Everything You Need to Know About Waterless Manicures

Skipping the H2O helps save your enamel (and water consumption!)…

This post comes to you from beauty contributor, Kari Molvar.

Sometimes it’s what you don’t add to a beauty product or ritual that makes it better for you. Case in point: waterless manicures. By holding the H2O at the salon or at home, you can prevent your enamel from drying out and preserve the life span of your polish with the added bonus of cutting down on water consumption while you’re at it (win!). Ruth Kallens, the founder of the super chic Van Court Studio in New York City, has been offering water-free manicures since she first opened her minimalist nail space in 2015, and in many ways, helped pioneer the technique that’s now being picked up by salons all over. “When water is used in manicures, the nail plate absorbs the water and after the nail polish is applied, your nail plate continues to dry under the varnish, causing your nail to contract,” she says, going on to explain that this “causes pre-mature chipping and splitting.” And who wants that?

Below, Kallen breaks down how to do a waterless mani at home, which happens to be super easy. Just start by picking out a non-toxic shade. Kallen’s favorites for spring?  “I love nude, light grey, white, and mauve-y-pink,” she says. “RMS’s Magnetic is super hot. RMS’s Beloved is a classic red for all seasons. And Smith + Cult’s Stockholm Syndrome is one of the chicest mauve/greys ever.”

Now here’s how to master the mani…

DIY Waterless Manicure Steps:

1. If you have any nail polish on, remove it with acetone-free polish remover, and then apply a liquid cuticle remover to soften and exfoliate dead skin.

2. Use an orange wood stick or cuticle pusher to gently push cuticles back. (If you want, you can carefully use cuticle nippers to safely remove any excess dead skin).

3. Now’s the perfect time to rub on a hydrating or anti-aging mask.

4. Wipe away any debris on the nail with a bit of nail polish remover to cleanse and prepare the nail plate.

5. Use nail polishes that are 5-free or higher and apply a base coat.

6. Apply two thin coats of the color of your choosing.

7. Apply a thin layer of topcoat.

8. Sit and wait! Once nails have dried a bit, apply your favorite nourishing oil to the cuticle and massage into hands, being careful not to smudge the nails.

9. Feel free to finish with your favorite moisturizing lotion or balm.


+ What are your thoughts on going waterless? Let us know in the comments below! 


  1. Seems like a polish change which I enjoy a lot as I don’t like when my cuticles are cut. Also polish changes are cheaper than manicures. They still include cutting and filing the nails so your nails will look great.

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