As a nail technician who has worked in both brick and mortar nail salon for almost 4 years, and now the owner of my own nail studio, I thought I’d share about 3 key differences from the perspective of a nail technician.


Nail Salons are often located in shopping centres or central locations where there are a lot of pedestrian traffic. You can often find nail salons near supermarkets or retail shops because for a large group of people, doing nails is often an impulse decision. The shop layout, or attractive price of first-timers could be all it takes to bring a customer into a nail salon.

Home-based nail studios on the other hand are located in apartments. As such, they are often located in residential estates and might not be easily accessible. This also depends on the public transport facilities and parking spots available around the home-based nail studio. 

Verdict: Nail Salons have the edge in terms of location (most of the time). Being easily accessible is very important for a nail salon although this also often translates to higher monthly rent. You can do your nails before buying the groceries or after having dinner. However, for residents who live near a home-based nail studio, it can also be very convenient.

The Service

Nail Salons have a fixed operating costs whether they have customers or not. That’s because they need to cover the shop rent and salaries of nail techs who are working. Since Profits = Revenue – Costs, there is often a time pressure on nail techs to earn more for the salon. At one Sydney salon I worked at, the manager told me frankly that each day, I was expected to earn for the salon three times my daily pay.  What does this mean for the customer? You might notice that nail techs seem to rush through the service and don’t seem to be as friendly as they should be. Nail art services might be limited to simple designs as doing standard services are more profitable.

Nail Salons also have multiple nail techs and because individuals have different levels of working experience, you might get an excellent nail service one time, and a sub-par nail service the next time. Of course you could request for a particular nail tech who is good, however depending on how busy the salon is, this might not be possible or you would have to wait for your turn at the least.

What about Home-based nail studios? It really depends as service standards can differ a lot, so it is important to do your research. Some nail studios might be run by nail techs with professional backgrounds, while others might be closer to hobbyists and only offer limited services (eg. manicures only). You would need to take a look at their social media pages to see if they showcase pictures of past clients’ nails, studio pictures, & reviews. However, in almost all cases, home-based nail studios are cheaper than salons and can offer excellent value.

Another upside of home-based nail studios is that it is always the same nail tech who is doing your nails. So if you’ve tried and found a great home-based nail studio, you can pretty much be assured of consistent service standards every time. You also don’t have to take a queue number for your turn as most home-based nail studios are by appointment only.

If you love giving your nails pretty nail art and don’t want to spend a whole wad of money, try a reputable home-based nail salon. They are almost always more affordable than salons. Home-based nail studios do not have to worry about monthly rents and are often a one-person show. As such costs are lower and nail services are often a 30-50% discount from salon prices.

To caveat, one downside of many home-based nail studios is that it is difficult to offer a professional pedicure treatment. This is because pedicure spa chairs are bulky and expensive. However, some home-based nail studios are able to offer a decent pedicure services by using a foot basin.

Verdict: It’s a tie. The difficulty in choosing a clear winner is partly due to the fact that there are so many different types of salons and studios, from the high-end boutique salons to the budget neighbourhood salon. If you are able to find a good home-based nail studio, I think you would find it much more affordable than a nail salon.

The Overall Feel

One area that home-based nail studios have the opportunity to shine is in providing a personalised service. The nail salon environment is often a busy one and full of activity. Home-based nail studios, on the other hand, might allow for a more private and exclusive experience. Again, this depends on the studio set-up so you would need to browse through the studio’s social media pages. For example, some home-based nail studios allow clients to stream netflix, or cast youtube videos to a TV screen. There might also be extras like free-WiFi or beverages. 

Verdict: Slight advantage to Home-based nail salons because there is the opportunity to provide a unique boutique experience for clients. Nail salons commonly rely on selling packages to keep customers back, however for home-based nail studios it is important to provide a great experience and value proposition to gain repeat clients who come back after the first visit.


Both nail salons and home-based nail studios offer a different experience for clients. It is difficult and unfair to say that one is better than the other.

Often, it depends on what matters to a client. Is price is main factor? The convenience? Nail art? 

What factors do you consider when you decide whether to go for a nail salon or a home-based nail studio?

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Lan Nguyen

Owner of Better Nails Studio, a boutique home-based nail studio conveniently located 2-3 mins from Yishun MRT. Lan has more than 4 years of working experience in professional nail salons and specialises in gel nail art.

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