How to make manicures affordable

Less Expensive Manicures

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

Related Articles

How to Prolong the Life of Your Beauty Products

9 Do It Yourself Beauty Treatments

Cheap, but Meaningful Pampering

How to Save on Manicures

I love the way my nails look after a professional manicure, but I can no longer afford the luxury of visiting a salon. I've attempted it on my own a few times at home and cannot come close to the "polished" look from a nail technician. However, I think I can perfect it with some practice. My problem is that my polish seems to chip much easier and more quickly than whatever they are using at the salon. I'm using a well-known drug store brand of polish and top coat. Do I need a more expensive polish? Or just a better top coat? Is it important to use a base coat? Has anyone used those stick on polish strips and are they less expensive than getting an actual manicure? Any tips would be appreciated!

The Right Tools and a Little Practice

For a long-lasting manicure, first of all, don't neglect the prep work. File your nails, remove any old polish, soak in warm, soapy water, and push back your cuticles. Make sure to remove any traces of lotions or oils from your nails.

As for the polish, start with a base coat. There are some that the beauty supply stores sell that really make the polish stick to it and last. But even a regular base coat is helpful, and if your polish is dark, it also helps prevent it from staining your nails.

Next, consider the color. Be sure you're using a decent, name brand polish. It doesn't have to be expensive, but don't go for the cheap bargain brands, which tend to start peeling almost immediately. It's not worth saving a buck or two if you have to re-do your manicure very often. Instead, watch for sales and rebates on name brands.

Two thin coats are better than one thick one. Let dry between coats. Finish with a top coat. Some people say to run your thumb along the edge of the nail after each coat of color to remove a hairline (thin line of polish) to help it last, but I've never tried it.

To extend the life of your manicure, apply a fresh coat of color and top coat every couple of days or so.

If all else fails, splurge on a salon manicure (a beauty college is just fine), and pay careful attention to the steps they take and the products they use. Ask questions.

A salon-quality manicure doesn't have to be expensive. It just takes the right tools and a little practice!

Visit a Beauty School

Quite often there is a beauty school close to your area and they charge a fraction of the cost. Also, there are often salons in a seniors' lodge, but better yet, there is always a bulletin board. Advertise for a retired manicurist. Seniors always love to do for younger people. Bring your own polish, a good book, a nice scarf, and some fruit, cheese or something in exchange for the mani-pedi. Be prepared to make a new, wise friend. Seniors love the company.
Karen K

Invest in Setting Spray

Part of it will be practice, but other than that, I do think using a base coat and then applying a few thin layers of polish and a top coat is a great way to start. Then, make sure you wait until the polish is set and dry before using your hands. It may be worth investing in one of those setting sprays.

Alternately, if you like the look of a polished natural nail, you could just use clear polish to highlight your nails. Chips won't show as easily. Or you could get one of those four-sided buffing tools and buff your natural nails to a high shine and forego the polish all together.

The Importance of Base Coat to Manicures

A base coat is very important, as it not only protects your natural nail from staining, but it also helps the polish to bind to the nail. As for top coats, I prefer Seche Vite(tm), which you can buy at Ulta and Sally's. Before painting the nails, buff with one of those four-sided buffing bricks, which will smooth down the ridges and help the polish stick. Also, use a dehydrant before painting. I'm sure you can get that at Sally's as well. It removes the oils that might encourage chipping. When you get a chip, just go over it with another coat of polish and top coat. I'm pretty rough with my hands, and I have manicures that last several days.
Stephanie in Kansas

Try "Gel" Nail Polish

I had the same problem with chipping. The last time I had my nails done, the salon used "gel" nail polish and an LED light to set it. The polish lasted nearly three weeks before it chipped! I found that (look for promotional codes/coupons) has a gel nail polish kit that comes with the pre-treatment, base coat, nail polish, finish coat, remover, and LED light for under $60. Applying this is different than what we are used to with regular polish, so following the instructions exactly is very important. When I first tried it at home, my polish lasted two weeks without chipping and that included salt water snorkeling. My application was not salon perfect, but it will get better with practice. It did take longer for my nails to dry under the LED light than the instructions stated. Just three times of doing this at home versus the salon will pay for the kit and then every application after that is just bonus.

It's the Application that Matters

Polish has improved dramatically. You do not have to have expensive polish. For a while, I used Mary Kay and it was great, but I've discovered it's not the polish that matters. How I apply the polish is what's important. Now I use whatever I find at the discount store that I like.

A base coat is a must. Use one coat of base, two coats of polish, and a coat of top coat. Let each dry in between. Some of the polishes today have very little drying time.

Today I used Sally Hansen's Double Duty, and it's super as a base and top coat. After a couple of days, I will add another top coat. My manicures last two weeks every time, and my nails always get compliments.

Swipe Nails with Isopropyl Alcohol

To get a good polish at home, give your hands a good scrubbing. Make sure that all old polish and dry skin is removed, and they are clean and dry. Swipe each nail with isopropyl alcohol and apply a polish bond as your base coat. You can find this at any beauty supply store. Then apply color and clear coat as usual. The alcohol gets rid of oil and the polish bond helps the polish bond to your nails. When I don't have any polish bond, I still use alcohol, and it helps with the chipping.

Loves Beauty School Manicures!

Go to a beauty school. I get mine done for $2, and they are perfect. I also get my toes done for $11. I can use their polish, which they get at a dollar store but I bring my own. I also found out that the "cuticle oil" they use is just olive oil and the "cuticle lotion" and the lotion they use on my feet and legs is just lotion from a dollar store. I have a bottle of OPI polish that I bring so I can do touch ups at home.

Reviewed June 2017

Take the Next Step:

  • Stop forgoing your favorite beauty treatments just because you're on a tight budget. Check out the TDS Guide to Beauty on a Budget and learn the tricks to pampering yourself for pennies.
  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

Share your thoughts about this article with the editor.

Stay Connected with TDS


Little Luxuries

to the Dollar Stretcher newsletter and get a copy
of our ebook
Little Luxuries:
130 Ways to Live Better...For Less
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Debt Book