Professional Manicures Vs. DIY Nail Jobs — The Great Debate

Manicures are one of my favorite ways to practice self-care: They instantly relax me and allow me to disengage from the other worries in my world to focus on just my nails. In fact, it's not unusual for me to give myself a new one every few days! I also love to experiment with new colors and match my nails to both my outfits and moods. However, I hadn't been to a professional salon to get my nails done for three years — until last week. I had always thought that professional salon manicures were a waste of time and money, since they usually take at least half an hour to complete and are a lot more expensive than buying some polish and doing it yourself on the fly.

That manicure changed my perspective, though, since I found myself leaving the salon more relaxed than I'd ever been after doing my nails myself; and on top of that, much more satisfied with the quality of the job. My nails were perfectly shaped, the polish very thick, and I was left without any cuticles or hangnails — my hands had never looked better!

This manicure was something I also got for free, which probably gave me that much more satisfaction in the experience. But I realized that I would definitely be willing to pay for the experience again, because it turned out so much better than anything I had ever done for myself. But the price and time commitment I'd have to give every week or two also seemed a bit daunting, and I knew it was possible that the enjoyment wouldn't be there if I did it too often.

This is a debate I am still having in my own head and while I don't think there is a right or wrong answer here, I do think that there may be a right or wrong answer for you, which is what this checklist can help you to realize. So here is the debate between salon manicures and DIY.

Issue #1: Price

The affordability factor is one of the most compelling arguments against getting professional manicures, since spending up to $20 a week on your nails can add up really quickly. According to one source, the standard manicure costs $10-15 at a lower caliber salon, but deluxe services can come as high as $45 a pop. Doing your own manicures will only leave you the cost of buying the polish and any necessary supplies (like nail clippers or cuticle oil), but can be used over and over again. And typically, these products don't need to be replenished quickly.

In this case, I think the winner depends on what your financial situation is: Are you a student living on a budget? Then you should probably stick to doing your own nails. Are you able to make rent and your bills each month with plenty of extra cash? Then splurge on manicures if you so desire! Figure out what makes the most sense for you financially, and whether there's anything you can sacrifice so you can get manicures if you're really wanting professional services. If your salon charges $15, for instance, and you need to get them done every week and a half, you could give up your Starbucks drink every other day and make up that difference!

Issue #2: Time

Most salon manicures will take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, which can be a lot of time to spend on doing your nails (not counting the possible travel time if you don't have a salon close to your home or work). This is another area where the DIY job probably wins, since you can simply take out a bottle of polish as you wait for dinner to be done cooking, while you're watching a movie, or quickly before you run out the door to an event.

Issue #3: Luxury

I think the most appealing part of going to get a manicure at a professional salon is the luxury — it feels good to have someone do your nails for you and give you high-quality treatments! I love going to smaller, more relaxed salons, so that I can get rejuvenated and really relax as I'm getting my nails done. I don't usually feel that great as I do my own nails, since I have to make sure I have a good technique and a steady hand. I also inevitably make mistakes along the way and have to spend time fixing them and getting my nails to the highest quality possible. When a professional is doing it, however, I can sit back and relax, and not having to worry about the quality of my hands or how even my brush strokes are.

If luxury is what you're aiming for and you want to be able to feel good as you get your manicure, the professional salon definitely wins.

Issue #4: Quality

Someone who has gone to nail school is going to know a lot more about how to give manicures than you do. This alone is going to ensure your manicure is of a higher caliber than the one you give yourself. They're also probably going to use high-quality polish, a top and base coat, and carefully shape your nails to all look uniform and be resistant to chipping.

One of the things I loved the most about my professionally done manicure was the way the manicurist shaped my nails into perfect squares. This is something I know I could never do myself and is definitely a good reason to go to a salon. I also didn't get any chipping until day five, and even then, the chipping was very subtle and didn't ruin the entire manicure.

If you want your nails to last, going to a salon is definitely worth it. When I do my own nails, my polish is usually only chip free for about a day and I find myself having to constantly do touch ups. Especially if you're going on vacation, to a special event, or don't want to have to worry about having to fix your nails every night, a salon is the way to go.

Issue #5: Socializing

This may seem like a non-issue to some, but for those of us who are introverted or just prefer to do our nails in peace and quiet, going to a salon can be quite draining, especially if you have a chatty manicurist. However, if you like to talk to others or like learning about other professions or people's lives, you'll probably really like going to a salon. It can also be a great way to get out and feel like you're socializing if you work at home or for yourself (like I do!). I know I felt like I had a social experience after I left and didn't feel the need to get out and socialize, like I normally do in the late afternoon! If you want to meet new people or talk about basically anything to a total stranger for a half hour, go and get a manicure!

So which side wins? It depends on how you look at it. If you can afford to get manicures, want a polish job that's of high-quality, and have the time and energy to invest in going to salons, then going professional wins for you. However, if you're on a budget, don't have time to waste in a salon, and prefer to get your nails done on the go like a true multitasker, then DIY manicures would be your best bet! It really depends on what you're looking for and what you can afford in terms of time and money.

Images: Author's Own; Giphy; Getty