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How to Avoid a Messy Manicure: 5 Tips for Spotting the Best Nail Salons

Nothing is as relaxing, elegant, or elevating as a beautiful manicure. Nails can make you look professional, punk, hard-femme high-power, sexy, sweet, and so much more. Getting your nails done is the perfect escape from the daily grind of your busy schedule.

nail salon

The sad fact is that you just can’t be certain about the quality or the conditions when you walk into just any nail salon in the city. Most of the time, the only thing we know about them before walking in is their name.

So if you want your nails done right and you’re not sure where to start, your search is over. Say goodbye to bad gel manicures, smudged acrylic pedis, and nail care worries, with these five quick tips for finding the best nail salon near you.

  1. Crowds are a no-no

Overbooked places with high turnover are more likely to be breeding grounds for bacteria. Manicurists and pedicurists at busy nail salons are rarely given enough time to do full cleanings of their equipment between patients. But if you’re in a rush and need something done immediately, apps like Glamsquad can give you the salon treatment right at home.

  1. Always look for a license

The easiest way to check for quality is to ask for a license. There are around 2,000 nail salons in New York City, and while a lot of places look great, there’s no guarantee that they’re licensed. All the evidence says that licensing works; there are lots of things we end up getting without assurance in NYC (like apartments, for example), but if you have the power to make your manicure perfect, why settle for less?

  1. Check for an autoclave on site

Always ask how tools are cleaned! Salons that are serious about cleanliness should be equipped with an autoclave, which is a medical-grade dry heat sterilizer that hits high enough temperatures to kill all the nasty bacteria that pop up on salon utensils. Some salons will have an autoclave, but others only have UV sterilizers handy — if the inside is lit up purple, then it’s a UV sterilizer, not an autoclave.

  1. Ask early about designs

If you want something special, like a design or a specific color, ask early and get a clear answer before you’re seated. If a salon is going to charge extra for a small variation, make sure that extra charge is worth it and that you can’t follow up with design touch-ups at home. There’s nothing as disappointing than coming home from a manicure then having to go out and get new polish for smudge clean-ups.

  1. Get the right prep

Good salons have knowledgeable manicurists — that means that the people who help you should know how to use all the equipment and can answer all your questions about hygiene, products, and post-painting nail care. If they can’t answer your questions, find a salon that will! If you’re getting a gel treatment, the best salons will give you information on how to care for your nails after those gel nails come off. For acrylic polish, salons should always use a base coat for the first layer on the nails, because it protects your nail from staining.

nail salon