16 Nail Salon Red Flags To Help You Avoid A Bad Mani And Pedi

Going to the nail salon is supposed to be an enjoyable and relaxing experience. When you go to a spa or salon, the goal is to feel like you're taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the real world. Most people have tons of obligations in their day-to-day life, keeping them busy from the time they wake up to the time they lie down at night. If you're able to carve out an hour or two to stop at a salon for a manicure and pedicure, you get the chance to bask in a moment of peace and tranquility. 


Unfortunately, not every nail salon provides the same level of pristine and remarkable service. Some salons fail massively when it comes to impressing their clientele. Their flubs are enough to keep people from never coming back. Knowing which red flags to look out for during your salon visit will help you remain vigilant before you consider booking an appointment. There's a possible chance your manicure and pedicure results will disappoint you if you notice any of these signs straight away.

The wall decor is starting to peel or fall off

You'll know fairly quickly that your manicure and pedicure probably won't turn out as fabulous as you're hoping if the wall decor inside a salon is starting to peel or fall off. Chipped paint, dusty artwork, and a generally lackluster appearance throughout a salon space showcase that certain salon owners don't care to create a soothing and wonderful ambiance for their guests. Nail salons run by individuals who work to maintain a solid list of return customers will do everything in their power to ensure things look professional and presentable. 


If the salon isn't bringing professionalism to the table regarding terrible wall decor, peeling wallpaper, or chipped wall paint, it's safe to assume there probably won't be a high level of professionalism brought to the table for your manicure and pedicure. There's a huge emotional difference that strikes when you walk into a salon that looks fabulous from top to bottom. You instantly feel like you're in the perfect atmosphere to receive a truly luxurious service.

The chairs are stiff and uncomfortable

Anyone who's gotten their nails done in the past understands that nail services can take more than a couple of hours. Depending on your request, you might be seated in a nail salon chair for a very long time. Think about the overall process, including cutting, buffing, painting, and more. That being said, it's important that the chairs at your nail salon are cozy, plush, and adjustable. If you're stuck sitting in a chair that's stiff and uncomfortable for hours, it's going to ruin your entire experience. 


Part of the allure of spending time at a nail salon is that you get to enjoy the atmosphere along with all of its pleasantries. A salon that doesn't care to provide comfortable seating for clientele might not care to provide top-notch service, either. Some salons offer satisfying seats that vibrate with a massage panel covered in remote control buttons. Salons that go above and beyond with massage seats and other comfy chairs understand there's a bigger chance for their clients to return in the future.

They don't have any more of your chosen color available

It's up to you whether or not you should stay at a specific salon if you find out they don't have any more of your chosen color available. It's a huge disappointment to walk into a salon hoping to embrace TikTok's red nail theory and leave with red-painted acrylic nails on your fingers, only to find out that the salon doesn't have your favorite red polish on deck. That is an indicator that you shouldn't waste your time at that salon. 


When salons are run by owners who know what's popular at any given time, they make sure they have more than enough of each color available for clientele coming in. Trends are constantly changing, and smart salon owners know how to keep up.

Salons that are poorly run and mismanaged are liable to run out of different nail and gel polish colors at random. This becomes a bigger issue if your nail technician runs out of color while doing your service. Some of your fingers might be complete, but they won't be able to finish successfully.

Your scheduled appointment is more than 30 minutes overdue

You can bank on being a bit disappointed with your manicure and pedicure results if your scheduled appointment is more than 30 minutes overdue. An example of this would be booking an appointment and arriving at the location on time. Instead of promptly seated with a nail technician, you're told you must wait a bit for them to finish other clients. It's perfectly fine to wait 10 or 15 minutes, but if your waiting time exceeds 30 minutes, you have some serious reconsidering to do.


When a salon proves they don't respect you or your time, you don't have to stick around and continue waiting for them to get the job done. Salons that move way too slowly with each of their clients prove that they aren't staffed with efficient workers. This can occasionally indicate that a salon is full of inexperienced employees. Keep in mind that nail technicians who don't have tons of experience under their belt don't always produce the most impressive manicure and pedicure results.

Your foot basin hasn't been covered with a liner

There's nothing hygienic about a nail salon technician filling your foot basin with water without sanitizing and covering it with a liner. You may not have paid close attention to this in the past, but you should certainly start paying attention to it in the future. Foot basins with jets are known for filling up lots of bacteria between clients. This means they should be sanitized for at least 10 minutes before anyone else puts their feet in. 


Sanitizing with soap and water simply won't do it, either. The nail technicians should use strong, EPA-registered disinfectant to destroy any microorganisms surviving in the foot basin jets. As unfortunate as it is, no matter how clean your feet are, foot infections are common —  with bacteria and fungi being a few of the main culprits. The same way you'd want to avoid walking on the slimy floors of a public shower completely barefoot, you'll want to avoid putting your feet into a foot basin that hasn't been sanitized and lined correctly.

Your technician doesn't use a fresh disposable nail file on you

It's unacceptable for your nail technician to use the same disposable nail file on you that they've used on previous clients. The truth of the matter is that non-metal nail files are considered porous beauty items. Similar to buffers and pumice stones, single-use nail files simply can't be adequately disinfected with all of their small divots and holes. No matter how hard you try to perfectly disinfect a nail file, pumice stone, or buffer, pesky germs will easily find a way to stick around because of how porous these beauty items are. 


For these reasons, your nail technicians should throw out nail files after every service unless they use disinfected metal files. You'll know you're in the clear if you see your nail technician opening up a new nail file out of its packaging or plastic wrap before starting your appointment. If you see them using the same one they had on the table with the client before you, you should cancel your appointment immediately.

The towels are a jumbled mess

Having freshly organized towels available for clients at a nail salon is an absolute must. This isn't something that can be negotiated, either. When you're getting your nails done, you should have access to clean running water and dry towels to ensure clean hands throughout the process. Getting your nails done can become quite messy, after all. When your nail technician drills away old gel or acrylic, you'll notice your hands getting covered in tons of powdery flecks. 


Instead of moving forward with the manicure process while you're covered in so much dust and residue, it's normal for your nail technician to point you toward the spa sink to rinse your hands off. Take note of how organized the towels are near the sink area. If they're a jumbled mess, it's pretty clear that providing top-of-the-line service isn't a priority for the individuals running the salon. The same rule applies to the heated towels your nail technicians might pull out while giving you a pedicure.

They try ripping your old set off instead of soaking

Another unacceptable thing to avoid at a nail salon is a technician who tries ripping off your old set of acrylic nails instead of letting them soak off gently. It's true that waiting for the soaking process takes longer, but it's still healthier for your nails to let the acrylics soak instead of the alternative option. If your nail technician starts trying to impatiently rip off your old set with different tools, it's up to you to tell them to stop. 


Some salons make you pay a higher fee for a soak-off instead of a rip-off. It's your decision to choose whether or not you want to stay at a salon that will make you pay more money to do something basic for the safety of your nails. If you've consistently allowed nail technicians to rip off your old sets of nails in a hurry, there's no doubt that your natural nail beds have been through some serious abuse and damage. Soak-offs will always be the healthier route to take.

They attempt to cut your cuticles

Next time you're at the nail salon, make sure you don't let your technician cut your cuticles off. The reason technicians do this in the first place is because they believe the final results of your manicure and pedicure will look way better without visible cuticles in place. The harsh reality is that cutting off your cuticles can lead to infections, damage, and irritation. "If you remove the cuticle, that space is wide open, and anything can get in there," Richard Scher, MD, a Cornell University dermatology professor, tells WebMD


Cuticles are "there for a reason," Scher says, to keep you as protected as possible. It's completely fine for your nail technician to push your cuticles back before applying nail polish, gel polish, or acrylic. It becomes a real issue if they try to cut your cuticles off altogether. Getting your cuticles snipped away might seem like a normal part of any manicure and pedicure service based on your past experiences. Still, it's important to know that this isn't actually a healthy practice to condone.

They make snide remarks about your hand size or nail bed length

If you catch wind of your nail technician making snide remarks about your hand size or nail bed length, you need to run. Some nail technicians will come across as rude and judgmental because they're annoyed they have to use more product on you based on the size of your hands and the length of your nail beds. It's true that if your nail beds are on the longer side, more nail polish, gel polish, or acrylic will have to be applied. Still, this shouldn't cause your technician to critique you negatively. 


Nail salons with professional employees understand that clients arrive in all shapes and sizes. This means that some clients have incredibly short nails that don't require tons of product, while others have super long nails that require much more time and attention. If you're feeling disrespected in any way based on comments nail technicians are making about you, then you shouldn't stick around.

They're adding too many layers of acrylic

You can expect that your manicure isn't going to turn out too fabulously if they're adding way too many layers of acrylic. When too many layers of acrylic are added to your nails, it leaves them looking bulky and thick. There's nothing natural about a set of acrylic nails that appear to be way too hefty. When you choose to wear acrylic nails, it already becomes quite obvious that your nails aren't "real" since they tend to be a lot longer than usual. 


Since they already have extra length to them, they shouldn't also have too much thickness. It's an entirely different story if you individually requested thicker acrylics to ensure your nails are sturdy and safe from breakage. If you did not mention wanting thicker acrylic nails, but your technician took it upon themselves to add a bunch of layers of acrylic, you probably won't love your final results.

The polish is dripping off the brush as they apply

When your nail technician is getting ready to apply layers of gel or nail polish to your nails, pay attention to whether or not the product is dripping off their brush. If it is, you're most likely dealing with an inexperienced technician who doesn't fully understand the ins and outs of what they're doing. When too much gel polish or nail polish drips off of the brush, it can lead to some seriously messy results. 


The paint may drip off your nails onto other parts of your fingers and hands. If this happens, the technician will have to go out of their way to spot-clean any areas where the polish spread. It's also possible the polish won't be evenly distributed and equally painted onto all of your nails if your technician is coming at you with dripping brushes. Some of your nails might end up with bubbles and dents if your technician isn't careful.

They skip your base coat

There are a couple of reasons why your nail technician might skip out on applying a base coat before adding nail polish or gel polish to your nails. They may not have any base coat polish available to handle this crucial step during your pedicure or manicure process. Or, they're rushing through your service by trying to get you in and out as soon as possible so they can move on with their next client. It's also possible they're just being plain lazy and nonchalant about the seriousness of base coat usage.  


Regardless, it's problematic for your technician to skip out on the base coat. The purpose of a base coat is to ensure that the color of polish you've chosen securely adheres to your nails for a sufficient amount of time. Without a base coat, your polish can start chipping much sooner than you'd like. If your polish starts chipping after just a few short days due to a missing base coat, it will feel like you wasted money at the salon.

They don't add your top coat

Just like skipping out on the base coat, noticing that your nail technician disregarded the top coat to your manicure and pedicure is another massive sign that your results won't meet your greatest expectations. The same reasons they would skip out on using a top coat match the reasons why they'd skip out on using a base coat. It comes down to a lack of product, laziness, or that they're trying to rush you through your appointment. A top coat is necessary because it helps your nail color last longer. 


Every time you wash your hands, dip in the pool, or take a shower at the end of the night, you start to wear down the color of the polish on your nails. The top coat protects your polish from every water experience you have in your regular day-to-day life. You use your hands to touch things, move things, hold things, and everything in between. Top coat does its best to keep your nail color looking as fresh and lovely as the first day it's applied. Without a top coat, there's no way to protect the beauty of your manicure or pedicure.

Your technician's table space looks messy

As the old saying goes: A cluttered room is a sign of a cluttered mind. The same rule applies to your nail technician when it comes to their table space at work. If it's completely messy and disorganized, it's obvious they don't care about coming across with professionalism and presentability. If your nail technician doesn't care enough to organize your table space, you might wonder how much they'll care to complete your manicure and pedicure in a way that actually looks impressive. 


Another major issue that comes into play here is that a nail technician with a messy table space between you doesn't give you the chance to pay attention to the cleanliness of their tools. How will you be able to decipher which of their tools have been swapped out and properly sanitized if everything is in a jumbled heap? For your own health, safety, and well-being, it makes more sense to deal with nail technicians who actually keep their table space clean and organized. 

The overall ambiance is terrible, from the background music to the smell

It speaks volumes if the nail salon you're visiting has a terrible ambiance. This includes the background music and the smell of the salon. If the employees have a playlist going that's filled with crude songs and inappropriate lyrics, they clearly don't care about making sure their clients feel respected. If it smells like overwhelming harsh chemicals and toxins, that is a huge problem too. The ambiance of a nail salon is supposed to feel relaxing, soothing, and tranquil. 


If you feel like you're more stressed out than anything else while getting your manicure and pedicure done, you should consider pumping the brakes on your appointment and heading somewhere else to get things handled. The energy of the employees also translates to the overall ambiance in a nail salon. This means that the employees should be treating their clientele with patience, understanding, and respect throughout the process. This includes the receptionist at the front desk, the nail technicians, and anyone in ownership.