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What Is A Classic Manicure? [Everything You Need To Know]

There are so many options to choose from when you’re looking for a manicure. So much so that it can be confusing to know what to get; and what you are going to get the most from. Perhaps you’ve heard or seen of the classic manicure. But what is it? What’s included, and is it generally worth it? Let’s find out!

So, what is a classic manicure? A classic manicure is one that involves only the most traditional and foundational parts of the treatment. You’ll get your nails shaped, cuticles cared for, a base coat, color coat, topcoat, and some cuticle oil. That’s it. That’s all. As the name suggests, this manicure is, therefore, more of a conventional, standard manicure.

If you want the traditional manicure, then you likely will want a classic manicure. 

These are the simplest of the lot, which makes them a great option if you are not looking for something with all the bells and whistles. 

Plus, it’s an easy way to get pretty nails without worrying about long acrylics, strange chemicals, or a long, expensive process. 

Quick, simple, and easy.

So, let us now explore this particular type of manicure much further, so you truly understand all that is involved. 

What Does A Classic Manicure Include?

A classic manicure includes shaping nails, cuticle care, and normal polish application. This will come with a base coat and topcoat. The manicure will be finished off with cuticle oil in most cases.

It’s simple, but that’s why it’s the classic! A classic manicure doesn’t come with much, but it does come with enough for you to feel pampered and stylish once you’re finished.

When you get a classic manicure, the first thing that will happen is that your nails will be shaped. 

You’ll be given some choice in the exact shape, but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pull off anything too extravagant.

After all, there won’t be any way of extending the length. You have to make do with whatever your natural nails are.

Next, come your cuticles. You can expect them to be taken care of before you continue. 

For many, this involves both moisturizing and pushing them, but the latter might not be included. 

Remember: Nobody should be cutting your cuticles! 

Don’t allow anyone, salon techs included, to cut your cuticles. This can cause infection and other problems. 

Pushing with an orange stick or a similar disposable tool is the only recommended choice.

A base coat will start the painting process. 

This will give the color coat something to hold onto to make it last longer. Some base coats have nourishing formulas for healthier and stronger nails. 

Ask what your salon will use. If you have a specific base coat in mind, ask if you can bring it in. Many salons allow this.

Color coats come next. Notice the plural? That’s because most salons apply at least two coats of polish, no matter what the color is. 

This provides better coverage and less translucent color. For particularly bright colors, a coat of white might be applied first. 

Whether this is done is down to the salon’s decision. There will not be many coats of polish, as that might weaken the manicure.

A topcoat finishes off the paint. This is to seal everything in, provide a protective barrier, and give your nails a little extra shine. 

There aren’t many extras you can choose here; it’s basically the same clear coat, though you might have a preferred brand.

After everything is done, cuticle oil is likely going to be applied to keep the nail moisturized and strong. 

It will be allowed to soak into the nail, with any excess then removed. And, with that, you’re done! Classic manicure: Complete.

Pros And Cons Of A Classic Manicure

Pros: Easy, quick, fewer chemicals, less chance of damaging your nails, often cheaper. Cons: Not long-lasting, easy to damage, no possibility of adding length.

Like anything, there are good and bad sides of choosing a classic manicure. Before you settle on it, you should be sure that it’s right for you. 

Weighing out the options can either make or break a decision!


For the pros, convenience, and ease of application reign supreme. 

A classic manicure is normally easy to apply, with no need for UV lights or setting powders. Polish is applied with a brush, just like your normal at-home job. 

This often means that it’s a faster manicure, too, though the drying might take longer.

If you’re worried about a lot of chemicals, or something similar, you don’t have to! The polishes that are used are almost always the same type that you can find in stores. 

In fact, many salons will let you bring your own polish! Because of this, you’ll often find that a classic manicure is cheaper overall than other options. 

That, however, is not always the case.


Cons? There are a few. The biggest of which is the short lifespan of a classic manicure. 

Because it’s only polish on your natural nails, you’re not going to get the same time between manicures as you would for gels or acrylics. 

And the difference is substantial: A classic manicure might last a week, while acrylics can last as long as two months!

It’s also easy for a classic manicure to be damaged. 

With just polish, any little thing can cause chipping, peeling, or other problems. While the damage is unlikely to hurt your nail itself (something that may happen with acrylics, for example), it will definitely shorten the wearing time. 

With a classic manicure, you also lose the chance to add length to your nails. 

There’s no chance for tips, extensions, or other nail-lengthening options. If you want longer nails, you’ll have to grow them out. 

For some, that’s not a possibility. For others, that might be a perk since they don’t want long nails.

How Long Does A Classic Manicure Last?

A classic manicure does not last very long—five days to a week on average.

This is one of the biggest downsides of a classic manicure. While other options can last for weeks or even months, the lifespan of a classic manicure is measured in days. 

Even with a lot of care, you’re probably looking at a week, max. That’s not great for someone looking for something that will last through their vacation or a wedding look that will make it through the honeymoon.

If you’re hoping for something that will look perfect for a while, the classic manicure just isn’t for you. You should consult a salon tech for a better choice.

Good news? For some people, something long-lasting is something they’re trying to avoid.

If you’re trying outlooks you’re not sure about or have a wedding coming along after a wild bachelorette party, being able to switch between nail looks fast can be a big draw. 

There’s no need to worry about nail damage or taking off the product correctly here. 

If you have nail polish remover and can make a new appointment at the salon, you can get an entirely new look. 

Compared to acrylics, which can damage the nail if removed incorrectly, and gels, which need to be soaked off, it’s a cinch to remove.

How To Make A Classic Manicure Last Longer

Be careful with your nails! Use them as little as possible, avoid harsh chemicals, avoid hot water, and keep them out of the sun.

Do you want your classic manicure to last longer than five days? It’s not an uncommon desire. After all, it can be a very nice look, and it fades faster than anything else. 

Trying to make it last a week, or maybe even longer, is expected. And there are a few simple steps to accomplish it!

First, a big thing a lot of people don’t think about: Being gentle with your nails. 

Normally, nails are used as tools throughout the day. 

We use them to open packages, to open drink cans. They catch our hands when we open doors, and they help us grip things we’re trying to move. 

When you have a manicure of any kind, classic or not, you can make it last longer by not using them as tools anymore. Learning to use the pads of your fingers rather than your nails can save you a lot of money on repeat manicures when yours wear off sooner rather than later.

Another big problem is exposure to harsh chemicals. The most common culprit? Cleaning solutions. Avoid getting them on your nails. 

Not only can it cause cracking, peeling, chipping, and discoloration, it can cause nail damage too. Wear gloves if you can’t avoid them! 

The same is true of hot water. 

A long, hot soak might feel nice, but it’s bad for your manicure. Washing your hands is fine. For washing dishes or long baths, wear gloves.

Sun, too, can cause discoloration. 

You might be able to live with it, and it won’t necessarily damage your nails (though it is bad for you). But, to keep your nails their proper color, don’t expose them to the sun for long periods of time.

How Much Does A Classic Manicure Cost?

A classic manicure is typically quite cheap. Starting at $10 in your average salon to $40 or more at expensive salons. Nevertheless, a classic manicure is usually the cheapest option.

For those looking for a cheap way to have stylish nails, this is it. A classic manicure is normally the most cost-effective choice a salon has. 

From cheap salons all the way to the most expensive ones, you’re probably going to see this as the option that costs the least. 

In fact, for someone looking to visit an expensive nail salon on a budget, then this is your best bet!

The price won’t include many frills or extras, so make sure you plan for that. If you’re hoping for a scrub or soak, that’s almost certainly going to be extra. 

Cuticle oil and cuticle-pushing should come with the package. However, it’s worth calling to verify so that you know for sure what’s included and what isn’t. 

If you have your heart set on something that isn’t a normal part of a classic manicure, ask. You might have to pay extra, but there’s a good chance that you’ll get what you want.

How To Save Money On A Classic Manicure

Go to a cheaper salon for the best price on an American manicure. Alternatively, go to a good salon so that the manicure lasts longer. You can also cut downtime between visits by keeping your manicure in good condition.

There isn’t much you can do to make a classic manicure cheaper. It’s already likely the cheapest option available.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few ways to cut down on the cost.

You just have to look at the big picture rather than at the price of a single manicure.

First, consider the salon you’re going to. There are two options that can save you money, and they’re both exact opposites of one another. 

For a single manicure, particularly one that isn’t for a special occasion, consider going to a cheap salon. 

Alternatively, you can go to a more expensive salon. The results will probably last longer and are better suited for special occasions. 

And, the longer it lasts, the more time between manicures, saving you money.

You can also cut down on trips to the salon by keeping your manicure in good condition. 

This is done by taking care of it and avoiding anything that might damage your nails. See the above section for information and tips on keeping your nails safe!

Where To Get A Classic Manicure

You can get a classic manicure at almost every salon as this is their fundamental service offering. However, it may not always go by this particular name. 

This is really one of the most common manicures out there. If there’s a nail salon, you can be almost 100% certain that they’ll offer a classic manicure. 

You should still call ahead to make the appointment so that you can tell them what you’re coming for, but you probably won’t need to ask if it’s available. 

In fact, they’ll probably include it if you ask about pricing.

It might, however, be called something else. Not every salon refers to it as a classic manicure. 

Some use terms like “basic manicure.” 

If you’re confused, ask what’s included, and compare it to our definition here. You’ll be able to figure out if they’re describing the same thing.

Alternatively, if you don’t see it on the “menu” of options, describe the process to someone. It’s so common that they’ll likely know what it is and what they charge.


As you likely know, there are so many different types of manicures out there.

So, all you need to remember is your classic manicure if your basic, foundational service offering.

It’s like the manicure that has all the extras stripped back.

So if you’re not looking for something fancy but want something clean, simple, and textbook, this is for you.

Interested in, or are looking to try other types of manicures? Then check out my following guides to learn all about them!