First Time Getting Acrylic Nails (What To Expect) (2023)

First Time Getting Acrylic Nails (What To Expect) (1)

Acrylic nails are an exciting beauty treatment, especially for the first-timer.

You can daydream about how they’ll look and what types of accessories you will get to make them pop.

There are some things you need to know so you have as seamless an experience as possible.

This article will cover everything from making the appointment to the procedure and the aftercare.

Choosing A Nail Salon

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There are tons of nail salons out there to choose from, but they aren’t all created equal.

The one mistake that people can make is choosing a nail salon according to price or location.

We all want the convenience of a local spot, and we love saving money.

However, there are other important things to know about this stage of your first-time acrylic nail journey.

First, look at the reviews.

What are the comments about the results?

Dig into the one- and two-star ratings.

Some people only want to complain.

That’s just life.

However, see if they say anything about contracting fungus or that they had an issue with the salon’s hygienic practices.

See if they are listed with the Better Business Bureau.

Are there complaints?

What’s the nature of the issues, and how did they resolve them?

This is very important because if they don’t follow the right processes and skimp on hygiene, it could leave you with a health issue.

Next, don’t be afraid to ask certain questions as well as to request things.

Ask them if they use an Autoclave machine to sterilize their equipment like nail clippers and files and such.

You may ask them to use a new pair on you if that gives you the satisfaction of safety.

A good nail salon will have no problem with this.

They are used to it.

Arrive 20 minutes before your appointment.

Look around and get a feel for the place.

If anything doesn’t seem right to you, leave.

This is not to say you will have an issue, but you want your first experience to be a good one.

At The Appointment

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Expect to wait if you haven’t made a definite appointment.

Most places take walk-ins, but the wait can be a long one, and you could be squeezed in and rushed.

Your first acrylic nail appointment should never be rushed.

When you come for your fill in a couple of weeks, you can get squeezed in if that’s what your schedule requires.

It’s strongly recommended that you always make an appointment.


You never want a rushed technician.

This is where accidents and small injuries can occur as well as not-so-perfect nails or fills.

You deserve their undivided attention as you are paying for a service.

There are some things you need to be assertive about.

Make sure you know how much everything will cost.

That means the clipping of the nails as well as the type of powder and nail polish.

Business is business, and upselling is very common in the beauty industry.

They may not tell you that clipping the nails to the length you want or that gel powder or gel polish is more money.

It almost always is.

It takes money for them to buy those supplies, and some of them are quite pricey.

The salon isn’t trying to rip you off necessarily, but they must make up the money.

They may suggest something they feel is best for you.

Don’t be ashamed to ask why they’re suggesting it.

If you aren’t comfortable with the suggestion, then politely but firmly revert to what you wanted in the first place—acrylics.

Before they start, make sure they know exactly how long or short you want your nails.

If you just want to have a good-looking manicure, but you need to type or function, make that clear.

One good example is to tell them that you type for a living, or you need to make a fist comfortably without the nails jamming into the skin of your palms.

Exercise Patience

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Patience is a virtue, especially at this kind of nail appointment.

There are several steps they must take to get the nails on and done correctly.

Be aware that you’ll be sitting there for at least one hour.

Some techs are fast, without sacrificing the quality, but typically, you need an hour plus drying time under the UV lamp.

They will clean the nails and should perform a manicure if they feel your nails and cuticles need toning up.

They will trim away dead cuticles and hangnails.

Then, the next steps may be a bit uncomfortable, especially if you haven’t had nails put on before and don’t get regular manicures.

They must rough up the nail for the acrylic tips and powder to stay adhered.

This procedure is done with a Dremel and or a file and buffer.

Each salon may have different tools.

This is just the typical setup.

The electric files can get a bit hot because they have a fast rotation and a lot of friction.

After the nail tips are glued on the tip of the original nail and cut to size with a nail clipper, they will put the liquid adhesive on the top of the nail to the tip and off to the sides of your nail and the plastic tip.

The next thing that should happen is the nail powder application.

This is where you need to be patient as it can be a slow process.

If you get fidgety, it can be uncomfortable.

They have to paint on and shape the powder onto the nails.

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It’s mixed with a liquid adhesive and hardens a bit quickly, so they have to shape it carefully.

They do this again with the drill.

Expect a little heat here and there.

There may not be much heat at all.

It depends on a lot of things.

This is just to make you aware.

After they have both hands done and hardened, they will put some oil on your nails and cuticle with a paintbrush to catch the dust from the shaping with the drill.

They will direct you to the sink to wash your hands.

They should have a nail brush, so use that.

You won’t damage what they did.

Use soap and wash and rinse two to three times for best results.

Hand washing removes the debris that has adhered to the nail and cuticle.

Now, you are ready to paint.

Pay Before Paint!

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They may ask you if you want to pay prior to the painting.

This is not because they think you’ll skip out on the bill.

You don’t want to smudge the nail polish while you’re digging around in your purse, wallet, or pocket for your money.

If they don’t ask you to, volunteer.

They won’t object.

Drying And Aftercare

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Once you have the nails painted in your favorite color, you’ll have some drying time under the UV lights, at least in most salons.

If not, they’ll have drying spray available.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to just spray and go.

Give it at least 15–20 minutes to cure.

That means the surface may appear dry and feel slick, but if you push just a little on the nail, you’ll see crinkles and smudges.

Removing the polish and doing it over will take a bit of time with acrylics.

They’ll typically fix them for free if you’re still in the shop when it happens.

Patience is a virtue here.

They Take Some Getting Used To

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Since you’ve never gotten acrylics before, they may feel rather uncomfortable for a while, maybe until you get them filled, which will give you enough time to figure out if they are for you or not.

They are heavier than your normal nail, so they may make your fingers feel weighted down.

They also may feel a bit tight around the cuticle.

The glue and chemicals tend to tighten as they dry and will cause that feeling.

The glue often gets on the cuticle and by the skin at the base of the finger and will also feel tight.

Sometimes the tech doesn’t notice and won’t pull the cuticle down and away from the nail

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They May Get In The Way

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We use our hands and fingers for everyday things that we never even think about.

Dealing with the bathroom may be a bit awkward.

It has to be said because it depends on how long your nails are.

You may find that you’ve nearly put an eye out while putting your makeup on.

Writing and typing will certainly be affected.

If this is your first time with long nails, then you may have an issue at work.

This is something to think of before you get acrylics if you work on the computer all day.

Even professions like artists and graphic designers may be affected.

They’ll affect anything for which you use your hands in a precise manner.

Contact lenses are also a challenge to put in and take out safely with acrylics.

Most times, you only have to practice for a bit, and you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

The physical stuff won’t be a pain for long.

It’s just patience.

If you find you love your acrylic nails and want to keep them, you may want to adjust the length.

This is not a big deal.

You may want to go to the salon and ask them to shorten and reshape them for you.

Don’t try to do that yourself.

If you do, just file them.

NEVER clip them yourself.

There is a way to do this safely.

The middle of the nail is a major stress point, and the nails will shatter when you clip them the wrong way.

Even if you are successful, the acrylic will weaken and break prematurely.

They May Cost You Monthly

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Depending on how fast your nails grow, you may have to fill them once a month or once every three to six weeks.

They should never be left unfilled more than four weeks—fewer if you can already see the half-moons at the base of the nail.

If you do, you’ll have breakage and damage to the natural nail.

The cost will add up depending on where you go.

It was mentioned already that you should not go to a salon based on price because you want quality and strength in your nails.

This is still the truth.

This means the cost per fill can range between $20 and $40 depending on the salon.

Plan for $280 per year on fills plus maybe four more full sets during the course of the year.

Every three months, you should get another full set.

The nails become weak and can break easily.

A fungus that you may not see can cause more far-reaching issues Just plan for between $300 and $400 per year.

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It’s not that bad when you figure per year, and you have the option to just leave them off a few months a year.

This is better for the health of your natural nail so they can grow out to normal.

Your pocketbook can have a rest as well, and maybe you’ll want to try another type of nail next time, like a gel, as a “new season, new me” kind of thing.

Some of the seasonal nail polishes are great.

You can leave the nails off for a bit and then do some new hot spring, summer, or fall colors.

If You Have A Change Of Heart

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Your new acrylic nails are beautiful, but you don’t think you want to carry on having them for the long term.

It was a thing.

You experimented, and now, you feel like they may be uncomfortable, or they aren’t compatible with your lifestyle.

Don’t neglect them and just let them grow out.

When they grow out, they get weak, and you’ll have breakage.

Most times, this is painful and damages the natural nail.

Sometimes the nail is never really the same again after acrylics.

They can get thin and will then break, peel, or split.

Make sure you never try to take them off yourself.

Even if they’re just about to come off, if you remove them via your fingers or a nail clipper, the first thin layer of your natural nail will come off.

When it grows back, it will be weak with ridges.

What you need to do the moment you decide you don’t want to keep them long-term is to make sure you make an appointment for removal no later than when you see your half-moons exposed at the base of the nail.

They will soak them off and you can move on.

Always allow the technician to give you a thorough manicure after they soak the nails off.

There will always be some damage, and you want to get your nails back to health.

They’ll soak them, clean them, shape them, and paint them.

You can choose clear polish, too, just to give them a break from heavy color, and you won’t have to expose them to more chemical damage.

Bottom Line

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The bottom line about your first set of acrylic nails is that you may have fun the first time and become a lifer or go running for the hills thereafter.

They’re a great way to enhance the beauty of your hands and to have fun adorning them with as much bling as you want.

They can be pricey, but they’re one of the cheaper ways to show your individual taste and style.

Remember, they aren’t a one-and-done situation.

They’ll take a long-term commitment from you.

Yes, it’s reversible.

You have all of the control over whether you want to continue after the first or the third go-round.

It’s less permanent than a tattoo, so they’re great for those who are just looking to experiment with fashion and beauty.

Also, if your budget is low for a few months, you can always wait and do it again later.

Be sure that you follow the steps in order, so you get a seamless experience.

You don’t want something unforeseen to cloud your first impression.

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When you understand from the get-go what to expect, you’ll fare much better.

You’ll be able to make a more educated decision as to whether or not acrylic nails are really for you.

If you love them, you might try Gels or gel powder to see what gives you the best look and is more cost-effective for you to keep fantastic nails all year long!


What to expect the first time you get acrylic nails? ›

Acrylic Nails Require Time to Get Used to

Even though they feel hard, acrylics are delicate and it can take a few fills to get the hang of things like opening soda cans, typing, working out and even showering. Oh, and don't be surprised if you experience some nail soreness in the beginning!

What do you say when you get your nails done? ›

Explain it to your nail tech make sure they understand what you're saying you want and then let it

How long should a full set of acrylics take? ›

3. How Long Does It Take to Get Acrylic Nails Done? While most salons will allot about 45 minutes to an hour for acrylics, experts can do it in even less time. "For me, it only takes about 15-20 minutes," Bui said.

How long do acrylic nails take for beginners? ›

Most courses take around two months and use a mix of theory and practical learning. You will study techniques and watch them being carried out by leading artists and technicians before practicing them yourself.

What not to do after getting acrylics? ›

You should avoid products with acetone because it will cause your acrylic nails to deteriorate. Acetone will also leave pits and make your nails soft. Aside from acetone, avoid anything that has the potential of damaging the acrylic. You should say no to high heat and chemicals such as turpentine and Goo-Gone.

How do you shower with acrylic nails? ›

Water will weaken your acrylics and they may loosen and come undone as a result. To reduce the amount of water you get on your nails, put on a pair of waterproof gloves before you do any household chores that involve getting your hands wet.

What should you not do at a nail salon? ›

Moving too much while being worked on, nonstop texting on the phone. Not sitting up straight, hands are too far away, fingers are too stiff. Constantly checking your nails every few seconds. Talking badly about other nail salons you've been to before.

How thick should acrylic nails be? ›

A salon wearable nail should be the thickness of credit card at the free edge (approximately . 03 inches). Competition nails should be thickness of a business card at the free edge (approximately .

What is the average price for a full set of acrylic nails? ›

Nail salons typically charge anywhere from $20 to $50 for a basic set of long acrylic nails.

How many times can you fill acrylic nails before replacing tips? ›

To sum up, you can fill in your acrylic nails as many times as you wish. Ideally, a refill is performed every two weeks and you should not need to visit your nail technician more often than that. An acrylic set usually lasts between six and eight weeks before it is time to get a new one.

How often do acrylic nails need to be filled? ›

Zuniga says that most clients with acrylics generally come in every two to three weeks to get them filled. However, as long as any lifting of the acrylic is filled in, a set can be worn for six to eight weeks before they need to be removed.

Are acrylic nails worth it? ›

They Are Harmful

From infections to fungus, and possible nail loss the dangers associated with fake nails are wide. They can create inflamed cuticles, cause splitting, or prevent natural nail growth. They often weaken your nails, making them prone to breakage.

How long does it take for a girl to get her nails done? ›

They are restorative and relaxing and are essential for the health of your nails. Furthermore, the processes are relatively quick—the answer to “How long does a manicure and pedicure take?” is less than an hour and usually between 30 and 60 minutes.

Why do my acrylic nails keep popping off? ›

There are three main reasons why acrylic nails pop off. Observable causes (e.g. improper nail preparation, damaged nails etc), Hidden causes (e.g. diet, health issues and Chemical causes (products used). It may be one of these, a combination of, or all three.

How do you sleep with acrylic nails? ›

How To Sleep With Super Long Nails? Answering Your Questions

How long after acrylics can you shower? ›

To prevent smudging, it is best to wait one to two hours before hopping in the tub or shower. To help speed drying time, use a fast-drying topcoat or a nail polish dryer.

Is it OK to wear acrylic nails for years? ›

Acrylic nails can also damage the nails in the longer term, as the surface of your natural nails is filed down for application, meaning the natural nail becomes weaker.

Do nails grow under acrylics? ›

Your nails will look beautiful when you leave the salon, but obviously your natural nails will continue to grow, leaving a gap at the bottom of the acrylic. This means that every few weeks you will need an infill appointment to get these gaps filled.

Can you swim in a pool with acrylic nails? ›

Generally yes. If you're going to a pool, some of the nail polish might chip off, especially if you're going to a pool with a lot of chlorine, like a hotel pool. If you want your nails to look pretty after the swim, try not to be in the pool for several hours and don't grab anything sharp or hard.

How do I prepare my nails for acrylic appointment? ›

Gently push back the cuticle and remove all translucent skin from the nail plate surface. Skin contains oils and moisture which prevent proper adhesion. Apply nail prep to the natural nail surface in a 'scrubbing' motion. Prep will temporarily remove moisture and some of the oils from the nail plate layers.

What happens when you get acrylic nails? ›

Artificial nails can lengthen short nails, making your fingers look long and slender. They can also be hard on your nails. To get acrylic nails (a type of artificial nail) to stick, the surface of your natural nails must be filed until they feel rough. This thins your natural nails, making them weaker.

Do acrylics ruin your nails if you get them once? ›

Acrylics shouldn't ruin nails. But, a poor application and removal process of nail acrylics – or any type of nail enhancement- can seriously damage nails. When properly applied by a trained technician, with the right aftercare advice and regular upkeep, acrylics nails shouldn't cause any serious damage.

How do I prepare for getting my nails done? ›

  1. Step 1: Clean your nails with polish remover. ...
  2. Step 2: Clip, file, and buff. ...
  3. Step 3: Push back your cuticles. ...
  4. Step 4: Exfoliate your hands. ...
  5. Step 5: Moisturize your hands and cuticles. ...
  6. Step 6: Apply a base coat. ...
  7. Step 7: Apply your first coat of color. ...
  8. Step 8: Apply your second coat of color.
10 Feb 2022

Do nail salon workers talk about you? ›

Some narcissists or paranoid customers might think that nail technicians are talking about them when they speak to each other in other languages across the room, but they aren't. Apparently they don't care to share with each other how lovely your nail beds are or how gross your big toe is.

Do your fingers hurt after getting acrylics? ›

After getting acrylics, Edwards says that some people may experience a tightening sensation due to the acrylic forming a firm seal over their nails. The sensation may cause your nails to feel sore and sensitive immediately after application.

Which is better acrylic or gel nails? ›

If you're looking for nails that won't peel, acrylic is a good pick. If you're looking for a manicure that can protect your nails and look natural, however, then gel nails are the way to go. A professional gel nail kit is the best way to ensure professional-looking gel nails.

How much is a full set of acrylic nails? ›

Nail salons typically charge anywhere from $20 to $50 for a basic set of long acrylic nails.

Is it OK to wear acrylic nails for years? ›

Acrylic nails can also damage the nails in the longer term, as the surface of your natural nails is filed down for application, meaning the natural nail becomes weaker.

Do acrylics help your nails grow? ›

Gel and acrylic nails, however, provide a hard coating that helps protect your nails while they grow long and strong. If you suffer from weak, brittle nails that refuse to grow, gel or acrylic nails with or without extensions may be the way to go. Your nail polish looks great after a regular manicure.

Do acrylics come off in water? ›

Using hot water is a harmless way to take off your acrylic nails. Sparing a few more minutes and using a natural, affordable, and readily available ingredient as water can give you long-term benefits.

What should you not do at a nail salon? ›

Moving too much while being worked on, nonstop texting on the phone. Not sitting up straight, hands are too far away, fingers are too stiff. Constantly checking your nails every few seconds. Talking badly about other nail salons you've been to before.

Why do nail salons file the top of your nail? ›

The purpose of filing the nail bed is to remove oil and rough the surface up so that the acrylic is able to properly adhere to the natural nail.

What is the best time to get your nails done? ›

For a perfect mani, paint your nails early in the day—unless you plan to hit a hot yoga class or give yourself a major blowout later on, says Jane Park, founder of Julep Nails. “Heat makes fresh polish pliable and more likely to nick or dent,” she warns.


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