A close-up shot of a beautifully manicured hand, showcasing perfectly shaped nails with a glossy nail polish application, capturing the essence of a complete and stylish manicure.

Does A Manicure Include Nail Polish?

Getting a perfect manicure is a dream for many women who want beautiful and well-maintained nails. But one common question arises – does a standard manicure service include the application of pretty, glossy nail polish at the end? Let’s find out.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Typically, a basic manicure does not include polish unless specified. A basic manicure focuses on shaping and cleaning nails and cuticles. However, most salons offer polish as an add-on service for an extra fee.

What is Included in a Basic Manicure

Nail shaping and filing

The first step in a basic manicure typically involves filing and shaping the nails. The nail technician will examine each nail and use a file to smooth out any rough edges or uneven surfaces. This helps give the nails a uniform, symmetrical look.

Most salons use professional grade files and buffers to gently shape the nails. Proper filing promotes healthy nail growth and prevents splitting and peeling.

Cuticle care and removal

Next, the nail technician will use cuticle clippers or a cuticle pusher to gently remove any overgrown or ragged cuticles. Removing dead cuticles improves the look of the nails and allows the manicurist to thoroughly clean underneath the nails.

After clipping, the nails may be soaked in a small bowl of warm water or cuticle remover gel to further soften and dissolve any remaining cuticle debris. Proper cuticle removal prevents hangnails and promotes neat, attractive nails.

Hand massage

A good manicure often includes a soothing hand and arm massage. The manicurist will apply massage lotion or cream and use light to medium pressure to massage each finger, the backs and palms of hands, and forearms.

This not only feels relaxing but can increase circulation and mobility in the hands and wrists. The benefits of hand massage include reduced pain, swelling, and stiffness in joints.

Moisturizing lotion application

At the end of the manicure, the nail tech will usually apply a rich moisturizing hand cream or lotion, massaging it into the skin. In addition to the massage benefits, the lotion helps restore moisture and gives an ultra-hydrated, smooth texture.

Most salons will include application of a moisturizer or hand treatment cream in their basic manicure price. Properly moisturized hands give the finished manicure a polished, healthy look.

Why Nail Polish Isn’t Usually Included

Getting a professional manicure is a real treat, but many clients are disappointed to find that the service cost doesn’t usually include nail polish. Here are three key reasons salons typically charge extra for polish:

Polish Costs Extra Money in Product and Time

High-quality nail polish isn’t cheap – salons use professional brands that cost $5-15 per bottle wholesale. With clients regularly getting manicures every 2-3 weeks, it really adds up! Applying polish also takes extra time, 10-15 minutes on average, which is unpaid labor for the technician.

Most salons factor these costs into a separate polish charge.

Choosing a Color Takes Additional Time

Salons carry dozens of polish colors and finishes, which means clients need consult time to browse and select. This back-and-forth adds 5-10 extra minutes versus a regular mani. Some picky clients hem and haw for 15-20 minutes!

From a business perspective, it makes sense to charge separately for this time investment.

Salons Promote Nail Polish as an Add-On Service

Most salon owners strategically position nail polish as an add-on service to boost revenue. According to the 2022 Salon Industry Report by Salon Insights, the average polish upcharge is $7 for regular polish and $10 for gel or shellac.

With the average client getting 26 manicures per year, salons generate an extra $182-260/year per customer. Pretty savvy!

While a la carte pricing may seem inconvenient for clients, it makes good business sense for salons. The material costs and labor justify charging extra for polish. Of course, clients are always welcome to bring their own polish and do their own nails at home!

When Nail Polish May Be Included

With luxury or deluxe manicures

Nail polish is often included as part of a luxury or deluxe manicure service. These upgraded manicure options go beyond the basic shaping and cuticle care to provide an indulgent spa-like experience. They may incorporate extras like paraffin wax treatments, hand scrubs or masks, heated mittens, and massage.

Since these deluxe manicures provide more pampering and service time, the cost is higher but also typically includes the nail polish application.

Salons aim to provide the full VIP treatment with luxury manicures, so adding on a professional polish finish just makes sense. It allows the customer to walk out with perfectly preened nails and a complete look.

Some upscale salons known for their focus on natural nails and healthy hands may still exclude polish with their upgrade services though. Overall, if you see the words “deluxe,” “gel,” “paraffin,” “hot stone,” or “anti-aging” in the manicure description, there’s a good chance polish will be complimentary.

During promotions or specials

Nail salons will sometimes offer special deals or discounts on manicure and pedicure services. Getting nail polish included for free is a common sales promotion technique. The salon may offer a first-time customer discount like “Mani and Polish for $15” or run weekly specials like “Free Polish Wednesdays.”

Limited-time discounts around holidays or events are also popular. For example, “Get a free polish with any mani-pedi” for Mother’s Day.

Promotions that bundle together service packages at a reduced total price will usually incorporate polish too. So be on the lookout for any advertised specials at nail salons in your area. Calling ahead to ask what current deals they offer is a smart tip too.

Taking advantage of these sales is a great way to get a professional manicure with polish and maximize value.

With gel manicures

Gel manicures have grown very popular thanks to their ultra glossy finish and durable 2+ week wear. Unlike traditional polish, gel requires a special UV or LED lamp to cure and harden each coat. Salons typically consider gel manicures a service category of their own, priced higher than a regular mani to account for the specialized process and materials.

The extended wear of gel polish is a major selling point, so having the gel polish included in application cost is standard. Some salons may charge extra if you want soak-off removal for gel polish from another salon. But including the initial gel polish service is common practice.

A gel manicure provides longer lasting color and shine compared to regular polish. So the polished look is considered part of the service experience.

At lower-cost nail salons

Budget-friendly nail salons and nail bars have become more prevalent. These offer manicure and pedicure services at reduced prices to attract clients wanting expression and pampering at affordable rates. A basic mani-pedi here may cost 50% less than higher-end salons.

Some other ways these value nail spots save costs include:

  • -Lower rent locations
  • -Minimalist decor
  • -Limiting extra amenities like refreshments or massage
  • -Using in-house generic polish brands

To maximize profit margins with their streamlined services, most budget salons include nail polish at no extra charge. The polish application is built into the base manicure cost. So clients can get quick, cute nails without expanding the salon visit time or bill.

Value nail bars deliver no frills but polished fingers and toes.

Adding on Nail Polish After a Manicure

Pick your color and finish

After your nail technician shapes, buffs and conditions your nails during a basic manicure, you have the option to add on a nail polish application. This allows you to customize the look with a vast array of colors and finishes. Popular options include:

  • Creams – These opaque polishes provide good coverage and an even look.
  • Pearls – Mixed with tiny iridescent particles, these offer a subtle shimmer.
  • Glitters – Packed with sparkly bits, these create a fun, eye-catching look.
  • Neons – Vibrant shades like pink, orange and green really stand out.
  • Sheers – These lighter polishes allow some of your natural nail to show through.

You can select trending seasonal shades like forest green for winter or coral peach for summer. Or opt for a French manicure with white polish tips. The possibilities are endless when picking the perfect polish to complement your skin tone and style.

Extra 5-10 minutes for application

Once you’ve chosen your nail lacquer, your manicurist will need a few additional minutes to apply it. This application time is typically 5-10 minutes depending on the type of polish and number of coats.

The process involves:

  • Cleaning nails with remover – Ensures no oil or lotion remains to interfere with polish adhering properly.
  • 1-2 base coats – Creates a smooth foundation so polish glides on evenly.
  • 2 coats of color – Adds saturation and richness of shade while preventing streaks.
  • 1 top coat – Seals and protects color while adding mega shine.

So you can expect your manicure appointment to be extended by about 10 minutes total for a thorough polish application. This ensures the lacquer lasts as long as possible without chipping or fading.

Additional cost of $5-15 typically

While a basic manicure often costs around $15-25, adding on a nail polish application averages $5-15 extra depending on the salon.

Salon Type Polish Application Charge
Discount Salons $5
Mid-Range Salons $7-10
Upscale Salons $12-15

The polish itself is factored into the price. Higher-end brands like OPI and Essie do command more than generic drugstore polishes. Unique finishes like chrome, textured glitters, or mirrored effects may also cost slightly more.

But in general, you can expect to budget about an extra $10 on top of your base manicure cost for a polish upgrade. This adds a customizable, colorful final touch with no additional work on your part. For less than a discounted blow-out or pedicure, your nails exit the appointment looking Insta-worthy fabulous.


Getting the Perfect Nail Polish Manicure

Decide if you want regular or gel polish

When getting a manicure that includes nail polish, the first decision is whether you want regular nail polish or gel polish. Gel polish is more long-lasting but takes longer to apply and remove. Regular polish is quicker but doesn’t last as long without chipping.

If you want your mani to look perfect for 2 weeks or more, opt for gel. If you don’t mind some minor chips after 5-7 days, regular polish will do the trick!

Choose your nail length and shape

Before painting your nails, decide if you want to keep your current length and shape or switch it up! Short rounded nails are classic. Squoval (square with rounded edges) and almond shapes are trendy right now. You can also go long if you prefer a dramatic look.

Let your nail tech know if you want your nails shortened or filed into a new shape before polishing.

Select your nail polish color and finish

Now for the fun part – picking the perfect polish! The possibilities are endless. Go for a solid cream shade or add some sparkle with a shimmery metallic or glitter polish. Sheer and jelly finishes are big for 2023 too. Neutrals like nude and light pink are timeless. Bold brights and pastels are fun.

Dark vampy shades are sexy and edgy. Matte textures look sophisticated. The choice is yours!

Consider extras like art or rhinestones

Basic polish gives a clean, elegant look. But you can jazz it up with nail art or embellishments! Some popular options are:

  • Flowers, polka dots, stripes, geometric shapes
  • Glitter or metallic tips
  • Ombre fade
  • Rhinestones or studs
  • Personalized text or images

Just ask your manicurist if you want to add something special over your color. The possibilities are endless for creativity! ✨


While a simple manicure focuses on cleaning and shaping nails, adding on a coat of pristine polish takes the service to another level. Understand that color application will likely cost extra time and money – but don’t be afraid to treat yourself!

With careful prep and choosing the perfect shade, you’ll have stunning salon nails and can show off that fabulous manicure.

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