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I come from a family of savvy coupon savers and deal finders. I consider myself thrifty bordering on cheap.
Still, like many people (probably you if you're reading this), I like to have my nails done. In this economy, it's getting more and more expensive to outsource. In an effort to budget, I will continue to support the nail industry — small salons and artists — just hopefully with less dependency. Here, I spoke with professional nail techs and salon owners (the people who know what makes a good polish) to glean the best cost-cutting strategies. Because I know I can keep my nails in good shape without spending $60 a month.
Explain your budget
The first step is the least sexy: figure out a workable nail budget and bring it up with your artist. This is a good idea if you have an existing rapport with a manicurist, such as visiting the same one regularly. Don't just ghost them because you can't afford the pre-set prices.
Manicurist and salon owner Jin Soon Choi says this kind of communication is welcome in her NYC salon franchise, JINsoon. "It is fine to have a conversation [about] simplifying your service so you can cut some [cost]," Choi explains. "Let's say you are getting a gel manicure and you need to remove old gel, then your artist will advise you to remove your gel at home and come with bare nails; this will save some cost." Or, says Choi, you can do a regular manicure instead of getting a gel manicure. "You can check the steps of the manicure by the artist and learn them, so you will be able to do it at home."
Time is money
There are differing camps on the gel versus regular polish debate. On the surface, traditional polish is the cheapest option. But seasoned nail artist Julie K argues that a long-lasting gel or even acrylics will be the more affordable option in the long term. "If you get a manicure with regular polish — which will likely chip within the week — you’re looking at a once-a-week expense of $30," explains Julie. "Getting enhancements such as gel overlays or acrylic may cost [more] but can last up to four weeks."
What you're really saving is time. "You're only going to the salon and coming back once," Julie adds, "but if you get a regular manicure, you have to go back and forth about four times a month. So you're actually saving money by getting your nails done once, at a great place even at 100 bucks or more, because you're saving money on the travel and the time in your schedule that it takes to schedule those and get there back."
Ask for a just a polish change
If you're more keen to stick to to lower-cost regular polish, Choi offers another alternative: ask for a polish change instead of the full-service manicure with the shaping, buffing and filing. "Get a full manicure one week and a polish change the following week," she explains. "Alternating this way can save more than 25% of your manicure expenses." If you keep your nails in good shape between appointments, this is an easy hack.
Build a capsule polish collection
The biggest savings of all is cutting out the salon altogether and doing your nails at home. "Once you overcome the initial expense of a nail clipper, file, cuticle pusher, cuticle oil and your favourite nail polish, you'll really save," says Choi.
Of course, the fun part is getting your polish colours. If you want range, R29 rates Kester Black and O.P.I.. If you have less to spend, try Essie or Rimmel.
Choi advises: "Focus on which brands make a long-lasting formula with rich colour pigmentation and are free of harsh chemicals, then you can narrow down your choices. If you're at the pharmacy or chemist , go with the labels you already know, like Revlon or Sally Hansen, which are both great affordable brands.
Include a box of press-ons
One of the biggest nail trends of the last year is the rise of the press-on nail. A box of reusable press-on tips are a great option to have on hand, especially if you're trying to cut back on professional nail art services. "Nail art can get expensive and time consuming," says celebrity manicurist Tom Bachik. "Press-ons can be purchased at an affordable price with designs already applied delivering potentially significant savings over time."
Handle your own removal
As Choi mentioned, removing your gel nail polish at home will save you a little bit at every manicure. It will also help you break free from the dreaded cycle of booking a new manicure just because you need your old one removed. Here's how to do it at home — without damaging your nails.
Get into nail oiling
According to every nail expert I spoke to for this piece, cuticle oil is the single best investment you can make when it comes to your nails. "Apply oil on your cuticles and nails nightly," says Bachik. "This will not only help maintain healthy cuticles but will help keep polish flexible for longer, increasing the longevity of your mani."
You don't need a designated cuticle oil, either. Bachik says he'll often use a face oil on his nails. Rachel Apfel Glass, founder of GLOSSLAB, says that her manicure secret is coconut oil. "I recommend slathering it on nails and hands to keep them hydrated. Plus, this makes the polish last longer." It's pretty foolproof, says Julie: "You can literally look like you just had a manicure if you just throw some cuticle oil on."