How old should a person be to get a set of enhancements — or in slang terms, a set of nails, a set of acrylics, some nails put on, etc.? This is an individual question that does not necessarily have a universal answer. It requires some conversation between the nail professional and the parent, between the child/tween/teen and the parent, and a level of trust.
The parent also needs to get educated on the subject, so if you do not have time to do some due diligence you may consider giving someone else the final say so in whether or not your child is ready to wear enhancements. The first priority should be teaching the teen how to choose a healthy salon, an educated and responsible professional, and a safe environment.
When enhancements are applied and removed by a well-educated professional, and they have not been picked at or interfered with in any way, the natural nail should look the same or better than before the enhancement was applied.
I’m going to let you sit with that thought for a moment in case it took you by surprise. If as a nail-wearer yourself you picked off the nails that counts as interference, if you chewed on them, stuck things under them, in any way, shape or form messed with the nails on your own or allowed someone else to mess with them that negates the statement. If you take the time to do some research and find someone who takes appointments and guarantees their work if you commit to homecare, there are educated professionals out there who protect and defend the integrity of the natural nail. This is what you want for your child even if it is not something you have sought out for yourself.
Get a Consultation First
Once you have done some due diligence and selected a salon and a salon professional you feel is worthy of your child, it is time to make an appointment with them for a consultation, not a nail appointment. At the consultation, you need to state your expectations clearly so that they can let you know what services they offer that would meet those needs. You should also state the age of your child when making the appointment for the consultation as some salons will have age rules in place and your child may not meet those requirements. This is nothing personal and there is no point in arguing about how extra special mature your child is or how extra special rich you are; it is a personal conviction on their part and this is something you should respect. You might ask if they have a recommendation for another salon.
At the consultation, you should have some questions prepared. For example: Would you mind showing me the disinfection process? Can you give me an idea of how long the service will take? What is the common timeline and cost of upkeep on the nails? What will be expected for homecare?
After the consultation, you need to consider whether your child can sit still that long. Even small wiggles while the nail product is being applied can cause flaws in the product that will have to be filed off, which will increase the service time and put the professional behind schedule.
For those of looking for a simple answer, the best I can do is offer an opinion, the same as anyone else. Ideally, I would ask that you not consider taking a child under the age of 12 for enhancements. While there is the rare “very mature for their age” 12-year-old, the majority will twitch or swing their feet or something of that nature as the appointment is quite boring for them.
Additionally, their nail plates are very tiny, which makes a difficult space to work on and can increase the time it takes to do the full set. A lot of tips and forms do not fit them, so quite a bit of customizing has to be done for a proper fit and this adds time as well. Generally, to fully customize a set to tiny nails it takes almost twice the time, and the average parent is not willing to acknowledge the need nor pay the price when there are places perfectly willing to shred their child’s nails cheap and fast just down the road.
This leads me to feel that the minimum age in a responsible salon is about 16, to avoid the issues that come with a lack of education in the general public for the integrity of the natural nail. There are nail professionals who put the integrity of your natural nail above everything they do. It is what we believe in, what we care about, and why we do nails.
When deciding how old is old enough to get nails done, the question is more about whether the parent cares to become educated about the integrity of the natural nail than the age of the child.