Natural Nails

Manicure Dilemma: Wet or Dry?

Some nail technicians have abandoned their soaking bowls in favor of heating pads and mitts used in conjunction with warmed lotions, oils, or other “treatment” products. They claim that these types of products do not alter the shape of the nails and offer more moisturizing benefits.

When your natural nail manicure client sits down at your station, is your first step to automatically plunge her hands into a soaking dish? For most nail technicians, the answer is probably yes, but lately, there have been rumblings about whether wet manicures diminish nail polish adhesion.

With the day spa revolution sparking the creation of more products than ever before, nail technicians have plenty of choices when it comes to offering clients the most lasting, healthy manicure for their nails. Some feel that they don’t necessarily have to use a water soak when they have lotions, oils, and heated treatments that moisturize and enhance the experience at the same time.

You’re Soaking in It

Starting the client’s nails in a water-based soak (also known as a wet manicure) has been a manicuring standard that existed even before Madge started doing her famous dish soap commercials. Whether you use water alone, along with a specialized manicure soak, or with aromatherapy scents, many nail technicians agree that is the best way to pamper the client and prepare her cuticles for the service.

Keeping the manicure as natural as possible by using a warm water-based soak to soften cuticles has distinct benefits. “Soaking the client’s nails in warm water opens the pores at the cuticle so that any products you use after can easily deliver nutrients directly to the nails or cuticles,” explains lla Hirsch, president of Beatrice Kaye Cosmetics (Los Angeles, Calif.). “The warm water also stimulates circulation, especially after the nail technician gently pushes back the cuticles.”

Water manicures also have benefits for new clients, inconsistent clients or nail biters. “If a natural nail client has a large amount of cuticle overgrowth, then I will perform a wet manicure because I find that a dry manicure doesn’t soften severely overgrown cuticles enough,” says Cathy Reynolds, a nail technician at Impressions Beauty Salon in Summerville, S.C.

However, some nail technicians point out that water soaked nails do not hold polish as long because the nails may alter in shape. “I tried water manicures in schools and never really cared for them,” says nail technician Dottie Batlineer of Collins Classic Creations in Georgetown, Ind. “I feel as though the water makes the nails expand and flatten.” Once they dry out, the nails then contract. “The polish pulls together and chips off easily,” Batliner says. “Our nails get enough of that kind of water contact from doing dishes.”

Rima Kitsko, a nail technician at Spoiled Rotten Nail Studio in Indianapolis, Ind., says she notices this expanding and contracting happens with her clients who have longer nails: “On a longer nail, the free edge seems to change shape after soaking during a wet manicure.”

“I won’t go back to wet soaks because I have learned that water lessens the life of the polish job,” says Donna Rodriguez, owner of Alley Way Nails & Tanning in Stroudsburg, Pa. “Polish always stays on at least one week without chipping if I perform dry manicures.”

A dry manicure is essentially a service during which no continuous soaking procedure is used to clean the nails or prepare the cuticles. Rodriquez’s dry manicures consist of seven steps: have the client wash her hands; apply a “no wash” hand sanitizer; file and shape the nails, clip hangnails only; apply a cuticle softener/remover and gently push back the cuticles; apply warm lotion for a massage; remove oil and debris from the nails and buff; apply base coat, top coat, and polish.

Terri Taricco, head of the nail division at R.G. Shakour (Westboro, Mass.) says that if the nail technician shortens the period of time the nails soak, the client can have all the benefits of a classic water manicure without compromising polish adhesion “If I shorten the soaking time I virtually double the life span of the polish,” she says. “If you do soak your clients’ nails, use a dehydrator or even a blow dryer to dry the nail plates before you apply polish.”

Hirsch agrees, stressing that nail technicians should stick to standard manicuring procedures. “If a simple manicure takes 20-30 minutes, then the nails should not be in the water for more than 2-3 minutes at a time, which should not be long enough to affect polish adhesion or the nail’s shape,” she says.

However, some nail types are more likely to be affected by any water soaking, especially after longer periods of soaking, than others. “Water should really only affect the shape of the nails if they have been previously traumatized or are in weak or bad shape,” says Christy Banister, education coordination for Seche International (Laguna Beach Calif.). “For instance, if the client uses a nail clipper to trim her nails, the layers of Keratin at the free edge of the nail will fan out. Water can then get in between these layers and affect nail shape and cause other problems.”

However, healthy nails require moisture and Bannister even recommends filing natural nails when they are still slightly damp so that they withstand the action better and are less likely to be damaged.

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