Everything You Need To Know About Dry Manicures

Dry Manicure: What You Need To Know Before Getting One

Have you ever been disappointed by how quickly your gel manicure starts to peel off? It's probably because you're getting the wrong type of manicure. Keep reading to find out what a dry manicure is, the benefits of getting one, and what's involved in the process. If you love to be pampered, this nail care service is for you!

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What's a Dry Manicure?

A dry manicure (also known as a Russian manicure or e-file mani) is a nail treatment performed without soaking the hands in water. Other liquids such as cuticle softener and acetone (for gel polish removal) are also avoided. Special nail drill bits are used to push back the cuticles and buff away dead skin from the nail plate. This creates a smooth and clean surface to apply nail products such as hard gels, soft gels, and acrylic. 

The Main Difference Between a Dry and Wet Manicure

Manicures and Pedicures

One of the first steps of a traditional manicure involves soaking the hands in a bowl of warm water. This helps to soften the skin and cuticles. Some salons may also add things like soap, cuticle removers, and essential oils (for aromatherapy) to the manicure bowl.

As the name implies, dry manicures (also known as waterless mani's) don't use water to soften the cuticles. Instead, the nail tech uses an e-file for cuticle work.

For pedicures, the same applies. However, some professional nail techs like to end a dry pedi with a relaxing foot soak to enhance the salon experience.

Gel Polish Removal

Many nail salons remove soft gel nails by soaking them in acetone. To remove gel polish using the dry mani method, no soaking is required. Instead, the nail tech uses an e-file with specialized bits to buff off the gel. 

What Are the Benefits of a Dry Manicure?

Flawless Cuticle Care

When cuticles (dead skin) is dry, they are white. However, when your hands are soaked in water, cuticles become clear. During a water manicure, this makes it difficult to notice dry skin around your cuticles.

By keeping the hands dry, a nail tech can easily see and nip off any excess cuticles and hangnails. They also rely on a variety of cuticle bits designed especially for gently pushing back the cuticles and polishing the skin.

Polish is Applied Closer to Cuticles

With the help of specialized drill bits, the cuticle areas are free of dead skin cells. This means gel nail polish and builder gels can be applied much closer to the cuticles.

Polish Stays on Longer

On of the main benefits of dry manicures is how long they last! Soaking nails in soapy water causes the nails to absorb a lot of water. This prevents gels from sticking to the nail plate properly, leading to it peeling back prematurely. 

Healthy Nails and Skin

Many gel clients have made the switch from wet to dry mani's because of how much healthier their nails and cuticles look.

Soaking in acetone during gel or acrylic removal dehydrates the nail plate, and skin around your nails. Overtime, this could lead to the chipping and peeling of the natural nail, and hangnails.

Gel Polish Dry Manicure & Removal Guide

This is what a typical dry manicure process would look like:

Gel Polish Dry Manicure 

  • Trim and shape nails.
  • Use an electric nail file for cuticle work.
  • Buff nails.
  • Cleanse nails with alcohol.
  • Apply dehydrator and primer.
  • Apply base coat, color, and top coat.
  • Massage in cuticle oil and lotion to hydrate and plump the skin.

Gel Polish Removal Without Soaking

  • Use a carbide or ceramic bit to buff off the gel polish.
  • Brush off excess dust.
  • Proceed with dry mani or apply cuticle oil and lotion to moisturize skin.

Hey Nail Techs! Are you ready to offer e-file mani’s to your clients? Check out this gel mani e-file bits kit. It has all the nail drill bits you need to create a flawless gel mani!


Nail care has come a long way. People are no longer just looking for a good manicure experience, they are also looking for gel manicures that last long, and are good for their skin and nails. That's why it's no surprise so many people are opting for dry manicures as their nail service of choice!

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About the Author Catherine

As a kid, I discovered the world of Japanese nail art through a magazine and since then, I haven't been able to stop thinking about anything related to nails! After following a more traditional educational path and earning my Bachelor's of Science in Food and Nutrition, I decided it was time to pursue my childhood passion. In 2015, I earned my diploma from Blanche Macdonald’s Nail Technology Program. After that, I got certified with YUMI Lashes and opened Sunday Beauty Boutique in 2017. These days, I'm focused on providing a 'no rush' experience to a select clientele, teaching as a nail instructor at Blanche Macdonald, as well as providing resources on beauty related topics to clients and estheticians on my blog.

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