How Long Does It Take To Get Nails Done? (Explained)



You are looking to make a nail appointment, but you aren’t sure how long you should give yourself.

Maybe you want to do a manicure or pedicure yourself, but you aren’t sure if it’s worth the time.

Whatever the case, we have all of the answers you need about how long it takes to get your nails done!

First, let’s talk about the time it takes to get a manicure.


How Long Does It Take to Get Your Nails Done?

Beautician in pink gloves applying nail varnish


On average, it takes one hour to get your nails done.

This includes everything from when you show up to when you leave the salon.

Other factors can increase this time such as additional services or if the nail salon is short-staffed.

The one big exception to this is an acrylic manicure which can take up to two hours.

A pedicure will generally take the same amount of time as a manicure—one hour on average.


What Does a Basic Manicure Consist Of? 

Manicurist doing manicure


First, your hands will be soaked in warm, soapy water.

This helps to soften your nails and cleanse the skin.

Then your hand will be lightly exfoliated.

After your hand has been prepared, your nail tech will file your fingernails into the desired shape and length.

This typically takes five to 10 minutes.

The nail tech will push back and trim the cuticles.

Then they will paint the nail.

This can consist of anywhere from two to four coats of paint, depending on the type of polish.


What Does a Gel Manicure Consist Of? 

Nail extension on special paper forms with gel of long nails of a young girl by a manicure master


A gel manicure includes everything that the normal manicure consists of, but your nail polish will have to cure under a UV light for each coat.

However, the curing time for each coat is about 30 seconds, so it shouldn’t add more than 15 minutes to the whole process.


How Long Does It Take to Get a Set of Acrylic Nails? 

floral manicure


An acrylic manicure is going to take longer than a manicure that just involves painting.

There is no way around it.

Just getting the acrylic nails on your finger will take around one hour, and that does not include painting time.

The first thing your nail tech will do is clean your hands and nails to make sure they are properly sanitized.

Following that, they will trim your nails.

They will typically file down the surface of your nail to make sure the tips adhere properly.

Then they will use nail glue to attach the nail tips to your finger.

After they have attached the nail tips, your tech will go ahead and cut your nails to your desired length.

At this point, they will shape your nails into whatever shape you have chosen.

Before they apply the actual acrylic, they will use a pH-balanced solution to prepare the surface of the nails.

Then they will apply the acrylic nail primer.

At this point, they will mix the acrylic powder with the liquid to create the actual acrylic that will go onto your nail.

Then they will use an acrylic brush to apply the mixture to your nails.

They will fill and shape each nail individually.

Finally, they will buff the acrylics to smooth them out.

You can understand why this process takes more than an hour.

Remember, though, this is without polish! No one wants to walk out of the salon without a design.

Since people who get their acrylic nails done typically opt for more than just plain polish, this will often add another hour to the look.

Ombres, glitter, designs, jewels, and multi-colored nails take time.

That is what brings our total to two hours.


What If I’m Just Getting My Acrylics Filled?

thinking woman


If you are just getting your acrylics filled, it is not going to take as long as to get a new set of nails.

We estimate 30 minutes for the actual filling itself and 45 minutes for a simple polish on top.

However, if you want a lot of complex details, you might want to plan on that polish taking closer to an hour.


What Should I Do If I’m in a Rush?

Cropped image of nail technician filing nails


If you need to get in and out of the nail salon quickly so that you can make another appointment, it’s best to talk to your nail tech ahead of time.

Ask them how long the service you have reserved normally takes and tell them about your time constraint.

Then remind them at the beginning of the appointment that you need to move through as quickly as possible.

Alternatively, you could ask to reschedule your appointment for another day.

After all, getting your nails done should be fun, so you don’t want to feel too rushed!


When Will a Manicure Take Longer Than One Hour?

thinking woman biting lip


Sometimes a manicure will take longer than an hour, even if you aren’t getting acrylic nails.

Here are some situations where that might be the case.


1. You Don’t Know What You Want

Knowing what you want is a key part of making sure a manicure goes quickly.

If you need to be in and out of the nail salon as quickly as possible, make sure that you know exactly what you want to get.

Coming in with reference pictures not only can make the process go more quickly, but it can also have the added benefit of making sure your outcome exactly matches the image you had in your mind.

However, if you enjoy the extra time at the nail salon, feel free to come in with an open mind and discuss your options with your nail tech.

After all, their expertise in nails is why they are there in the first place!


2. You Are Getting Special Treatments Done

If you are treating yourself to more than just a manicure, each service will add time to your appointment.

Some people add on a hand massage or a hot wax treatment—or both!

If you are going for a specialty treatment offered by your salon, feel free to call and ask them how long the treatment typically takes.

Add that time to your base time to figure out how long you are going to have to devote to your appointment.


3. What About a Self-Manicure?

Now, most people who are wondering how long it takes to get their nails done are thinking of a nail salon.

What if you are planning on doing your nails yourself?

If you are doing your nails yourself, expect a basic manicure to take 45 minutes to an hour, assuming you know what you are doing.

Yes, that is quite a bit longer than the 30 minutes you would spend at the salon, but naturally, it is going to take you longer than it would a professional.


Types of Home Manicure

Portrait of young woman applying nail polish


These are the times you can expect for just the paint job of your home manicure, based on the type of manicure you are doing.


1. Normal Paint: 15 minutes

That’s right, if you are just doing a normal paint job with normal polish and aren’t doing any designs, you can finish your nails in as little as 15 minutes.

This is assuming two or three coats of paint.

If you add soaking, exfoliation, and cuticle trimming: +30 minutes (45 minutes total)


2. Gel Polish: 30 minutes

With gel polish, you are going to need to have another 15 minutes to take into account the curing process.

Between each coat of paint, you will need to cure your nails under UV light.

Typically home nail UV lamps only accommodate one hand at a time, which also contributes to the added time.

If you add soaking, exfoliation, and cuticle trimming: +30 minutes (1 hour total)


3. Acrylic: 2 hours

IF you have the training, acrylic nails should take you two hours to do at home.

Look, the vast majority of people are not going to have the skills to give themselves a set of acrylic nails.

After all, doing acrylic nails is an actual profession.

Unless you are a nail tech, it’s probably best to go to a salon to get them done.

However, some people do start doing acrylic nails as a hobby.

It isn’t a cheap hobby to get into because of all of the supplies you need.

It’s also virtually impossible to learn how to make a good set of nails by practicing only on yourself, and friends usually won’t let a complete newbie do their nails either.

After all, the risk of damage is quite high when getting your nails done by someone inexperienced.

The solution to this is usually to get a fake hand to practice doing acrylic nails on.

However, learning how to do acrylics usually takes a minimum of two months—and that is if you take an actual course.

Learning how to do acrylic nails is not a time saver or money saver, until years down the road.

It’s probably only worth it if you plan to sell your services and make a career out of doing acrylics.


Complexity of Design

All of these estimates are based on a simple polish job.

You also have to take the complexity of your design into account.

If you are adding a painted design onto the nails, make sure to add 30 minutes to your final time.


What About a Pedicure?

Pedicure procedure in beauty salon


How much time should you factor in if you want to get your toes done as well as your fingers?

A traditional pedicure and French pedicure should take around 30 minutes while a gel pedicure will come in at 60 minutes.

A paraffin wax pedicure will take a minimum of one hour and a maximum of 1.5 hours.

The same can be said of a luxury pedicure.


How Long Does It Take to Do My Own Pedicure?

Beautiful well-groomed female legs


If you are interested in doing your own pedicure, it will probably take 15 minutes with just a simple normal polish.

However, with the added exfoliation that feet normally need, you are going to want to add on 45 minutes, for a total time of one hour.

That factors in soaking, exfoliating, cuticle care, and nail shaping.


What If I Don’t Have Time for a Full Manicure?

Young pretty hispanic woman looking puzzled


If you are pressed for time but still want to get your nails done regularly, there are a couple of time-saving strategies you can use.


1. Change Locations

The location of your nail salon can play a huge role in how long nail appointments take out of your day.

The estimates we have given are based on the time you spend in the salon, from the moment you get to the door to the moment you leave.

However, if your nail salon is 15 minutes away from your house, that means you will spend 30 minutes round trip in the car just to get to your appointment.

Now, if your nail salon is 30 minutes away, that means an hour of commuting!

That doubles the time you need for a basic hour-long appointment.

If you can find a nail salon that is on the way home from a place you regularly go, you can eliminate the need to spend extra time on a commute.

For example, if you can find a salon that is located on your way home from work or on your way to the grocery store, you can easily work appointments into your normal routine.


2. Talk to Your Nail Tech

If time is a significant concern for you, it might be worth talking to your nail tech.

If they know you are trying to get in and out as quickly as possible, they might be able to change their approach to your manicure to save you some time.

Many people go to the nail salon to relax, so the nail tech doesn’t necessarily want to rush through the process and ruin the clients’ experience.

However, if you are going for results and not for the experience, they can work to be as efficient as possible and get you out the door.

Eliminating small talk and unnecessary waiting time can be a great way to make your appointments faster without sacrificing quality.


3. Reduce Frequency

If you typically get your nails done every week but find it has become a burden on your schedule, try switching to getting them done every other week instead.


4. Do a Quick Home Manicure

If spending hours at an appointment or doing a thorough manicure at home seems overwhelming, consider doing simple quick manicures throughout the week.

Just focus on the essentials: push back your cuticles once a week and apply a couple of coats of polish.

While it can be nice to exfoliate your hands, moisturize them, and soak them, it’s not strictly necessary.

Instead, you could simply keep a bottle of hand lotion by your sink and apply it after each time you wash your hands.

You also don’t have to redo your manicure every week.

If you are okay with sporting the same nail polish, you can simply do a simple touch-up twice a week instead of completely repainting the nails.

If you do this, it is entirely possible to extend your simple home manicure to last a full month.

Taking little steps to maintain the look of your nails throughout the week can feel a lot more doable than driving to a weekly appointment where you have to dedicate an hour or more of your time.


5. Bring Your Own Polish

Did you know that you can bring your own polish to the nail salon?

This can allow you to reduce the frequency of your visits by permitting you to easily do touch-ups whenever your polish starts to wear a little bit.

Bringing your own polish to the salon can allow you to combine getting your nails done by a professional with the “quick home manicure” strategies.

This can easily allow you to get a professional manicure just once a month while maintaining your nails yourself the rest of the time.

An important note about this method, though, is that it is not recommended for acrylic nails.

Acrylic nails need to be refilled regularly at the salon.

This is a better option for those who opt for polish on their natural nails.

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