Why I Don’t Get Salon Manicures

This is a legacy post that I’ve given a facelift because for some reason in April I think it’s a good idea to get a manicure…only to be disappointed every. single. time. Content is the same with spiffed-up formatting and another anecdote from this year.


Once upon a time, I was a horrific nail-biter. Jagged, short, lame. I eventually stopped myself, but not by self-torture (bitter nail drops and whatnot), but instead I painted my ragged nails. I eventually did not want to mar the polish (or have it in my mouth), so I eventually broke the habit. Over time, I leveled up my polishing skill and now my nails are awesome and the envy of millions generally pretty nice!

In a Groove

Since then, nails became my thing. Long before I bothered with makeup or tried to pretend that I could manage my hair, nails were my thing. I feel put together when they’re tidy. My polish collection is decent and find the process relaxing, especially when I’m using gel polish that is relatively odor-free. I rarely have to clean around the nail afterwards, and I rarely have to retouch.

Praise be to DIY

I DIY most of my own manicures and do not bother with salon manicures. So many salons that are in a friendly price point do not take time with their clients; it’s all quantity over quality. I hate being rushed and I hate paying so much (even at a ‘friendly’ price point) for something I can do 20x better myself.

Beyond that, my collection consists all of polishes I like, so I don’t risk going to a salon and being left with a picked-over, old, separated, and thinned-with-thinner OPI polishes that are, frankly, the odd ones out – or, in the case of the topcoat in the OPI bottle, not even a freaking OPI product! Although I know I could bring my own polish, I usually don’t; the polish is part of the price for the service. You don’t get a discount for supplying your own product.

I am also not a fan of how it feels when someone else files my fingernails – I can’t describe it, but it bothers me at a cellular level. Too little is done to stabilize my fingers, and everyone knows that back-and-forth zig-zag filing is bad for the nail…yet so many do it! I can do just fine on my own and save money.


I don’t know what got into me. I saw that a local salon had Chrome, so I broke my No Buy like a little magpie and went for it. Except they didn’t recommend it for natural nails – just enhancements. To my delight, they did have some of the LeChat holographic gels which, perhaps, are even more fun. (Though I decided afterwards that it’s perhaps time for me to give up holographic glitter nails, sigh).

Oh, sure, the polish is lovely…but the state of disarray that is my nails right now is HORRIFIC. My nail tech carelessly filed (the WORST part!) so my nails aren’t shaped sensibly. She skipped a step during gel polish application (no primer? wtf).

Two days after application, the surface started CRACKING on two nails. Not peeling or lifting, but almost a spiderweb effect. Looked lovely. </sarcasm>. By five days in, six nails were affected. By 7, eight were. I’ve never seen anything like this with gel polish! Research suggests it is because the top coat she used is too hard for a natural nail application, or because brands were mixed (Gelish base and top, but LeChat color). At home, I mix brands all the time without issue.

I don’t have pictures to share. They’re pretty rough-looking at this point.

Removal is going to require soaking in acetone – blech; I can typically pop them off (in before judgment about this – I don’t experience damage when I do this to DIY gel manicures) but that is NOT an option. I don’t know what on earth she did, but there’s not a snowflake’s chance in hell that I get a gel service there again.


I do get pedicures from time to time and went with a friend on April 5th (2014) to do so. She decided to get a full set, so I opted for a manicure mostly to get some TLC for my cuticles and for the hand massage. The pedicure was great – relaxing, my cuticles look great, the polish looks great, etc. The nail tech was friendly and did a great job!

The manicure, however, left something to be desired (don’t worry, this isn’t some gross fungus horror story). Though we had appointments and were the only two clients in the salon (until the very end of my service), the nail tech rushed through each step. She haphazardly pushed back my cuticles, removed excess eponychium, shaped, and polished. She was rough as she filed and the feeling was unpleasant. My digits were not shaped uniformly and one was downright crooked.

After she applied the base coat and half-way through the first coat of my polish, a (walk-in) client entered, seeking a pedicure. She left me for a moment without saying anything to start one of the pedicure tubs filling and to help the client pick a color before getting her in the chair. The tech was gone for several minutes before she returned to me, wordlessly, and continued polishing – but more quickly now, and frankly, sloppily. She cranked out another coat and a top coat before sending me over to the drying station. I was a little confused – the pedicure portion was so nice and she had taken her time, but this was downright sloppy.

2014 Manicure Pictures

Unfortunately, I did not take any photos immediately. We went midday that Saturday, and these photos were taken the following Tuesday night. I wear gloves when I wash dishes or work with any house cleaning chemicals, so they were not exposed to that sort of trouble, and I did not have to put a beating on them at work on Monday, either. By this time I already experienced chipping, and my cuticle area was a mess. Here’s a picture of my hand – it doesn’t look too bad at this distance or in this light.

Why I Don't Get Salon Manicures - whole hand

Here is a picture of one of my thumbs depicting the uneven polish application. If you look towards the side-walls and my cuticles, you’ll see another layer there – that is not just top coat, that is the whole second layer of polish.

Why I Don't Get Salon Manicures - thumb

Here, you can see significant tip wear, and if you look closely, uneven application and how rough my cuticles look. The top coat used seems to be poor quality, though it was in an OPI bottle. By the way, the color is Essie – Castaway.

Why I Don't Get Salon Manicures - right hand

Here, you get a better idea of my cuticles. Now granted, it isn’t as though you look at my hands all the time but even DIY I never mangle them like this. They looked good on the first day, but now the skin is awkward, I have hangnails, etc. Also, some of my nails were filed in a rounded shape and others were more squoval. It was pretty odd.

Why I Don't Get Salon Manicures - left hand

Here’s another to show gratuitous chipping and whatnot. You can also see that she brought the polish down too far onto my pinky so it is not just touching but is on my cuticle. I am not a twitchy client – but even if I had been, why no clean-up? Eek!

Why I Don't Get Salon Manicures - left hand 2

Polish (an Essie, at that!) that is <4 days old and applied by a professional should not be in this condition. My cuticles and fingers looked worse in the days after than they did going in! Even though I was thrilled with the pedi, the manicure just left such a bad taste in my mouth that

  • I never want to return to that salon and
  • I’m kind of over, “professional,” manicures

To be fair, my friend’s full set french acrylics look wonderful and the gentleman who worked with her really took his time and created a beautiful set of enhancements.

This was not written to trash-talk the salon but that manicure…meh. When I do something like this, it is to add a little touch of luxury to my life. Luxuries should never feel, “meh.” I fully recognize that I just haven’t found, “my,” nail place yet – but finding Carmen San Diego can get costly.