What Is A Full Set Of Nails?

You are browsing a recommended salon’s treatment menu to get your nails done, and you see an option for a full set of nails.

Well, if you are new to this world, you may not yet know what it is, and what services are included. A lot of people also get confused with structured nails, but are they actually the same? Not really.

For now, you want to know what is a full set of nails. And is it what you should get from a nail salon?

Let’s dive right into the answer below!

What Is A Full Set Of Nails?

A full set of nails usually includes all the steps to prepare your natural nails for either gel or acrylic application treatments. This could include nail extensions, depending on the salon and what they fit in the price of a full set. Generally, any tips, nail art, and hand treatments are add-ons.

a nail technician forming nail shape

Some might need clarification on what a full set entails and when you expect too much from a complete set of nails. Others might be looking for less, so let’s erase the confusion.

The Process Of A Full Set Of Nails

The steps may vary between different salons, but the basic steps of a full set include the following:

  • Cuticle care – adding oil to the cuticles, pushing them back, and ensuring a more revealed nail plate.
  • Finger care – the nail tech will examine the skin around your nails, clip off dead skin and ensure your fingers look and feel healthy.
  • Nail care – cut or file the nails shorter and buff the nail plate to ensure it is in an optimal condition for an application.
  • Extensions – Only specific full-set packages present this step; adding tips would most likely be an add-on. Acrylic and specific gel types can also offer an extension of your nail, which will be included in a full set.
  • Application – This step will include the choice of overlay you prefer. Gel or acrylic nails.
  • Final touches – rubbing moisturizing cream into the hands, and some might surprise you with a hand massage.

A complete set focuses more on applying the nails and not as much on preparing the hands. If you need more attention on hand preparation, go for the usual manicure first.

a nail technician cutting the cuticles

Different Options Of Full Set Nails

There might be a few options for a full set on the nail bar’s menu. This is possible because some allow their clients to choose an option suitable for their nails and needs.

In addition, some nail bars add additional treatments to a complete set to give their clients a better idea of what to expect and to ensure the pricing is on point.

1. Full Set Of Gel Nails

uv curing gel polish

A full set of gel nails will include gel as the main product. This can vary in brands and if the brand is essential to you, ask which one they use before you make a booking. If you are interested in a gel extension (only certain brands), you should ask the salon if this is included in the salon’s full set price.

Because gel overlays include a base coat, gel color coat, and top coat with layers that need to be cured for a few minutes under a UV nail light after each application, this full set might take a while. However, depending on your preferred colors and the nail tech’s experience, a complete set of gel nails can take 90 to 180 minutes.

2. Full Set Of Acrylic Nails

a nail technician doing acrylic nails

A complete set of acrylic nails will include a new application of acrylic overlay to your nails after they have been prepped. In addition, you can ask for extensions with acrylic.

When adding an acrylic overlay, the color coat is a mix between powder and a monomer liquid, creating a paste that can be molded and shaped along the nail and even past it. It doesn’t need curing; it is much faster than applying gel polish.

A complete acrylic set can take around 75 to 120 minutes and usually cost less than bio-gel nails. You can learn more about acrylic nail costs via my other article.

3. Add-Ons To A Full Set

a nail technician doing a hand massage

These treatments do not come standard with a full set; you will either have to ask for it or search the menu for an option that includes the additional treatment you are eyeing.

  • Nails and toenails – a full set only refers to the hands. If you want to include your toenails, you will have to be specific about it, and there will be additional costs and time.
  • Tips – adding tips to your natural nails will be an extra expense and isn’t included in a full set unless a salon menu states an option like “full set with tips.” In addition, there will be additional charges and time added to the appointment.
  • Nail art – adding gems, glitter, or stickers to your nails will be an add-on to a full set. Most nail bars charge per nail, but the time doesn’t really differ from a full set’s time.
  • Paraffin hand wax mask – Some might believe a complete set includes a hand mask or hand facial where the therapist adds a moisturizing treatment before focusing on the nails. This is an additional add-on and usually takes an extra 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Hand massage – apart from the quick lotion rub at the end of your set, a hand massage is not included in a full set. Some take their time with the lotion at the end, but this isn’t a definite hand massage for a certain number of minutes.
  • Soak – To soak off a previous set before you apply a new complete set is not included in a full set of nails. You must state that you want a soak and a full set.

When NOT To Ask For A Full Set Of Nails?

There are some reasons to avoid a full set for a while or opt for a different option.

1. You only want regular nail polish

In this case, you can go for a manicure option or sometimes called “buff and paint.” They will prep your hands and paint on nail polish.

2. You have dry cuticles

This could signify dehydration of the nails and cuticles, and it would be best to opt for a moisturizing hand treatment instead.

3. To fix your nails

So you just had a bad experience at another salon, or an at-home nail job went south. Your nails might look weary with discolorations, ridges, white marks, and splits. You might want to cover it up, but a full set will only hide the signs and excel the damage further. Instead, opt for a strengthening treatment and moisturizing elements to get your nails back to normal.

4. You have health-related issues

You need to consult your doctor first if you have a chronic illness, are pregnant, or have surgery coming up. In some cases, acrylics and gel can be harmful or are not allowed on the nails.


A full set is one of the most popular orders at any nail salon. However, knowing what you are signing up for will determine your satisfaction at the end of the appointment and how to go about if you want something extra.