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Soaking Nails in a Bowl of Water is an Outdated Technique

by Holly Schippers | October 26, 2016 | Bookmark +

Happy Wednesday! I am so inspired and excited by all of the conversation about price adjustments and updating salon services that have come up since my last posts! In this blog, I would like to delve into why we should move away from soaking nails in a bowl of water. In the next blog I plan to tackle those price increase notices and give you some ideas on how to position it or write a letter.

To answer the “why” of soaking nails in a bowl, let’s start with an exclusive excerpt from Doug Schoon’s upcoming book that has not even been released yet! It should be available in a couple weeks and you know I will hook you up with all the info when it is ready. ;)

“Normally, it will take about 60 seconds for a nail plate to absorb any substantial amount of water. The longer the nail plate is soaked, the more water will be absorbed.  All of this absorbed water can cause the nail plate to swell and change shape. Why? As the water molecules crowd in between the layers of the nail plate, this lubricates the layers and allows them to slide past each other, while at the same time forcing the layers apart. This results in making the nail plate more flexible and more likely to swell and change shape.  The plate could curl up, flatten out or even twist depending on its original shape. This happens because the water content of the nail can increase by 25-30%. Then when the nail plate returns to its normal moisture content of about 15-18%, the nail plate will then revert back to its normal shape.

Nail coatings applied to a swollen nail plate can’t be expected to adhere well to a moving surface that’s changing shape. As the plates dries, the nail coating will be stretched as the nail plate goes through its shape shifting.  When the plate reverts back to its normal shape, this can put stress on the nail coating and cause it to lose adhesion to the natural nail and may result in chipping, peeling, or cracking.

There is no black and white answer, since much of this depends on the client’s nails. Thinner or more flexible nail plates will be much more affected than thicker nail plates which aren’t as flexible. This is always why it is so important for nail professionals to understand this type of information. Otherwise, they become a victim of "she said/he said".  This is often just a war of uninformed opinions. It’s better to make decisions based on the facts.”

 –Doug Schoon, Face-to-Face with Doug Schoon Volume 1.

The reason for soaking in the water originally was to soften cuticle. Now that we know the nail plate swells and there are great products available for use to make it easy to lift and separate the cuticle, the practice of soaking in a bowl is no longer needed. If you have been doing a soak, have you ever had a client call and say their nail coating came off in a full sheet? This is very likely to happen in addition to chipping and peeling. If you feel like the tradition of putting the hands in a bowl is necessary to the service then try a warm lotion or oil soak instead. My favorite cuticle product is CND Cuticle Away and my trusty tool to ensure I have all the cuticle off the nail plate is a curette. Hopefully others that have moved away from water soaks will share their favorite product and tool with you as well. I’m including a video to cuticle work in case that helps!

To avoid confusion with pedicures, it is okay to soak the feet for three to five minutes to sanitize them for the service. The toenails are thicker than fingernails and we don’t tend to use them as tools. Once you take the feet out, the water can be used for rinsing; however, it’s not overly desirable to keep the feet in for the rest of the service as the bath is filling up with things like toenail clippings, file dust, dead skin, etc. Please feel free to leave any questions as the more of us there are that understand facts and science, the sooner our industry can get on the same page with respect!

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