“So, How do I know What Salon Near Me will be Good, Since You’re so Far Away from Where I Live?”

People ask me this question a lot once they see my nails and *squeee* over them. They look at my nails, look at their nails, then we start talking about nails, and they get this disappointed look on their face when they learn that I work too far away for them to drive to. They want to look better from a salon that’s clean and professional, but they also want one that’s close to home.

I’m the kind that will drive over an hour for a good beauty pro, but that’s because I’ve been mentally and literally burned too many times to just trust anyone. I’ve had some that did great work, but they were psychopaths to deal with, or some that were nice people, but their work was complete shit. To find both a sane and great product applicator in one person for what you’re trying to accomplish in a service is difficult, and it’s not the decor of the salon that will tell you if they’re good or not.

This is Where I Can help you, Because I was a Client for Decades Before Going to Beauty School.

I totally understand where clients are coming from, and where professionals can get lazy enough to scare clients off.

I’m going to make a list of good salons traits versus bad salon traits to help clients understand why they deserve better, or that they have it damn good where they are already and should stop complaining *lulz*.

It’s going to be long winded, but if I can convince one person out there that going to the neighborhood salon is not necessarily the best they can have within their budget…then I have some explaining to do!


Good Salons and Their Workers:

  • Have websites, online booking/mobile booking apps, and Instagram portfolios of their work. You’re busy. You need to know right now what a salon’s hours are, if they carry the products you want used on you, what their employees experience is for the service you want, prices, address, contact information, and proof that they know what they are doing with before and after pictures. You deserve this information, and a good salon will make it easy for you to find them and get your questions answered without having to make a phone call.


  • Have a clean, organized workspace, and protocols for services. I have been to too many salons where the decor was badass but the services they turned out looked like something a five year old could do.As long as the place is tidy and product is kept neatly away, that’s what really matters.

A lot of people keep their houses looking the same way they did when they moved in (usually older people) so a lot of small salons will look a bit dated too.

What you should look for is product that is kept organize in the cabinets, workspaces clear of previous work, tools cleaned and sanitized where you can see it being done, gloves being worn, log books of equipment disinfection times (like for pedicure chairs) in plain view, and professionals cleaning as they go through their work.

Book with professionals that ask health questions that could interfere with your service (like for gel polish manicures, they can’t be worn by clients going through chemo). Nail techs should be wearing gloves for the parts of service before a client’s hands are cleaned, preferably masks and eyewear too incase pieces of product file off into their face too. Their hair should be kept up or behind their shoulders.

Tools and product should be lined up on a tray for your service, not crammed up with everything else on their workspace.

There’s a certain order that the steps of a service should be done in too. I would Google the service I wanted to make sure it was being done right at my salon, since we’re all human and forget things sometimes. That forgetfulness has chemically near balded me once by one person, burned my nailbeds with an efile by another, made my skin breakout from improper application, and hurt me during a massage for days after. Read up to know exactly what you’re getting into.

  • Usually require an appointment for a service. The salons that make most of their money through walk in clients are not loyal to you. They don’t value their employees either. For the most part, they use products that are the cheapest because they don’t care if you come back or not. You’ll be a hooker that they just happened to get while driving down the road. Seriously, don’t be a salon hooker. Go somewhere that values your business.

Go somewhere that gets to know you and wants you to be happy with your service. Somewhere that pays for their employees to get additional product training to give you the safest, fastest, best looking hair/skin/nails possible.

I like making standing appointments and then move them if I need to closer to the date. If I try to schedule out the week of or a couple days before, there’s never room. If I don’t, then I wait until the last minute when I REALLY want a service done and then get mad when I can’t get it done when I want. That’s what happens when it’s a good salon. Same problem happens with popular restaurants at certain times of a day certain days a week.

  • Will have no problem listing the names of the brands of products they use, as well as any extended training with the product their professionals have. Hopefully through this blog you’ve read up on products that will fit into your lifestyle, nail goals, and personal social values. Knowing about the products being used will empower you to have confidence that you’re going to have a great service.It takes a lot of time and money for a licensed professional to learn their craft beyond beauty school, because we are all made differently. Product on one person can last for a month; on another person it has to be reapplied every couple weeks.Also, just because a product has a PETA logo on it, doesn’t mean that it’s currently cruelty free, vegan or both. Formulas and manufacturing practices change from year to year in products. You can read my posts about Madam Glam to see how I had to change it to cruelty free for their polishes only once they started making their gels in China.Leaping Bunny has been the most up to date and transparent company that tracks and updates on a regular basis from all the vegan/cruelty free beauty product blogs that I follow. Even with that, it doesn’t mean it’s both cruelty free and vegan. Know your product and then see if the salon uses it if those social values are that important to you. You probably already do that for grocery items anyway to be honest.
  • Will be more expensive than a walk in client based salon. Advertising, getting their professionals additional education, having a website/booking app/camera for portfolio pictures/managing a place with employee taxes/properly working equipment takes a lot of money to do.

The money you spend at an appointment based salon will be returned to you in spades by having long term robust, photo ready looking hair/nails/skin. People can easily tell when someone has ‘fake nails’ on, but truly good nail extensions will keep them guessing if they are all your own natural nails or not.

Just like a food truck painted with house paint will have different prices than a steakhouse, salon pricing usually reflect quality of product and the commitment to applying it to you properly.

  • Does not have an odor. There’s no need to have bad ventilation, chemical fumes, or 50 candles burning all sorts of flower drowned fruit baskets of bakery item scents. It should just smell clean, like after a day of laundry or after you just mopped a room.
  • Services should never EVER hurt you! The whole point of getting licensed to perform beauty services is to enhance your look without causing injury or death. If they hurt you, they’re either inexperienced or lazy. You don’t need that.
  • Salon workers and managers treat each other with respect and are not too buddy buddy with each other. It’s good to enjoy your workplace, but you’re getting services done at a workplace, not a hobby group.You want your professional focused on servicing you properly, not gossiping about which co-worker did what, which Kardashian is taking diet pills, or whatever other garbage that distracts them from giving your service their A-game level of attention.Distracted workers drive me absolutely bonkers.It’s ok if one asks for advice on something work related or shares something exciting, but I don’t need to hear how Sarah asked you for a tampon for the 4th time today. I don’t give a shit about Sarah, and when I do see her, now I will of her as a tampon-taker. Double reputation damage as well as maybe missing a spot on my head that needed some dye. Screw that.

    Good workers will ask you questions about your beauty goals, some medical related questions to your service to ensure your safety, a few questions to build rapport with you, and then get to work for what you paid them to do.


Bad Salons and Their Workers:

  • Have no online presence, and when you call them up, their phone skills are awful.  You have to compete with whoever is on the other line talking to a customer, co-worker, or themselves while talking to you. They don’t know pricing or who is working what day, or what service you’re talking about.
  • Have a dirty, cluttered workspace, and a free for all service execution. Everything they own is stacked in cardboard boxes on top of one another, piled in plastic containers that have never been clean since they were bought, and the same service you have done is not done in the same order even by the same person. There are bins behind their chair full of stuff, cut off plastic nail tips and filing dust is on the floor and tables, brushes are dirty and shoved into a jar.No one usually asks you any questions other than what color you want applied and what nail shape you want either.
  • Usually are walk-in based service, and if you make an appointment, then they are always late. They’re counting on lazy customers with low levels of standards for the services they want done because those customers didn’t want to be bothered with making an appointment. Walk-ins can’t demand much because there wasn’t enough time given to the professional to make sure they had the product and skillset available to do the service you want.At the same time, walk-ins usually add on services. This makes more money for the salon, but now you, the person that made the appointment, gets to wait while this other person gets what they want.
  • Will have no idea what products they use, and none of the workers have extended training in product. Different products do have some basic things in common, but there are a lot of differences too. One has a different curing time than another, one has them all the same regardless of what step if being done, some are compatible with other brands, some are compatible with only one or two, some make sure nothing else works with their stuff to try to force brand loyalty.There are products that are made for only looking pretty, some that are really durable but ugly as sin, some are simple to apply while others need their own instruction booklets. Beauty products are not one size fits all; just like one set of hands can be very different from another in genetics and lifestyle.I love stiletto nails, but I can’t wear them with my lifestyle. A bad salon worker will put them on you anyway and then blame you for breaking them instead of talking to you about the pros and cons of having them first. Then your fingers will hurt AND cost you more in the long run from having to get them fixed so often!
  • Smell like something not good. They’re all nose blind to it, but you’re not. It’s a red flag for sure.
  • Services usually hurt you! From burning your nailbed due to improper e-file training, ripping the delicate skin around your fingernail with nippers or hand files so your hands hurt whenever you wash them, burning your nailbeds with chemicals…I could go on and on. You shouldn’t have any of these things happen to you, but they usually happen at bad salons. If they have a bottle of blood cut stopper on their workspace handy, that’s a red flag too.
  • Salon workers and managers treat each other and customers like garbage. Gossiping about co-workers, managers, or clients is one of the lowest denominator of bonding attempts there is. Everyone there talks to at each other as though they will try to steal you from your current professional. Or worse, they talk to each other as though you are not even there, because you’re just another drop in the bucket. This isn’t their family kitchen table, this is a salon. You deserve better than that type of environment to spend your money.