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Nail Services 101: Going Beyond the Mani/Pedi

Give your clients’ hands and feet the special treatment they deserve with this list of nail services.

Hands and feet are what we use to do our jobs, to care for our loved ones, to do what and go where we need. They push, they pull, they lift, they press, they twist, they turn, and they often get a little banged up in the process. With all the work they do, few things feel better than sitting back and letting a friendly professional make your hands and feet look and feel their best with salon nail services.

Manicures and pedicures have long been a staple at salons around the world, but the offerings for clients who want their extremities to feel extremely good have never been more broad and captivating than they are now. This article will introduce you to a list of popular nail services you can consider adding to your salon’s menu, but first let’s talk about who you’ll need on staff to make the magic happen.

Who can perform nail services?

The work of rendering nail services at a salon is just as intricate and skillful as styling hair or performing facials. As such, only licensed professionals are permitted to perform them — with nail technicians specifically licensed for the task and cosmetologists able to handle them as part of their broader expertise.

If you’re not sure who among your staff is eligible to provide nail services, you can start by checking out our guide to cosmetology license requirements by state (it also includes how many hours of education nail technicians need to put in). Keep in mind that each position may also have continuing education requirements to retain its license.

A list of nail services to bring to your salon

Ready to expand your offerings? Manicures and pedicures are a favorite for clients who want to look and feel pampered, and this list of nail services will make sure you have just the right offering for everybody. Note that each of the specialty manicures listed below can also be performed as pedicures for clients who want this little piggy to look glam AF.


The classic and undisputed champion of making your hands feel like a million bucks (without actually having to spend a million bucks), the appeal and power of the manicure cannot be overstated. The process begins with a soak in warm soapy water to soften up your skin, then the nail technician uses an array of files and buffers to gently remove dead skin, followed by a gentle hand massage, and finally the cuticles are oiled and the nails are painted in the client’s color of choice. You can always go for a transparent coat if you just want a little gloss and protection for your beautifully refined nails.


See above, but apply each step directly to the tootsies rather than the hands. Though a pedicure may not result in quite the same “wow” factor as a well-done manicure — unless people see your feet a lot more than your hands, no judgment — they’re arguably an even more luxurious experience. Maybe it’s because our poor feet are used to literally being the furthest thing from our mind, or maybe it’s because polished toenails almost always take way longer to chip, but few people who are in touch with their inner need for pampering can resist the appeal of a pedicure.

French manicure

Though they fell out of favor for a while, French manicures are once again one of the most commonly requested specialty nail services. Start with a basic manicure, achieve a short, slightly rounded square shape for each nail tip, then finish with a layer of pink or beige over the nail bed and white on the tip. The popularity of the French manicure has led to a number of spinoffs, including the reverse French manicure, which highlights the lower part of your nail instead of the tip, and the American manicure, which keeps it slightly lower key with skin-matching polish over the nail bed and an off-white tip.

Gel manicure

This upgrade for the basic manicure experience adds a gel polish that is cured under a UV light, then finished with a top coat. This results in a much sturdier adornment for the nail than polish alone, and it also provides an excellent canvas for artistic nail technicians to get creative with their designs. You can even upgrade the upgrade by offering Shellac as part of the process, which works like a combination of nail polish and gel to create an impressively voluminous and vibrant look for nails.

Acrylic overlay manicure

Much like gel manicures, acrylic overlay manicures add an extra ingredient to better protect those gorgeously shaped and polished nails. In this case, a liquid and powder and coat are applied over top of the natural nail, then the acrylic overlay is painted with the client’s preferred polish.

Dip powder manicure

As the name suggests, this nail service involves dipping each nail in a fine, pigmented powder, then setting it with a clear, protective polish after the typical shaping and priming. One big benefit of dip powder manicures over gels is the fact that they don’t require a UV light to set, making them much faster to apply. They’re also a great pick for clients who can’t make time for bi-weekly appointments since, with proper home care, they tend to last longer than many other nail services.

Hot stone manicure

It’s like a hot stone massage, but for your hands! The heat and gentle pressure of stones placed at key points on your hand can be an intensely soothing addition to your standard manicure hand massage. On top of feeling good, hot stone massages can also improve circulation. While this can be an affordable addition to your menu of nail services, you will want to get specially tumbled and shaped stones for the process — your clients might have some questions if you try to use a hunk of rock your receptionist found in the yard.

Paraffin manicure

OK, coating your hands in hot wax probably sounds weird, but trust us, it works — and it feels fantastic. Paraffin manicures add in the step of dipping your hands into heated paraffin (not painfully hot, just warm enough to melt), then letting it sit and cool for about a half hour. The wax works to open up your pores and increase circulation, and the process is particularly potent for clients with dry hands. Once the wax has done its job, you can peel it off almost like a glove and proceed to the hand massage and other steps as normal.

For more helpful tips for nail salon owners, check out our guide: How to Open a Nail Salon: The Complete Guide.

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