Washing Hands Before Polish

washing-hands-and-polishIn this article, you’ll learn

  1. How long to wait to do a manicure after washing your hands.
  2. How to clean the nail plate before applying polish.


Hello, I was just wondering, I know that you say don’t apply nail polish about an hour after having your nails in water, but is having a cleanser that takes off dirt, dust and oil bad? I use alcohol swabs that are used for prior to needle injections and I was looking at the ingredients. One of them was water; granted, the only ingredients other than water was isopropyl alcohol. I was just curious if that was bad or it was all right to use. ~Sincerely, Madison


This is a great question and you are not the only one who is confused.

My mentor, scientist, and author, Doug Schoon says in Nail Structure and Product Chemistry, that nails need one hour of drying time if exposed to water for more than one minute.

How does this work if we want to wash our hands before starting a manicure?

If the nail plate is immersed in water for more than 60 seconds, enough water could absorb into the nail plate in some cases (e.g. damaged nails), to make a significant difference in the water content of the nail plate. Even so, regular hand washing is NOT likely to significantly add water to the nail plate. Studies demonstrate that many never wash their hands for more than 5-10 seconds, but health authorities recommend 20 seconds. I recommend asking clients to carefully and thoroughly clean their nails with a clean and disinfected nail brush, before sitting down at the nail table. ~Face to Face with Doug Schoon, Volume 1

I think the most important thing to pay attention to is how do your nails feel and look after washing your hands.

Are they the same as before you washed them? Or do you feel that your c-curve has relaxed?

If your nails have relaxed, it means your nails have absorbed enough water to potentially affect polish adhesion.

I talk about this in a lot more detail in my Chipped Polish From the Shower article

Cleansing The Nail Plate

Using rubbing alcohol, pure acetone or a nail primer (dehydrator) is very important to achieving a good nail polish to nail plate bond.

Just be sure that the cleanser that you use doesn’t contain any “moisturizing” ingredients like oils or glycerine.

Those will create a film on the nail plate that doesn’t play well with polish. You will experience lifting and chipping.

If any of those products contain a little water, it is nothing to be concerned about.Washing Hands Before Polish

When I’m cleansing my nail plate with rubbing alcohol and a lint-free pad, I swipe so quickly that it only removes surface dust and oil.

Hope that helps!



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