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3 reasons why you should opt for a waterless manicure


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There’s something about a professional mani-pedi that feels positively luxurious. You don’t have to worry about polish straying outside your nailbed (just me?), you get multiple massages, and for that one hour you’re prohibited from replying to work emails (and, really, doing anything else that requires laboring with your hands).

But those tubs of water used to soak your hands and feet are definitely not chic—in fact, they could actually be sabotaging a lot of things, from your own health to that of the planet.

For these reasons, Los Angeles-based non-toxic and eco-friendly nail spot Can Can Parleur offers only waterless services, and its founder urges you to make the same choice both at home and in the salon. (New Yorkers, Van Court is an awesome no-H2O option near you.)

“There is zero benefit to using water in a manicure,” claims Carolann Shapiro, the salon’s owner. “Nothing is nourishing your skin or nails—if anything, it’s a liability. When you break it all down and also look at what it’s doing to the environment, it just doesn’t make sense.”

So what is a waterless manicure, exactly? At Can Can Parleur, instead of wallowing in those questionable baths, your hands and feet are wrapped in essential oil-laced hot towels and buffed with a sugar scrub. Sounds pretty divine to me, but if you’re still not convinced, Shapiro has a few shocking facts that’ll likely have you saying, eau hell no.

Keep reading for 3 big reasons you should make your next mani-pedi a waterless one.

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1. You’ll be protected from harmful bacteria and infections

You know that due diligence you practice with cleaning your dishes (ahem)? That’s not exactly how things always operate in nail salons—manicurists have to get to the next customer, after all.

“There are so many possibilities to get bacterial or fungal infections from cross-contamination,” says Shapiro. “A lot of salons don’t have the time or the staff to clean their tubs or bowls. More than 70 percent of women have fungal infections in their nails, and the majority of the time it’s due to this cleanliness issue.”

If a nail tech somehow nicks you and you put your finger back in that bowl, the chances of getting an infection increase, adds Shapiro. (Eek!)

Forgoing the water soak is one way to avoid this sketchy scenario; at Can Can Parleur, technicians also use anti-fungal and antimicrobial oregano and tea tree oils to prep the nail bed, giving you an extra layer of infection protection. (Do try this at home.)

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waterless manicure
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2. It’ll help the environment

A gallon of water can make a huge impact on the world—especially when you consider how many gallons are going to waste in nail salons everywhere.

Shapiro has seen it firsthand as a business owner in California, a state that’s been going through a severe drought.”You use approximately 15 gallons for every manicure and pedicure combined,” she says. “Water’s a precious commodity for us. As consumers and business owners, to not be held accountable for the waste of water is a huge injustice to Mother Earth.”

And given recent political developments, the environment needs all the help it can get from us right now—just sayin’.

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waterless manicure
Photo: Stocksy/Carey Shaw

3. Your polish will last longer

Ever notice how your nails feel weaker after taking a bath? You’re not imaging it—and this fragility actually makes it harder for polish to affix to your digits.

“Your nails are already one of the most porous parts of your body,” explains Shapiro. “So water—especially before a manicure—doesn’t allow polish to stick as well as it could.” She’s noticed that her clients’ manicures last a solid three to four days longer when they don’t soak beforehand.

If you’re worried about your cuticles, use essential oils to soften them instead of water. “Just make sure you remove all of the oil before applying polish,” Shapiro says. Now, the hardest decision you’ll have to make is what kind of nail art to get.

If your toenails are a mess, your workout might be to blame. Here’s how to get them back into shape. You can also try rehabbing tired tips with this two-day polish cleanse from LA’s Olive & June salon.