After you remove your nail polish, you can soak your nails for a few minutes. I recommend only soaking your nails for maybe about 30 seconds, no more than a minute. Because your nails absorb the water and they stretch.
As an alternative, I would recommend that you take a really good sugar scrub and remove all of the dead skin from off of your hands. And then as you're washing your hands under the warm water, push back your cuticles. It gives your nail a better chance to breathe and it'll avoid your nail from absorbing too much water. After you do that, dry your hands and then proceed with the polish. I would say shape your nails first and then use alcohol to dehydrate the nail and remove any excess oils and then follow through with a base coat. To soak your hands, you can use a basic manicure bowl or use a small soup bowl. You take your hand and you place it into the bowl, and as I said before, no more than about, say 30 to 45 seconds because you don't want your nail to absorb too much water.
And actually, the main purpose of soaking your hand is soften the cuticles so that you can push them back without hurting yourself. You take them out of the water. This is your opportunity to apply cuticle remover. Push back the cuticles and then only nip away the excess.