The waterless, or “dry,” pedicure emerged as an answer to the widespread problems surrounding unsanitary foot services in the early 2000s, according to Suzanne Foote, executive director of the International Pedicure Association.

Although new sanitation guidelines and raised awareness now regulate the issue, many nail technicians still prefer this pedicure alternative. Salons that are passionate about the waterless pedicure have found creative ways to perform them, gaining loyal clients as a result. Here are some tips, tricks, and additional information to better inform your clients and to make their experience with waterless pedicures as lavish as possible.


  • It’s an excellent service for clients with certain medical conditions (like diabetes) where foot soaking isn’t recommended.
  • Many nails techs have found that polish lasts longer when styled over drier nails.
  • The service doesn’t require an investment in expensive equipment such as pedicure chairs.
  • The only water used is to steam the towels; water isn’t reused.
  • You’re less likely to spread fungus since there’s no still water and new towels for every client.
  • You don’t need a lot of salon space to perform waterless pedis.
  • It takes less time to set up than a traditional pedicure.


  • Impress your clients with warmth. Try using warming lotion, warm booties, and hot towels.
  • Steam towels with an electric heating pad, slow cooker, or microwave.
  • Since there’s no soaking, look for ultra-moisturizing callus softeners containing urea.
  • Add luxury by increasing service length. Aim for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Include a leg and/or arm massage.
  • Improve presentation (and sanitation) by using portion-controlled trays for products.
  • Offer extra amenities like neck wraps and eye covers.
  • Have clients lie back instead of sitting for more relaxation.
  • Try making it a private service using a back room.
  • Make a physical menu to give clients options and show them it’s a well-developed service.
  • Consider including refl exology if you’re certified.
  • Add essential oils for extra fragrance.
  • Offer clients an iPod with music customized for the service.


  • There’s a lot of laundry to do when you’re using between two and six towels per customer.
  • Clients might have an initial misconception that they won’t be getting a “full” service.


  • Look for towels in discount stores. (The good thing is that towels stay in good condition for a fairly long time.)
  • Make sure you’re giving your clients the right bang for their buck with extra offers in the ambiance, details, and/or cost of the waterless service.
  • If a client seems hesitant, offer a free or discounted service if they’re not satisfied afterward.
  • Follow through with retail products that support home-care and ensure repeat visits.
  • Don’t forget to explain the ways in which you keep your waterless pedi sanitary.


Bonnie Rios, education ambassador, CND (Albuquerque, N.M.)
She created a menu of waterless pedi services with fun, ­marketable names like “Caribbean Get Away.”
Favorite products:
CND Spa Manicure and Pedicure Systems, CND Scentsations

Suzanne Cox, nail tech, Salon at the Highland (Cedar Park, Texas)

“Honestly, I rarely do ‘wet’ pedicures at all anymore and don’t miss them!”
Favorite products:
CND P.E.P products, CND Marine Spa­Pedicure Products, and OPI Pedi Products

Melissa Try-Ramos, cosmetologist/assistant manager, Untangled Salon and Spa (Northumberland, Pa.)
She offers reflexology as an add-on, and clients recline on a facial bed.
Favorite products:
Gena Pedi Septic, CND Earth Warming Scrub, Lotus Touch Moisture Rich Massage Cream, Biotone Polar Lotion, essential oils, CND Solar Speed Spray

Terri Work, owner, The Pampering Place Day Spa (Wheatridge, Colo.)
Ninety percent of pedicures she performs in her shop are dry and clients lie on a heated table.
Favorite products:
Footlogix, self-developed products


As the assistant manager of Untangled Salon and Spa, based in Northumberland, Pa., Melissa Try- Ramos believes it will serve the nail tech well to have clients in a reclining position for their waterless pedicure. Clients enjoy the added luxury and nail techs don’t have to bend over. She also allots a minimum of 45 minutes per service and gives a thorough massage.

1. Spray the client’s feet with Gena Pedi Septic. Prep the nails and then apply cuticle remover.

2. Buff the feet (the pad of the foot, side of the foot, heel, side of the big toe, and any callused area). Then push back and trim cuticles.

3. Exfoliate the feet (from toe to ankle) with CND Warming Scrub.

4. Wrap a steamed towel around each foot and then a dry towel around that.

5. Remove the towels and clean off all of the excess scrub from the feet. Pat dry the feet.

6. Apply a small amount of lotion to each foot and massage for three to fi ve minutes per foot. Try-Ramos blends Lotus Touch Moisture Rich Massage Cream with Biotone Polar Lotion and essential oils for her massages.

7. Wrap a folded steamed towel around each foot, leaving the toes exposed. After a few minutes, remove the towels, dry the foot off slightly, and then clean the nails with acetone.

8. Buff the nail plates with a buffing block, and then apply pedi slippers and toe separators. Cleanse the nails and start polishing.


Suzanne Cox is a nail technician at Salon at the Highland in Cedar Park, Texas. She prefers waterless pedicures because she's found that the polish lasts longer and the client's skin and toenails don't swell up the way they do with a soak. She believes it's important to go above and beyond the typical pedicure and spoil clients in order to make the service as luxurious as possible.

1. Analyze your client's feet, remove existing polish, and then trim and file her toenails.

2. Apply CND Cuticle Away to each toe to soften the cuticles.'

3. Then work the cuticle area with a metal pusher.

4. Massage the client's feet from their toes up to their knees with whatever product meets their individual needs. COx usually mixes scrub and massage lotion together. You can file the callus areas either with massage lotion on or dry. 

5. Use either hot or chilled towels to wipe your client's legs, feet, and toes. Next give a light rub from the toes to knees with an invigorating lotion and essential oil. Make sure to cleanse the nail plates before polishing. 

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