To Soak not not to Soak..

Going back to the basics of what we learned in school. The word "manicure" means care of hands. Simply put, there is nothing in that statement that says it has to be done by a particular type of manicure or pedicure (either dry or wet).

As for what the client wants, that is subjective to how much a client truly knows about the care of hands, feet and nails. It's been my experience that most clients only know what they've been told or experienced and have no true educational background on the subject. And sometimes what they "think" they know or want may not be what is truly best for the care of their nails to the point that what they "think" they want adversely effects the end result their wanting to achieve.

Again, going back to what we learned in school, water manicures were designed to soften cuticles quickly. At the time this theory was developed (some 50 to 60 years ago), water was the best way to soften cuticles quickly as there were not products readily available that did the job (thank goodness for technology).

Over the years and since the development of water manicures, products have been developed that can and do soften cuticles quickly. So if water manicures were developed at a time when water was the only thing available to soften the cuticles quickly (quickly being a relative term to the times) and now we have products that do (in my opinion) a better job than water, what is the purpose of a water manicure these days?

Water is a chemical and can have negative effects to the nails. At the time water manicures were developed, there was not a whole lot of information available about nails either. Through technology, many discoveries about the nails have come to light that were not known at the time water manicures were developed.

Even if a client "thinks" they want a water manicure, it may not be in their best interest to have one performed. This is why we are professionals and they're not. They depend on our professional advice to achieve the ultimate care for their hands, feet and nails through professional manicures and pedicures.

Bottom line.......water manicures and pedicures will work for some, dry manicures and pedicures will work for others. It is up to the professional nail technician to know when one should be used or not used, as the case may be. Again, that is what makes us professionals at the care of hands, feet and nails.

Nikki Birch Education Ambassador Creative Nail Design


This portion posted to the Forums area @

There is plenty of reason for certain client to NOT soak..

Case in point my own nails.

I have a decent C curve to my nails.. polish regularly chipped off the tips within 2-4 days..

A long long time ago when Doug Schoon had the time to participate on the mailing list we got into this discussion about polish chipping on natural manicures.. I explained I stopped soaking and my polish stays on 5-10 days with no chipping at all.. this lead to quite the lengthy discussion and led me to really look at my nails, before and after my shower..

What happened was the nail absorbed water and flattened out to a certain degree.. lets make up numbers.. if I had a 30 degree curve pre-shower.. I had a 28 degree curve post-shower.

The plate was full of moisture., a good thing for some..

Now you put polish on that nail before it has naturally rid it self of the water.

As the day progresses and the nail now returns to it's natural C curve the polish doesn't "go" with it and pop pop pop...

As posted to the NailTech Mailing List 1998 and included in NailTech Questions from the Internet Volume 1

Dry Manicures

After some discussion as to the procedure/order of a natural nail manicure, an entirely new concept developed. -DD

Hi All,
I stopped doing water manicures and only use oil. I find that polish stays on much longer on my own natural nails as well as my clients' since I made the switch.
Debbie Doerrlamm, NY
Webmaster, BeautyTech

Hi Debbie,
So you advocate a client not soaking their hand in water when given a manicure? If this is your position, could you go into detail why you do this?
Michael, FL

Hi Michael,
The nail has a certain natural "C" curve when dry. When the nail is soaked in water it tends to lose a some of that curl. After a water manicure the nail plate is not fully dry when you polish it. The polish will dry before the nail does. When the nail returns to it's natural curl... ping- off comes the polish!

I think the greater the natural C curve in the nail or the thinner/softer the nails are, the more likely it is that water will affect their shape.
Debbie Doerrlamm, NY
Webmaster, BeautyTech

I agree with Debbie. I would also add that the nails have a "natural adhesive" that holds them together. Soaking causes the nail to swell and break the bonds that holds the layers together.
Janet McCormick, OH
Nail Technician, Author and Independent Educator

Hi all,
I just would like to say that Debbie voiced this theory a few months ago and it made perfect sense to me. Like a light bulb going off! Anyway, I have a client whose nails do spread out during a wet manicure and when we went to a dry manicure it made all the difference in how her polish stayed on. The only problem is that I believe that a wet manicure does prepare the cuticle for cuticle removal far better than a dry manicure. So what's a girl to do?
Rebecca, Ca

Hi Everyone,
I hope I am not beating this subject to death, but wanted to wait until all eleven of my guinea pigs came back in before commenting on the results of my test. I stopped doing water manicures on these eleven. Four of the clients didn't even notice that I did not put their hand in a manicure bowl, so I didn't mention it either. Instead, I waited to see if they would make any comments, later. They did! All four asked if I did something different that would make their polish stay on extra long. I have to say that the polish I use stays on long anyway, BUT all eleven commented (very strongly) that their polish never lasted as long before. In fact, it was still on when they came for their next manicure! I have decided to do dry manicures only in the salon from now on.
Georgette, FL

Hi Debbie,
I like your theory. It offers a reasonable explanation for how water could cause the polish to peel. The nail plate alters its shape. That is very possible and I suspect you are correct.
Doug Schoon, CA
Nail Industry Chemist

Hi Doug,
It is more than possible. I paid particular attention this. The nails on my pinkies have a sharp twist to them, which worsens as they get longer. My left pinkie's free edge is a half inch long and twists almost at a 45 degree angle, normally. When I take a long, hot shower, the nail straightens out and it's only twisted 30 degrees or so and after awhile returns to it's normal 45 degree.
Webmaster, BeautyTech

Hi All...
After reading all of the mail about wet manicures, it seems to me that may be custom manicures might be a possible solution. After analyzing the client's hand and nails, give them the type of manicure they need (wet or oil manicure). I am going to try this myself and see how it works. This has been a very interesting topic.
Judy, WI

I sure hope that "wet" manicures don't fall out of favor! Although it sounds perfectly reasonable that a wet nail might flatten and affect the nail polish, I don't think a "dry" manicure is anywhere near as satisfying (or effective) as a wet one. Let me tell you, most of my manicures have been dry, where my hand and fingers are only briefly placed in lotion and the nails are scrubbed later with a wet brush. When I do have a wet manicure, the nails are crystal-clean, my cuticles are soft, and my skin feels so much better. Would it work to maybe dry the hands underneath a fan for a few seconds before applying polish?
Erika Kotite, CA,
Executive Editor, (for a prominent nail oriented trade magazine)

Hi Erika,
I don't think this is a widespread problem, but I do think it can occur, especially on thin or weak nails. I agree with Judy's great comment. We should diagnose our services, not just do the same thing for everyone. We are all different. Long, thin nails require different treatment than short, thick nails. Water may affect some and not others. It would take a tidal wave to flatten my nails any more than they already are, so I might be a better candidate for a wet manicure than our dearest webmaster Debbie D.
Doug Schoon, CA
Nail Industry Chemist

Hi Everyone,
I stopped doing water manicures because I really didn't care for all the hassle. Getting warm water, trying to figure out how to keep the water warm, cleaning up after. I personally felt that washing the hands first and then re-bathing them was just overkill. I also believe that with a thorough dry manicure, polish will last a bit longer. My manicures include warm lotion and a good massage and I have very few problems with unruly cuticles. I will, however, use a water manicure for someone who does not want polish and who may have excessive dirt under the nails. Anyway, it seems that when you soak the nails they absorb much moisture and when it evaporates the polish chips. I'm not sure if that is the "scientific explanation" but my customers have no complaints.
Donna, PA

Hi Everyone,
I tried a dry manicure the other day, but I am not sure if I am using the best procedure. Yes, the polish did MUCH better, but I had a heck of a time with the cuticles. Also, hot oil manicures are a a MESS! Please, any tips on this service are appreciated, especially concerning the GOO behind the nails, and how you clean up after... thanks!
Becky, MO

Hi Becky,
I prefer the dry manicures as well, but I just use that regular ol' cuticle remover stuff on the cuticles. Put it on first, then shape the free edge, use a metal pusher and gently get rid of that icky cuticle build-up. (remember, never cut live tissue). Works for me!
Tammy, OR

Hi Becky,
The steps for a dry manicure are about the same as water manicure - just skip the water. I start with cleaning, filing and shaping, cuticle care, warm lotion massage, remove oil and polish. This all takes only twenty-five minutes. For new clients, I try to schedule a little extra time just in case they have problem cuticles. For my Hot Mitt manicure, I add a moisturizing oil at the cuticles and then slather on an absorbing lotion, cover with liner, and they sit in warm comfort for five minutes. This will help those really tough cuticles if you should come across them.
Donna, PA

Hi Doug,
I think that the correct answer here IS a custom manicure. If the client has very thin or severely curved nails or a severe C curve or a deep curl or twist, then a dry manicure would be best. If they have 'normal' (whatever that is!) thickness, normal curve- then a wet manicure is OK, if that is what the client wants. I hereby officially offer to bring my pinkies to your laboratory as guinea pigs for testing in exchange for airfare and hotel in sunny South California! .
Debbie Doerrlamm, NY
Webmaster, BeautyTech,

Hi Debbie,
I have never seen such a severe nail twist, although I suppose the plate can go through some unusual contortions when it is wet. The ticket is in the mail.
Doug Schoon, CA
Nail Industry Chemist
Sorry Doug,
Alas, I have my partners wedding shower and if I miss that she'll kill me!
Debbie Doerrlamm, NY
Webmaster, BeautyTech

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