Should Your Manicurist Be Soaking Your Nails in Something Other Than Water?

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Unlike most women who look forward to their routine manicure appointments, I, for one, find getting my nails cut, shaped, buffed and painted to be more of an annoyance as opposed to 45-minutes of sheer relaxation. It’s not that I don’t like how my nails look post-mani—I do, so much so that I often take pictures of my freshly lacquered digits to share on social media because nothing looks better than perfectly polished pinkies. It’s just the multitude of steps involved that leaves me restless and ready to race out of the salon.

I often peruse the web during my appointments or chat it up with manicurist, Penny. On my most recent visit, I got entrenched in a tangle of pictures and debate posts about the right way to do a manicure and why your technician should not be bathing your fingers in water but instead something else.

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Waterless manicures are nothing new. In fact, Dermelect Cosmecuticals co-founder Jodi Lavian says they actually started being offered back in the late 90s. “The concept is to take the step of soaking your nails in soapy water out of the manicure and substitute that step by utilizing heat and/or essential oils,” she says. While I’ve had water-free manicures before—only once did I accuse the manicurist of not knowing what she was doing because, obviously, this was back in my pre-beauty editor heyday—I have to admit my hands had never been softer.

There’s a downside to the conventional, H20-based manicure. Since nails and the surrounding skin are very porous, submerging them in water forces the nails to expand. “Soaking may seem like a great way to prep the nails before a manicure but it can actually cause the layers of the nail plate to expand, leaving them prone to splitting and peeling,” says Londontown director of education Monika Garcia. Plus, waterlogged nails are rarely fully dry. “The manicure is applied and the client goes home. When the nails eventually completely dry, usually within 24 to 36 hours, they contract and that’s where the problems begin,” explains Lavian.

Right now, the waterless manicure focuses heavily on incorporating lotion and pretty much any other intense hydrator—oils are used, too. Just slip your fingers into a cereal-sized bowl of thick, skin-dampening cream or lotion to hydrate the skin and nails without causing nail plate expansion. Celebrity manicurist Jin Soon says that her manicurists use warm milk with honey powder as a way of softening the hands. Another way to do it: apply a cuticle softener to the nail bed, like Dermelect Revital Oil Nail and Cuticle Treatment ($14) to hydrate sans water or lotion.

The water-free manicure isn’t exactly a time saver nor is it necessarily cheap. Lavian says that these services are more in line with spa manicures and could cost as much as 35 dollars opposed to a salon manicure that will only set you back 15 dollars or so. But, if you don’t want to go the route of gel, or my personal favorite, NexGen (a dip powder system), this may be worth the splurge. Plus, your manicure will lasts just a little bit longer so you can stretch out your appointments. Try it next time, we promise it won’t disappoint.

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