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What Are the Different Types of Manicures?

By Angie Pollock
Updated May 21, 2024
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A manicure is a specialty treatment for the fingernails and hands that is provided by spas and salons, or can be performed at home. There are different types available, including the highly popular French manicure, the moon manicure, and the Japanese manicure. There are treatments that are simple, such as the European and American versions, and those that are designed to impress, such as the airbrushed or Canadian manicures. While each type is based on the same principle, they vary in technique.

A full manicure customarily involves cleaning, exfoliating, and massaging the hands and fingernails. The nails are filed and shaped, and cuticles are pushed back or trimmed. The fingernails are then either left in their natural state or polished. The polishing stage can also include another type of technique that embellishes the nails.

The classic French manicure is a style where the fingernail tips are solid white. The rest of the nail, from the cuticle to the white area, will have a pink-tone color applied. This technique can be done to the natural nail or by attaching artificial fingernails. This style can provide a well-kept appearance where the nails are generally short to medium in length, and proportionally cut.

Reverse of this is the moon manicure. The modern version involves painting the tips of the fingernails a vibrant color, while the area from the cuticle to the color is painted a shade of white. Assorted versions of the design include applying color near the cuticle and on the tips, and the area between the two colors is a lighter shade of polish.

Japanese manicures combine traditional techniques with vibrant art. After the nails are cleaned and uniformly trimmed, artificial nails are applied to the natural fingernails. The artificial fingernails are then enhanced with varying designs and color. On top of the color, decorative additions are applied that range from tiny rhinestones to three-dimensional charms.

The process of massaging the hands and applying creams is known as the European manicure. Before the massage, the hands are soaked in herb-infused water to nourish the skin. An American or regular manicure is much like the European and French versions combined. The hands and nails are soaked in a cleansing solution, and then the nails are painted a pale color with the tip polished off-white.

Other types simply involve the use of different elements. A hot paraffin wax treatment is as the name implies — the hands are dipped in paraffin wax. This technique is most often employed to soften dry skin, while a hot stone manicure is used to relax and comfort the hands. Spa manicures generally involve extra steps while implementing the use of natural oils and salts.

While most manicures involve the entire hand area, there are some only refer to the treatment of the fingernail. Gel, acrylic, and airbrush are variations of nail applications or dressing. Acrylic nails are a type of synthetic nail attached to the natural nail, while a gel manicure refers to the type of adhesive used to attach fake fingernails to the natural nail. UV gel, on the other hand, is a type of polish that is cured under ultraviolet light.

There are also many choices when dressing the nail. With an airbrush manicure, an airbrush is used to create an artful design directly to the natural or artificial nail. The Canadian manicure resembles the French version, but is always done in the colors of the Canadian flag: red and white. The design is placed in a “V” pattern rather than a rounded moon shape.

Conventional home manicures can involve a simple nail grooming session or an all-over hand makeover. The technique for doing one at home can include one or more of the varying styles. They are generally less expensive and can be easier to maintain than professional treatments.

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Discussion Comments
By anon315863 — On Jan 25, 2013

I have no idea what manicures are. I never had one before and I made an appointment for one tomorrow!

By Monika — On Dec 10, 2012
@indemnifyme - I agree that those kind of manicures look a little too flashy. But you would be surprised what people can do with really long nails. I have a few friends that have those kind of manicures, and they type faster than I do. They've somehow learned to type using the tips of their fake nails. It sounds weird, but it works for them.
By indemnifyme — On Dec 09, 2012

I think out of all the different kinds of manicures you can get, the French manicure is the best. It really is a classic. I think it looks done, but not overdone, you know?

I think it looks really weird when people get those acrylic nails that are extremely long, and then get tons of flashy designs on them. Getting your nails done like that is definitely attention catching, but not in a good way. Plus, with nails that long, how can you get anything done?

By dautsun — On Dec 09, 2012

@betterment - I wish I had that kind of discipline. I started getting acrylic nails at the salon a few years ago so I would stop biting my nails. It worked, but now I'm totally addicted to getting my nails done. I couldn't do without my bi-weekly paraffin manicure, even if it would save me money.

By betterment — On Dec 08, 2012

@seag47 - I agree that salon manicures are expensive. Too expensive to do all the time, I think. I used to go get a manicure and a pedicure every two weeks religiously, until I realized how much money I was spending.

I was spending around $60 each time I went, so about $120 a month. Once I really thought about that, I realized it was ridiculous. So I stopped getting my nails done at the salon, and started putting an extra $120 in savings every month. It really adds up after awhile.

By Oceana — On Dec 08, 2012

@seag47 – I think the best manicure is a home manicure. You can control what chemicals you do or don't use on your nails, and you can avoid excess damage by working only with your natural nails instead of gluing on artificial ones.

When I started doing home manicures, I bought a small nail buffer that had different strengths of sandpaper on each side. I started with the roughest side, moved to the next roughest, and finished off with the smoothest side to give my nails a smooth finish and get rid of the ridges.

I also bought some cuticle oil. I put this all over my nails, cuticles, and fingers to lock in moisture.

Before I buffed and oiled, I used some nail clippers and a file to shape them. This is the first step. Buffing comes next, followed by oiling. Then, you let the oil soak in for about fifteen minutes and apply whatever shade of polish you choose.

By seag47 — On Dec 07, 2012

Nail salon manicures are expensive! Considering that my nails grow fast and I need maintenance on them once a week, I cannot afford to go to the salon for manicures as often as I need them.

I want to start doing my own manicures at home. What all will I need for this?

By Perdido — On Dec 07, 2012

Manicures and pedicures can be purchased together at many salons. Usually, you can get a discount by buying the package instead of having both done separately.

In the summer time, when I get a manicure, I don't want to leave my toenails out. When I'm wearing flip-flops and going swimming a lot, my feet need just as much treatment and conditioning as my hands do.

I like keeping things rather basic, so I go for the exfoliation and have oils applied to help my hands and feet retain moisture. Sometimes, I will get a French manicure on my fingernails, but often, I just keep it plain and simple. I think that healthy, well moisturized nails are attractive without a lot of added color.

By OeKc05 — On Dec 06, 2012

I've seen a lot of salon manicures lately that involved painting the tips red and the rest of the nails white. I didn't know that was called a moon manicure, though! I thought that the technicians were just doing Christmas color designs.

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