go for; it is perfect if you’re looking for something simple, clean, and elegant. 

Gel nails – Gel nails are a type of false nail that has a very natural look. It is a gel-based polish that must be cured under a UV or LED light, which adheres to your nails. You can have this on your nails or on top of an acrylic overlay for extra protection and a longer-lasting manicure.

Shellac – Shellac polish is a mix between a gel and regular polish. It has the strength of gel polish, making it harder to chip and long-lasting, and has the shine and easy application that regular polish does.

Dip Powder – Dip powder is a technique of dipping your nail into a coloured powder and using a clear sealant as a topcoat. It is long-lasting, and due to the powder holding the colour, it is one of the least chipping types of manicures.

Now, what shape are you going for?

Once you’ve got the basics sorted, you need to decide on the simpler things; the first being the shape. There are multiple shapes you can choose from, the main being; square, squoval, round, oval, almond, coffin (also known as ballerina), and stiletto.

It is important to think about the shape, not only to be prepared for when you go into the nail salon but also to know if they will suit you and your lifestyle. 

If you have a more practical lifestyle and want a more natural look, you should try square, squoval, round or oval. These shapes make it much easier to do daily activities as they’re more sturdy than the other shapes, and they follow the shape of your natural nails more, so you’re more likely to be used to that type of shape. 

However, if you’re looking for a statement manicure or getting your nails done for a specific occasion, you can give almond, coffin, stiletto, or square shaped nails a go. These shapes will give you a statement look that’ll catch the attention of many; they’re also very trendy shapes.

Although they aren’t the easiest to do much with, they suit longer nails than short, natural nails, so if you’re not very experienced with having long nails, then maybe try a safer shape first. 

Finally, what design do you want?

The final stage is to decide what design you want; the fun part! Now, if you don’t want a design that’s absolutely fine, you can get a standard block colour manicure, this is just one colour on all your nails; or if you don’t want a colour, you can opt for the natural look and get just a clear polish to add a shine. 

However, if you do want a design, then this is when you need to decide what you want. There are many designs and styles, so it may seem like an impossible task, but you’ve just got to go for whatever you like.

A key tip, find a pattern or nail design beforehand and go with the photo as a reference. It’s much easier to show the nail technician what you want rather than explaining what you want as it can get complicated, and more than likely, the nail technician won’t get it exactly how you picture it.

So what to ask for when at the nail salon?

Now you’ve decided what you want; it’s good to know what to expect when you go into the nail salon. The nail technician will ask what service you want when you first walk in.

This is when you need to tell them what it is you want, so for example, you can say a full set of acrylics, a manicure, and nails painted or shellac on your natural nails.

You don’t need to go into full detail just yet; this is just to give them an idea of what you want, so they know what to get ready and if there are multiple nail technicians whose best to do your nails. 

Once you’ve established the service you want and you’ve been seated, then you can go into detail about what it is you want exactly. The nail technician will normally ask you further questions on what you want, and if you’re confused or not sure about something, then this is the perfect time to go into it.

So, for example, you can tell them you want coffin shaped acrylics with red gel polish tips, or you want your natural nails shaped rounded with regular pink polish. Now you’re both clued up on what you want; all you need to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the pamper session. 


It may seem daunting at first, but once you’ve done it once and seen how it all works, it gets much easier. Remember, this is what the nail technician does, so they can always help you figure it all out and give you the manicure you want.

Don’t be afraid to speak up if it’s wrong or you were misunderstood and want something different; you’re paying for them to do your nails, so they are always willing to change things to make sure it’s exactly what you want. 

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