20 Things Nail Technicians Don't Share With Their Clients (& Really Should)

Heading to a nail salon is the ultimate in pampering. What's more relaxing than getting a mani-pedi combo, or going in to get elaborate nail art done that we'd never achieve at home? According to Nails, $7 billion is spent on nail services yearly in the US, and nearly half of nail techs are 80-100% booked. With so many returning customers as well, the vast majority of the public is overall pretty much satisfied with the results of their visit, not bothering to spend too much time asking questions or really paying attention to certain costs, cleanliness, or routines of the salon they regularly return to.

The truth is, most of us don't even wonder about what goes on behind closed doors. Does our salon properly sanitize their equipment? Are there hidden fees we're not catching? How about the little things - is it even beneficial to soak your nails before getting a manicure? We've compiled a list of 20 things nail technicians don't share with their clients. Read on to find out what services we should be skipping out on, what we can do to make our experience run more smoothly, and what we should make sure we're aware of when walking into a new salon.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

20 Skip The Soak, Those Nails Will Last Longer


We all know how nice it feels when you get your hands soaked in warm water before your mani. Especially in the winter, there's absolutely no better way to pamper yourself. Be careful though, according to Reader's Digest, the water actually bloats the nail, causing it to soften and expand. This means that after your manicure, your nails will eventually shrink back down, causing the bond and adhesion of the polish to wear off, leading to peels and chipping of your polish.

Next time you're at the salon, kindly ask for a dry manicure instead, it'll go a long way with the longevity of what you paid for!

19 We Can Actually Exfoliate Our Own Cuticles In The Shower


Looking after your cuticles in between trips to the salon is great for the overall nail health, and can actually prolong your trip to your manicurist. As Lisa Jachno, a celebrity manicurist based in California tells Reader's Digest, it's important to exfoliate your cuticles regularly, especially if you have dry skin. "You don’t have to wait for your manicurist to do this—just rub your nails with a washcloth in the shower, pushing back and rubbing in a circular motion. The moist air in the shower will help soften the cuticle so you can clean it and remove dead skin easier.”

18 Drugstore Ointment Is Just As Good As The Ultra Fancy Stuff


It's so easy to get swayed by pretty packaging and wonderfully lush smelling products - especially when you're at your favorite salon. Aftercare lotions and creams are products our nail techs sometimes try and push us on, or tell us brand names which are best that we later try and hunt down. It turns out, drugstore ointment is just as good as the ultra-fancy stuff! As Lisa Jachno told Reader's Digest, “Putting a dab of A&D ointment cream on your cuticles will keep your skin soft and help your manicure last longer. And not only is it super affordable but it’s rich so you only need a little.”

17 Trendy Patterns Can Actually Make Hands Look Older


According to Nails, since 2013, the surge of Instagram influencers and celebrities showing off their nails has boosted the sales of elaborate nail art, new nail shapes, and very specific colors. It turns out that just how sometimes certain colors don't look good on a person, neither do particular patterns or shapes. As per Reader's Digest, a nail tech should consider a person's overall appearance of their hands before picking a color and style. For example, older looking hands should stick with a short round nail shape and a neutral color, as to not bring additional attention to the age of their hands.

16 Pick Polish Shades That Actually Look Good, Not Just Because They're Trendy


If you avoid wearing beige tops because you don't think the color looks good on you, why would you opt for that same color on your nails? As Amy Harold tells Reader's Digest, “People are often surprised when a color they pick doesn’t look good on their hands or clashes with their skin tone. But if you don’t look good in a yellow shirt, you probably won’t like the way yellow nail polish looks on you either.”

Take into consideration what you like and what you dislike on your skin tone before going into a salon, otherwise, you won't be leaving happy!

15 Shaving Calluses Is Actually Illegal In Most States


While you're getting a pedicure, your nail tech may offer to shave your calluses with a credo blade, a handheld device that looks like a cross between a vegetable peeler and a razor. It turns out, according to Woman's Day, that any procedure involving a credo blade is considered a medical procedure, which is illegal to perform at a nail salon - not to mention your nail tech isn't medicinally trained. If that's not enough reason to pass on a callus-shave, how about this: shaving your calluses will only make them grow back worse. Calluses protect our feet from daily wear and tear, so shaving them off can do more harm than good!

14 Don't Shave Those Legs Before A Pedicure


We all get self-conscious sometimes. This means, going the extra mile to make sure we look immaculate - even before a trip to the salon. You may think that shaving your legs is a good option before going to a pedicure, but think again. As per Woman's Day, in 2000, 113 California women caught a bacterial infection from infested pedicure tubs. The one thing they all had in common was that they shaved their legs before their appointments, leaving their skin open to infection. Although it's required by the law to rinse and disinfect tubs with hospital-grade solution after every client, some salons are known to slack on this.

Skip the shave - your pedicurist doesn't care what your legs look like and you'll end up protecting yourself in the long run, too.

13 Clients Bringing Their Own Manicuring Tools Is Actually More Unsanitary


We all have a friend who's a neat-freak. The one person who goes through extreme measures to make sure everything is clean and orderly. That same person may be a total stickler about bringing their own nail tools to a salon. Although some magazines suggest bringing your own manicure kits from home, it could very much so be the case that someone's personal tools are more unsanitary than the salon ones. As one nail tech told Woman's Day, some customers usually seal their tools back in their bags without sanitizing them, making them become breeding ground for bacteria. If you really want to use your own cutters and files, just make sure to sterilize them after use!

12 Some Salons Don't Use Nontoxic Products When They Really Should


It's happened to us before: we walk into a salon and get a sudden strong whiff of something toxic that catches us off guard. If it's so pungent that you're not feeling well, something is definitely wrong. According to Cosmopolitan, nail polishes can contain what's known as the toxic trio of chemicals: formaldehyde, which causes cancer; dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which can cause reproductive damage; and toluene, which causes neurological damage. The European Union has already banned DBP and formaldehyde is also on the way out, too.

What salons should be using instead are nontoxic products that are known as "3-free", meaning they don't contain the trio of toxic chemicals.

11 The Golden Rule For Tipping Is 20%


So many women talk amongst themselves and wonder how much they should tip their nail technicians. As reported by various nail techs themselves in Woman's Day, 20% is the golden rule, applying both to high-end spas and discounted nail salons which offer mani-pedi combos for $25. "At discount shops, the price is compromised somewhere and it's usually with products." That may mean skimping on the amount of soap being used in tub water or types of lotion.

Nonetheless, you should definitely be tipping a bit extra if you have a longtime relationship with your tech, or if you feel she went the extra mile during your appointment.

10 There Might Be Hidden Fees, So Don't Be Shy Asking


One of the most-missed secrets when visiting a salon are the hidden fees you're sometimes dinged with without even realizing it. Although manicurists tend to charge by the service, they sometimes omit what's included, and what costs extra. For example, a base coat may be included in the fee, but you may be charged separately for a strengthener, and then the polish, too.

Although it can be awkward, the only way to get around this issue is to start a chat with your nail tech and simply ask what's included in the fee you're paying for, it'll save you a nightmare conversation after they're done.

9 Picking Off Leftover Gel Polish Makes It Harder For A New Coat To Stick


A good tip that'll save you money in the long run and make your manicures last longer is avoiding picking at slowly chipping nail polish - as tempting as it may be. As NYC pedicurist Mabelyn Martin told Self, "Gel polish and other nail enhancements like tips adhere to the keratin in the nail. Peeling off gel polish lifts away that keratin, which makes the nails thinner and weaker. It also makes it harder for the next gel application to adhere and last. Wait until you see a technician. It's worth it."

If your application lasts longer, more time can pass before you have to go back for another fill!

8 Cash-Only Salons Are Cash Only For An Alarming Reason


If you enter a salon and see a sign that says cash only, cash discount, or that the credit card machine is repeatedly broken, that should be a huge red flag for you. According to InStyle, the only reason salons don't want people using credit cards is because of tax evasion. You may wonder, "what does that mean for me?" Well, if they're evading taxes it means they're not paying people properly, which can lead to employee exploitation.

Harking back to the idea of employing people who may not be professionally trained to be working in the nail and skincare industry, employee exploitation is never, ever a good sign.

7 Pay Attention To The Number Of Licenses On The Wall And Technicians In The Salon


Following our golden rule of paying attention to a salon and whether or not it feels sketchy is paying attention to the licenses on display when you first walk in. If there are more nail techs working than there are licenses, there may be a couple of problems. From the salon's labor practices, to even simply getting your nails done by someone who's skilled versus someone who isn't - your safety should be your top concern.

Although most states require licenses be prominently displayed, just make sure that everything adds up when you scan the entirety of the salon.

6 Pedicure Infections Can Take Months to Develop


If you do by some horrible chance wind up with a pedicure infection, it turns out it may even take months to develop while it sits dormant inside you. It's because of this unfortunate truth that most salons get away without being blamed for the spread of infections since most people don't even realize where they picked up the issue. As reported by Foot Files, these infections can include staph, boils, warts, and even toenail fungus.

Although most of these infections are curable, it would still be such a hassle, and not to mention literal pain, to have to go through a removal!

5 The UV Lamps Can Actually Increase Risks


Just how some folks are afraid of going into tanning beds due to the UV lamps, the same goes for the ones used to dry your nails at salons. Of course, the risk of getting melanoma just from the small bulbs is lower than ones in the tanning beds, but cell damage can certainly build over time if you keep exposing an area to the light.

As reported by Healthy Way, customers who regularly get manicures or pedicures might be at risk since there aren't any good standards for manufacturers of UV nail lamps. Since the bulbs, wattage, and irradiance vary from one brand of lamps to another, salons have no way of knowing just how much UV exposure they're giving their clients.

4 They Don't Refuse Customers, Even If They're Showing Signs Of Infection


You shouldn't take any risks going to a salon, especially since they can be such breeding grounds for horrible bacteria. Have a golden rule in place: if a salon seems sketchy, it probably is.

Some discounted salons run under the philosophy of clients always equaling money, so refusing them is unheard of. According to Foot Files, some spas and salons won't ever turn away customers - even if they are showing signs of infection. With the number of illnesses that can spread via manicures and pedicures, you can never be too careful, so make sure you pick a salon that you feel comfortable being in.

3 Sometimes Products Are Swapped Out And Diluted


Some salon issues you definitely can't plan for, but if you notice you paid a high price for a premium product and the results aren't what you expected, it probably wasn't a top-of-the-line treatment like you thought it was.

According to Foot Files, many salons have actually been found to put cheap products in the bottles of high-quality products, as well as diluting clumpy nail polish with nail polish remover as to extend the life of it. While the nail polish remover trick is one we may use at home with our own polishes, it certainly shouldn't be happening at a professional nail salon.

2 There Have Been Cases Of Some Customers Getting Warts From Certain Nail Salons!


Keep an eye on the cleanliness level of your nail salon and the tubs they use for pedicures - your feet will thank you later. According to Healthy Way, there have been reports in the US of customers having to battle warts on their feet after being treated to unclean pedicures. This means that if a salon doesn't keep up a rigid standard of cleanliness, a wart virus may be present, and all that needs to happen is for that virus to get into an open wound - including a cut.

Obviously, not every salon is breeding ground for bacteria, but you should usually trust your gut. If it doesn't look clean, it probably isn't.

1 Some Nail Techs Aren't Even Necessarily Trained Properly To Sterilize Their Equipment


Like most things in life, you pay for what you get, and that fact remains true when picking the salon you go to. At no-frills nail salons, sometimes nail techs aren't even trained on the proper practices to sterilize their equipment. As reported by Healthy Way, some nail techs are “neither schooled nor licensed to work in the presence of blood or to maintain a surgically sterile environment." Although some salons truly believe they're doing everything in their power to ensure a sterile environment, there's actually an industry-wide confusion about what the term "sterilize" truly means, and some infective organisms are easy to kill, while others certainly are not.

References: Nails Mag, Reader's Digest, Woman's Day, Healthy Way, Foot Files, Cosmopolitan, InStyle, Self

More in Beauty and Makeup