Have you ever been to the nail salon and seen another customer dipping their nails in pots of colored powder? Have you seen dip kits in the stores and wondered what they were?
This article is here to help! We’ll take a deep dive into the world of dip manicures, including how to do them, maintenance, and removal. Keep reading to learn more.
What is a dip powder manicure?
The dip manicure has become extremely popular as a salon and in-home treatment to produce strong, beautiful nails. Also known as SNS nails, a dip manicure uses a colored powder sealed with a protective outing coating. The result is a manicure that is both more flexible than the average manicure but also incredibly long-lasting. The best dip manicures are known for lasting up to a month before you start to see any chipping.
The dip powder is either dipped into or brushed on and made from a polymer. This polymer is extremely strong yet flexible in comparison to a gel manicure. The formula is also more lightweight than acrylics, allowing them to handle daily wear and tear much better.
Types of dip powder systems
When it comes to dipping manicures, there are two main types; solvent and resin.
Solvent-based dip powder systems
The first type of kit we’ll look at is solvent-based systems. Activator systems are similar to superglue to hold everything together on your nail.
In solvent-based systems, you do as many layers of base coat and powder as needed to achieve the opacity you want. After you have the nails you want, apply a layer of activator. The activator will wake up the “glue” in the base coat layers and melt everything together to make a perfect manicure.
- Dries quickly
- Strong and durable
- It may have a strong odor
- It can be more damaging to the natural nails
- Contact dermatitis from chemical ingredients in the dip manicure system
Resin-based dip powder systems
The other dip system has a formula that uses resins to seal in the powder. Instead, if using a specially formulated base coat and activator, resin dip systems use thin layers of resin in between powder coats to build up the opacity. The same resin can then be used to make a glossy top coat.
- More flexible
- Less damaging to the natural nails
- Less likely to chip or peel
- It may take longer to dry
- It may not last as long
Preparing for a dip manicure
In this next section, we’ll go over how to prepare your nails for a dip manicure, whether you are going for an appointment at your favorite salon or DIYing your nails at home.
Nail care before your appointment
Before you head off for your appointment, we’ll take just a couple of moments to talk about how to prep your nails for your appointment.
First, if you already have a manicure on, do not try to remove it yourself unless you know how to do so properly.
If you have bare nails, then the best practice is to keep them clean and moisturized. Daily cuticle oil can do wonders to keep your nails healthy between appointments.
Importance of sanitization for dip manicures
Sanitization is always essential for any salon, including any tools or surfaces used by the technician. Dip nails come with another layer of sanitation concern.
As one mode of application is to dip your nail into the powder, be sure that your technician is not dipping your nail into the communal powder pot. Rather, they poured a little powder into another container for you to dip your nail. A nail tech may also opt to brush on the powder instead.
Choosing the right length and shape for your nails
Length and nail shapes are completely a personal choice. Some might love the elegance of longer nails, while others may find that long nails are constantly getting in their way or maybe a hazard for their job. Your best bet is to talk to your nail tech about your options.
Understanding the design options with dip manicures
Since you are dipping your nail into a loose powder, you are limited in the type of nail designs you can do. Solid color and some color blocking are both great options. If you want nail art, your nail tech will need to draw them on with a traditional polish after the dipping process.
Alternatively, dip nails are a break time to break out rhinestones or stickers.
Choose a color and design that matches your skin tone
If you have no idea where to start picking a color, try going for something that compliments your skin tone.
The dip manicure process
This section will cover the step-by-step process when getting a dip manicure.
Step-by-step process of applying dip powder
- As with any manicure, cleaning and prepping the nails is the first step. This includes pushing back your cuticles, filing your nails into shape, and using a filing block to rough up your nail surface for better adhesion.
- Apply a bonder to your nails.
- Apply a thin base coat.
- Dip nail into powder. Either tap your finger on the pot or brush to remove any excess.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 as often as required to reach desired opacity.
- Apply a final layer of base coat.
- Dip the nail in the finishing powder.
- Apply activator.
- Once the activator has dried and the nails have hardened, file the nails into the final shape. You may want to file down the thickness of the nail as well.
- Wash your hands and use an alcohol wipe to clean any dust from your nails.
- Apply the activator and allow it to dry.
- Apply sealer.
Tools and materials for a dip manicure
Here is a short list of tools and materials that you’ll need for a basic dip manicure. This does not include any specialized tools for things like nail art.
- Nail files
- Nail trimmer
- Cuticle trimmer
- Rubbing alcohol
- Lint-free wipes
- Bonding liquid
- Base Coat
- Finishing Powder
How dip powder is applied to the nail
When doing a dip manicure, you start with a bond builder to prep the nail. You then do alternate layers of base coat and powder until you have the coverage you want. Finish up with another layer of base coat, a finishing powder, an activator, and finally, a sealant.
Tips for a smooth and even application
The main thing to remember is that powder will only stick where the base coat is applied. Apply the base coat in even strokes only on the nail bed.
You must also knock off the excess powder in between dip layers.
Drying and finishing process
One of the most important aspects of a dip manicure is waiting for the activator layer to dry completely before moving on to the top coat. The activator turns your manicure from layers of base and powder into a solid manicure.
Between layers of activator, you can file down your nails, including the thickness, into what you want for the final product. After filing, you can finish with a final activator layer and a top coat.
How to take care of your dip nails
This section will take a quick look at how to take care of your dip nails.
How long do dip manicures last?
If taken care of, a dip manicure can last up to a month.
How to make your dip nails last longer
As with any manicure, they will last longer if treated well. This includes using cuticle oil daily and wearing gloves for tasks that might chip or soften them, like manual labor or the dishes.
Importance of avoiding water and harsh chemicals
Nothing will break down your nails faster than exposure to water and chemicals. When we say water, we mean submerged in water for several minutes. This is why wearing gloves for activities with your hand in the water is recommended, like doing the dishes.
The same can be said for chemicals. If you’re cleaning your house, we recommend wearing gloves to avoid any chemicals from softening your manicure.
How to moisturize your nails and cuticles
The first step to moisturizing your nails is to find a good cuticle oil. Once you have one, you can brush a little onto your cuticles and use your fingers to rub the oil in.
As a secondary step, use a good quality hand cream regularly. This will further help to keep your nails and cuticles moisturized and healthy, which will help maintain your manicure for longer.
When to return for a touch-up appointment
This very much depends on the wear and tear of your nails. Dip nails are known for lasting up to a month, so some people may be fine with monthly appointments. On the other hand, some people might find they need to go every three weeks. If you have a regular nail technician that you go to, we recommend talking to them about a follow-up appointment so that you can get the option best for you.
How do you remove dip powder nails?
You need to take care when removing dip nails so that you don’t damage your natural nail bed beneath. This section will walk you through how to do that.
How to safely remove dip powder at home
If you can’t make it to your next appointment or you did your nails at home, you’ll want to know how to remove dip nails safely.
Dip manicures are thick, and even pure acetone will not be able to penetrate through your manicure. So you’re going to start by filing the top layer of your manicure away to get the powder as thin as possible:
- Use a nail file to gently remove the dip powder
- Avoid filing too aggressively
- Take your time and be gentle
Once you have your manicure as thin as possible, it’s time to soak your nails in acetone. This will often be what’s left of your dip manicure, so the rest should slide right off.
- Soak cotton balls in acetone.
- Place the cotton balls on your nails.
- Wrap your nails in aluminum foil.
After a few minutes (up to fifteen), you should be able to remove the foil and cotton ball. If the manicure was soaked long enough, it should slide right off. If some are left behind, you can use an orange stick or a file to gently remove what’s left.
Avoid peeling or picking at the dip powder
You must use the steps above to remove your manicure and not try to peel it off. Since most powder systems are essentially superglued, peeling them off can seriously damage your nail plate.
How much do dip nails cost?
Let’s look at the cost of getting a dip manicure.
The average cost of dip powder nails
Depending on where you go, the average cost can be anywhere between $20 and $50. This price does not include a tip and does not include any additional services you might get, such as removing old acrylics or dip nails.
How long do dip powder nails typically last?
Dip nails can last up to a month if well taken care of. On average, two to three weeks is a reasonable expectation if you’re less careful.
Factors that affect the longevity of dip powder nails
Several factors go into how long any manicure will last. Common ones include:
- The health of your nails
- Daily routine
- The use of cuticle oil
- Genetics (A naturally oily nail bed may not hold on to a manicure as long)
Pros and cons of dip powder nails
Now that we’ve explained what a dip nail is and how to get them to, let’s look at some pros and cons.
Pros of dip nails
- Last longer than other manicure types
- No UV light needed
- Simple application
- The powder is super pigmented
Cons of dip nails
- Allergic reactions like contact dermatitis as a result of ingredients like formaldehyde found in some dip systems
- Sanitation risk if improperly applied
- Damage to the natural nail plate if improperly removed
Dip manicure vs. other types of artificial nails
There are four main types of manicure systems, gel, acrylic nails, dip, and traditional lacquer. Of the four, dip nails are one of the most long-lasting. However, there is no way to lengthen the nail with dip powder so you would have to get gel extensions or acrylic tips first before finishing your dip manicure.
Are dip manicures sanitary?
They can be. The important thing to remember is that you should not be dipping your nail into a communal pot in a salon. Either dip your nail in a small pot of powder that was poured out just for you (and will later be discarded), or your nail tech should brush on the powder.
Precautions and safety measures
This final section will review some safety measures for dip nails.
Sanitization and hygiene practices
The main thing to remember is that you should not be dipping your nail into a communal pot in a salon. They should either pour a small amount of powder into their container or brush on the powder.
Importance of choosing a licensed and experienced nail technician
As with any manicure, it is always important that your nail tech is well-trained to avoid any issue with sanitization so that your health is not at risk. A reputable nail tech will also be able to give you the manicure and remove it without excess damage to your nail.
Precautions to take during the application process
There are two main things to watch for during application. One that you are not dipping your finger into a communal pot of power for sanitary reasons. And two, that you brush the base coat only on your nail in a thin, even layer.
Possible health risks associated with dip powder nails and how to minimize them
You can minimize any health risks by having your dip nails applied by a licensed technician and by only dipping your nails into a small personal pot or brushing on the powder.
Dip nails FAQs
Here are a few common questions that came up about dip nails.
Are dip nails better than gel?
Both manicures have their place, but dip nails are known to last longer.
Are dip nails better than acrylics?
Dip vs acrylic, which is best? Dip nails are more flexible than acrylics and last longer, but dip powder cannot be used alone to add length to your nails. For an in-depth look at acrylics check out our guide to acrylic nails.
Do dip manicures ruin your nails?
So long as you apply and remove them properly, dip powder does minimal damage.
Can you fill in dip nails?
Yes! A fill is often the gentler and faster way to fix an old manicure for follow-up appointments.
Can you DIY dip nails?
Plenty of places offer full dip powder nail kits that you can use at home.
Can you get dip extensions?
If you need extensions, a nail tech can apply a nail tip before using the dip system.
How often should you take a break from dip nails?
It is good to give your nails a break every few months with any manicure.
Key takeaways on dip manicure
In conclusion, dip powder nails can be an excellent option for enhancing the appearance of your nails. You can enjoy long-lasting, beautiful dip powder nails by being informed and working with a trusted nail technician. Still, it’s important to understand the process, aftercare, and potential risks before deciding.
Kim is an expert, with over 7 years in the nail art and makeup industry. She is an avid DIY nail artist and now contributing writer at BeautyStack.