Soaking nails in water is outdated.  It is now known that soaking  fingernails in water for any amount of time will cause the nail plate to swell and deform slightly in shape (a bit like a sponge), this is not permanent off course, the moisture will evaporate from the nail.  But if in this time,  the nail is painted or enhanced with acrylic/gel the extra moisture  will affect the adhesion and wearability of the enhancement, causing the acrylic nail to lift and the nail colour to crack, chip and flake off the nail.

It normally takes about 60 seconds for a nail plate to absorb any substantial amount of water. The longer the nail plate is soaked, the more water is absorbed. All of this absorbed water can cause the nail plate to swell and change shape. Why? As the water molecules crowd in between the layers of the nail plate, this lubricates the layers and allows them to slide past each other, while at the same time forcing the layers apart. This results in making the nail plate more flexible and more likely to swell and change shape. The plate could curl up, flatten out or even twist depending on its original shape. This happens because the water content of the nail can increase by 25-30%, but when the nail plates’ extra moisture evaporates  the nail plate will then revert back to its normal shape.

Nail coatings applied to a swollen nail plate can’t be expected to adhere well to a moving surface that’s changing shape. As the plates dries, the nail coating will be stretched as the nail plate goes through its shape shifting. When the plate reverts back to its normal shape, this can put stress on the nail coating and cause it to lose adhesion to the natural nail and may result in chipping, peeling, or cracking.

There is no black and white answer, since much of this depends on the client’s nails. Thinner or more flexible nail plates will be much more affected than thicker nail plates which aren’t as flexible. This is always why it is so important for nail professionals to understand this type of information. Otherwise, they become a victim of “she said/he said”. This is often just a war of uninformed opinions. It’s better to make decisions based on the facts.”

(by Doug Schoon on Face-to-Face)

The reason for soaking nails in the water is to soften the cuticle and the skin at Proximal Fold Fold at the base of the fingernail (also known as the cuticle).  However what we know  now is that the natural nail is porous and will absorb any liquid it has been soaking in for any length of time, which will affect the adhesion of colour and the acrylic nail enhancement.

Personally if the nail has a lot of ‘true cuticle’ skin build up over the nail plate, which does concentrated at the base of the nail around the (Proximal Nail Fold) I’d suggest using a cuticle removing creme.  This helps soften the skin to be removed without needing to soak the nails in water.