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What Is A Dry Pedicure?

by Gabbi

The image of a traditional pedicure has been engrained into the minds of people all over the world. It’s cushy and luxurious, often involving hours spent at the salon partaking in probably one of the most accessible forms of self-love out there. In short, it’s a pamper treatment that everyone should participate in at least once.

But have you heard of an up-and-coming form of the pedicure that’s changing the game for both the client and the technician? That’s right, there’s more than one way to get a pedicure done, and though the change may seem to be minute, its benefits are drawing the attention of beauty enthusiasts all around the world.

So, what is a dry pedicure? A dry pedicure is a pedicure done while the feet are completely dry. Keeping the process entirely water-free may seem to be a strange way to go about getting your toenails done, but it’s actually considered to be the future of the pedicure process, coming with a list of benefits that outweigh the cons.

In spite of its growing popularity, it’s fair to say that the majority of the world doesn’t know what a dry pedicure is. We’ll break down all the ins and outs of a dry pedicure and more in this handy article.

Differences With Traditional Pedicures

When you step foot into a professional nail salon and ask for a pedicure, the first part is pretty uniform regardless of where you go. You’ll be led over to a big, cushy chair, and left to soak your feet in a foot spa full of warm water. This process of soaking the feet is said to make it easier to remove calluses and dry skin.

For many, this part of the process is extremely important, and it would feel rather strange to have your nail technician skip out on it altogether, but that’s exactly what the dry manicure process does! It cuts out the process of soaking and eliminates the need to wet your feet entirely. 

Though it may sound like an easy enough process to grasp, when you think about it, it does seem a bit unorthodox, especially in a professional environment. However, people who do their nails at home may rarely ever soak their feet before a polish application, so it isn’t as strange or ineffective a method as people may make it out to be. 

Here’s the main thing to keep in mind: professional nail salons that offer the dry manicure experience don’t just go at your calluses and cuticles while they’re in their bare state.

They’ll find a sort of water alternative (don’t worry – we’ll break this down too) to make the process easier for you, while still avoiding the need to fill up that foot spa with water. 

Benefits Of A Dry Pedicure

As strange of a method as it may be, there is a growing list of benefits that are having clients come back again and again asking for this approach over the traditional manicure! Let’s break down some of our top reasons:


How much time do you have to carve out of your weekly social/work/leisure schedule to book an appointment at your nail salon? Depending on the complexity of your design, you may have to find a 2-hour window every couple of weeks in order to keep your feet in tip-top shape!

So many supporters of the dry pedicure love the process because they find that they can get it done during their lunch breaks at work. That may sound absolutely unfeasible, but it does make sense!

A lot of the process of getting your toes done isn’t spent with the actual process of painting, but rather waiting for your feet to soak. Regular pedicures can just take too long!

This cuts 20-25 minutes out of the entire nail process, not to mention drying times! If you’re constantly on the go and have a busy schedule 90% of the time, maybe it’s time you try out the dry pedicure and see how good of a fit it is in your hectic timeline!

Callus Friendly

As we previously mentioned, there’s a common misconception about the fact that calluses and dry skin need to be softened before your nail technician (or yourself) goes at them with exfoliating tools. 

Softening the calluses with water, surprisingly, actually makes them even more difficult to remove than going at them dry!

By softening the skin, you actually make it harder to find the calluses and dead skin that need attention and depending on how long you’ve soaked your feet, it may be increasingly difficult to gauge how much attention your build-up needs. 

Eliminates Callus Recurrence

By cutting out the soaking process and water altogether, your nail technician will be able to place full, unadulterated focus on your calluses and dry skin. By properly attending to the issue, they’ll be able to handle it to their fullest capacity. 

If you’ve ever tried using a pumice stone in the shower, you’ve probably found that your feet feel silky smooth while they’re wet, but find that they’re actually still callused and thick once all the moisture has evaporated. It’s the same concept, just professionally!

Nail Polish Lasts Longer

Now, this benefit is a great one! Pedicures cost more than just time; they cost your hard-earned money, and if there’s anything that we can do to ensure that you get the most bang for your buck, you can bet we’ll let you know about it!

By soaking your feet, you soften the toenails by unprecedented amounts. Yes, this may make it handy for your technician to cut your nails down to shape, but all that moisture may be doing a ton of damage to your nails!

Not only could this lead to eventual ripping (especially if your nail tech uses a file), but that excess hydration could actually keep any polish that you use from properly adhering to your nail, and this includes gels. 

Your nails need grip for the polish to effectively stick, and the water from soaking could prevent that – not to mention, it could compromise the vibrancy and formulation of your nail polish choice overall. 

Preserves Nail Shape

Soaking your feet for long periods of time actually changes the shape of your toenails temporarily. The moisture from the water adds to the increased flexibility of your nail, and makes them seem flatter and longer than they might be when they’re dry.

That may not seem like too detrimental of an issue at first, but when it comes to shaping and polishing, it could make a big difference. You or your technician may cut nails too short, inappropriately shape them, or apply too much polish in order to work for (what looks to be) your nail’s natural shape.

You won’t notice any mistakes or issues until your natural nail dries entirely, leaving you with a pedicure that looks less perfect than it did while you were in the chair.

Are Dry Pedicures More Hygenic?

If we had to pick a single lifestyle choice that we’re thankful for becoming more normalized, it’s acts of thoughtful self-care, and making the conscious decision to do things that are good for you. Healthy eating habits, healthy sleep cycles, healthy…pedicures?

Dry pedicures are actually more than just a time-saving technique! They’re actually the more hygienic choice

We trust our nail technicians to do a great job with designing art, but very rarely do we think about the cleanliness of their workspace and the tools they’re using on us.

You wouldn’t ever allow a doctor to use the same tools they used on another patient with you, and the same mindset should go for your salon visits as well.

Yes, we’re talking about the foot spa. Though your salon may be diligent about changing out water or the plastic that lines the body of the tub with each customer, you should always take their words with a grain of salt, especially if it’s your first time at a new salon. 

Waterborne bacteria and pathogens are very real, and can wreak havoc on your feet from just a single ill visit. Bacteria travel through water at crazy rates, and with your pores open from the warm water and massage jets, they have a one-way pass into your delicate skin. 

Getting rid of that need for water not only limits the number of shared tools you come into contact with, but it prevents other people from getting troubled by bacteria or pathogens you may unknowingly be carrying as well. It’s a healthy choice, not just for you, but for fellow nail enthusiasts that follow suit.

Are Dry Pedicures More Eco-Friendly?

Another trend that we love seeing on the up and up? Eco-friendly decisions! Our planet can always benefit from making environmentally friendly decisions, and those choices are accessible all throughout the day, from taking shorter showers to opting for a dry pedicure!

The crazy thing about getting a pedicure done is how much water waste comes with the experience. In just a single visit to the salon with a traditional pedicure, you can be using up to 15 gallons of water.

It’s such a high number, and almost unbelievable to wrap your head around, because it definitely doesn’t feel like it’s that much while you’re in the chair. 

Going waterless saves that water to be used for a better cause, and reduces your own water footprint, even if it’s just that 15 gallons you save every couple of weeks (and if you’re a nail salon regularly, think of all the water you’ll be saving overall). 

Waterless Pedicure

If you’re convinced that you need to try out the experience that is the waterless pedicure, we couldn’t be more excited for you! However, while the basics of the pedicure are the same, the overall experience may be a bit strange to undergo, so here’s what to expect once you’re in the chair:

  1. Your feet will be cleaned. Going about this without the traditional pedicure experience may be strange, which is why we recommend looking into the reviews of the salon to ensure it’s a trustworthy experience! With a dry pedicure, it’s likely a cleansing wipe will be used, but it depends on the salon.
  2. Your skin will be hydrated– but not wet or dampened. This is done with a lotion that is focused on the areas of your feet with the most calluses or build-up to add surface-level hydration to make it easier to “break into” the callus. It won’t compromise their ability to work into the build-up at all, so you’ll get a deeper removal. 
  3. Specialized tools will be used. The tools traditionally used during a pedicure, like files, nippers, and pushers, may be too strong or aggressive to use on your dry feet, so expect your nail technician to have special tools that are made to handle skin in its dry state. If they don’t have these, or use the same tools as they would during a classic pedicure, don’t hesitate to end the appointment altogether as these tools could harm your feet.
  4. Polish is applied as usual. Once the feet are prepped, the polish process isn’t any different! There are no specialty polishes that need to be applied, and the best part is that, due to cutting out the middleman of water, your feet will be ready for polish in no time flat.

If you’d like to see the process in action, here’s a video tutorial from Erica’s Dry Manicure + Pedicure on YouTube.

Downsides Of The Dry Pedicure

Though there are a ton of benefits that come with the dry pedicure, there are some minor cons that may hinder you from wanting to try one out:

As we talked about earlier, you likely have a “picture” of the perfect pedicure in your head that includes the twenty-minute soaking at the start.

It’s standard practice, and one more easily accessible to people around the world. Due to this, you may not feel that your pedicure experience is “complete” after trying out the waterless alternative.

There’s also the question of how luxurious it feels to get a dry pedicure done. A majority of the reason why people consider pedicures to be a pampering treatment is because of the soaking process and what comes with it.

Cutting out the experience of the foot spa makes it seem like less of an “experience” and more like something that you can do yourself. 

The biggest downside, however, is accessibility. Unfortunately, the waterless pedicure is yet to be something offered in every single state, much less every single town or individual salon. Though it’s gaining popularity in traction in big cities like New York and Los Angeles, it may be a while until we see it being offered everywhere.

Because of this, you may only be able to treat yourself to a dry pedicure during a vacation or trip, that is, until the time comes when it’s offered at your local salon.

Related Questions

How long does a dry pedicure take?

A dry pedicure appointment takes considerably less time to complete than a traditional pedicure, though it depends mainly on the complexity of your toenail polish designs.

Most people opt for simpler, solid shades on their toenails which cuts down appointment length as well. Expect to be in the chair for 30 minutes to an hour for dry pedicure appointments.

How long does a dry pedicure last?

As we mentioned earlier, dry pedicures are much better for the longevity of your polish since water doesn’t compromise the polish formula or your nail’s ability to grip onto the pigment.

If you’re going for a classic polish, a dry pedicure can last 3 weeks with proper care. For those who like gels, you can expect your polish to last up to a month with a waterless pedicure!

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