Waterless Nail Salon Varnish Lane Opens Thursday

The manicure technology of the future hits Friendship Heights.

Photograph by Chad Stebbins.

Imagine walking into a nail salon ready to roll up your pants and have a good foot soak before a pedicure—only to look around and realize something is missing: the tubs. Yet tubs are exactly what you won’t find when you walk into Varnish Lane, a new nail salon that opens today in Friendship Heights that hopes “waterless” manicures and pedicures are the wave of the future.

Varnish Lane’s mani-pedis are done without submerging any body part in a water-filled tub or bowl. Instead, a technician softens calluses and cuticles with a series of creams and sprays and by wrapping hands and feet in hot towels. Fans of the technique tout it as a healthier experience.

Lauren Dunne and her mom, Carolyn, along with a third Varnish Lane partner, Charles Stebbins, claim there’s less risk of infection when nails are done without water soaks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency have both warned consumers in the past about infectious organisms that can lurk in improperly cleaned foot spas.

Still, the salon offers other perks: iPad Minis loaded with magazines at each of the ten chairs; some 500 polishes to choose from, including high-end brands such as Dior and Chanel in addition to Essie and OPI; and free Prosecco, coffee, and tea. First-time customers fill out a questionnaire that’s kept on file, so the nail techs can check before you sit down about whether you prefer your nails to be square or oval and if you favor unscented or lavender versions of the all-natural, locally made products they use. There’s also an app that allows users to make appointments.

Manicures range from $20 to $40, pedicures $40 to $55. The most expensive include a sugar scrub and paraffin treatment.

Varnish Lane. 5236 44th St., NW; 202-506-5308.

This article appears in the February 2015 issue of Washingtonian.