Dip vs Acrylic Nails: Which Is The Better Manicure?

Which is better, dip vs acrylic nails? I’ve been a regular at my neighborhood nail salon for years. Experimenting with acrylics, gels, and extensions is my thing. So, when dip nail powder manicures first hit the scene, I tried one right away. 

Although powder dip and acrylic nails are almost identical in appearance, I quickly noticed that they have a lot of differences. Their cost, staying power, and the process for putting them on (and taking them off) vary. 

If you’re considering trying out either (or both) of these manicures, here’s what you need to know. 

Is dip powder or acrylic better? 

A dip powder manicure gives your nails a more natural appearance. A dip powder manicure does not need time under UV light to harden and dry quickly. Dip nails are significantly stronger and last longer than acrylic nails.

Acrylic nails are a nail enhancement for lengthening short or fragile nails. Acrylic nails also work as a deterrent to help quit chewing your nails.

While both artificial nails offer a protective coating for the natural nails underneath them, certain acrylic nail glues include harsh chemicals and toxins that may harm your nail beds.

One of our favorite dip nail kits is the Kiara Sky French Starter Kit. Check out our in-depth review of our favorite nail dip powder kits.

Dip powder vs acrylic

Acrylics are often used to lengthen or extend your natural nails vs a dip powder manicure which is used to substitute traditional nail polish or gel nail polish. Dip powder can be applied to natural or artificial nails.

Dip nails have to be replaced every 4-6 weeks, while acrylics can be filled as your nail grows.

To help you out I created a table to show how these two manicures compare to each other side by side.

ComparisonDip PowderAcrylic
Non-toxicYes ✅No 🚫
Simple to apply and removeYes ✅No 🚫
Feels more naturalYes ✅No 🚫
Looks goodYes ✅Yes ✅
AffordableYes ✅No 🚫
DurableYes ✅Yes ✅
Freeform sculpt nail shapeNo 🚫Yes ✅
Liquid glueNo 🚫Yes ✅
LongevityNo 🚫Yes ✅
dip vs acrylic manicure comparison table

What are dip nails?

Dip manicures, also known as Signature Nail System or SNS nails, are created by either dipping the nail in colored powder or brushing dip powder over the nail until it reaches desired thickness. The look is sealed by applying a clear polish sealant made of cyanoacrylate, the same active ingredient as Super Glue.

The dip nail aesthetic mimics the appearance of a faux acrylic nail and can last for up to a month without chipping.

Three key ways dip nails differ from acrylics

Dip vs Acrylic
  1. Dip nails use a nail resin vs liquid nail glue
  2. Dip manicures don’t extend the length of your natural nails
  3. Acrylic nails can be used to extend the length of your nails.

What are acrylic nails?

Acrylic nails are synthetic nails that use the combination of two components, a monomer like MMA or EMA and a polymer powder, to create their shape and style.  

When a nail technician applies these two compounds to their client’s nails, the acrylic hardens and becomes significantly more durable as time passes. After that, it can be polished and filed to your specifications.

Acrylic tips are plastic or acrylic nail extensions that are glued to the tip of the natural nail to give it length. Acrylic extensions are usually made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or Methacrylate.

Is acrylic dip the same as dip powder?

No. Even though acrylics and dip powders include similar polymers, they are not the same.

In contrast to acrylic, which requires a strong-smelling liquid monomer like MMA or EMA, dip powder is activated with odorless nail resin and glazes.

What about acrylic powder?

While dip powder is made similarly to the acrylic system’s powder, it’s more refined, finely milled, and created specifically for the dip powder system’s resin.

Dip vs gel nails

Dip powder nails are different from gel nails entirely. Gel vs dip powder nails are created using a liquid gel that is cured by UV or LED lamp.

Application of dip vs. acrylic nails

Dip vs Acrylic

How dip nails are applied

  • Choose the nail color and a base coat is applied to your nails.
  • Your nails are dipped a few times in a silica-based powder with a dust-like texture.
  • Your nails are then coated with a topcoat. 
  • After the powder has dried, you can decorate your nails with nail art and accessories.

If you want to give yourself a gel manicure, it’s very easy to do so long as you use a quality gel nail polish and have a UV lamp.

How acrylic nails are applied

  • Your nails are first sized using plastic nail extensions before being placed at the tip of your nail bed. 
  • After the extensions have been glued in place and have dried, the nail tech will use a liquid mix to fill in the gaps between your natural and artificial nails. 
  • The nails are then buffed and smoothed using a nail drill.
  • After that, you’ll finish with a top coat.

If you want to learn how to do your own acrylics, check out our article on “How to Do Acrylic Nails at Home.”

Is dip powder easier to remove than acrylic?

Most individuals are unaware that the removal process is equally as vital as the application in maintaining the integrity of the nail plate.

Because dip powder contains cyanoacrylate, a nail adhesive that is more susceptible to solvents, dip nails are more straightforward to remove than artificial nails.

After soaking in acetone, the dip powder should easily come off. In some cases, your nail tech will use an E-file to remove any remaining dip color.

If you are wanting to remove your dip nails yourself I strongly advise against using an e-file as it is very easy to over file and cause damage to your nail plate. For a full step-by-step guide check out our article on “How to Remove Dip Nails.

Acrylic nails are slightly harder to remove yourself. If you’ve gotten acrylics and are not planning on going into the salon for a refill check out our article on “How to Take Off Acrylic Nails at Home.”

Are dip nails safer and less damaging to nails?

Some people think dip powder nails are safer to use than any other nail enhancement. This is because dip nails don’t use any smelly acrylic liquid, so they won’t stink up the room or trigger allergies where it’s used.

Having said this, I personally don’t believe dip nails to be less damaging. This is because many nail techs still use an e-fil to remove dip nails and damage to the nail plate is not uncommon as a result.

Acrylic liquids originally included methacrylate monomers (MMA), later shown to be an allergen. Eventually, it was replaced by a safer EMA acrylic liquid ethyl methacrylate. Both chemicals have a strong, eye-burning smell that may make it hard to breathe when it’s inhaled. Dip nails avoid this entirely.

Is a dip manicure considered unsanitary?

A dip powder nail appointment usually involves one of two techniques: either dipping each finger into the same jar of powder (often several times) or having the color applied with a brush by nail techs.

The former raises significant concern about sanitation, although both methods entail dipping into the jar frequently.

Because nail technicians are unlikely to discard every jar after a single use, the powder might get contaminated with bacteria and cause infections. 

If you go for a dip, make sure the nail techs aren’t dipping your fingers into the powder many times. Painting the powder using a brush is more hygienic.

Do acrylic or dip nails last longer? 

The longevity of dip nails is one of its considerable advantages. While acrylic nails typically last two to three weeks before requiring a salon touch-up, dip nails can last up to four weeks.

When compared to gel manicures, dip nails also stay on a lot longer.

Keep in mind that the longevity of dip nails can vary depending on the dip powder system and the expertise of the individual nail technicians doing the manicures. I personally like the Kiara Skye and OPI dip powders because each has a huge color selection and the colors are super saturated.

Lifestyle factors also impact your manicure longevity.

Which looks the best?

acrylic nails
Acrylic nail extensions with French tip nails

Dip powder is more flexible and natural-looking than acrylic. Dip powder combines the best of both worlds: it lasts like acrylic but comes off like gel polishes, and it doesn’t need UV light to cure. It’s also less abrasive than regular acrylic nails. They also don’t stop your nail’s natural growth. 

Many women’s nails last three, four, or even five weeks of use with dip powder.

Acrylic or powder dip nails: which feels more natural?

You’ll most likely notice that the dip powder application is thinner than the acrylic application if used correctly. 

Despite this, dip powder has the same design and strength as acrylic, and the light structure gives it the appearance and feel of natural nails.

Unlike dip nails, conventional acrylic nails can feel awkward and more like a false extension of your actual nails.

Are dip or acrylic nails cheaper?

A regular dip powder manicure costs between $30 and $50 on average. Acrylics are usually more expensive. They cost roughly twice as much, depending on the region and salon.

Of course, the intricacy or the nail art you choose with impact these numbers.

Which type of nail extension is best?

Acrylic nails are ideal for nail extensions since they can be used with both nail tips and nail forms, giving you more options when building out.

You can also smooth out nail surface irregularities and bumps much easier with acrylics. Not to mention freeform the shape of your nails easily.

Dip powder may be used to extend the length of your nails, but only when combined with acrylic nail tips.

Dip or acrylic, which will you try?

Dip vs Acrylic
Dip nails in alternating colors

Now that you have the deets on dip nails vs. acrylic nails, you can confidently take your pick the next time you hit up your local nail salon.

When it comes to determining which is best for you, the key points to remember are that dip nails are more natural-looking, safer, and easier to remove. The process is much faster than acrylic nails, and they cost about half the price.

While the acrylic nail technique can leave more of a lasting impression and lengthen your nails, it’s significantly more time-consuming and, with its harsh chemical adhesives, may harm your nail beds. 

So, will you experiment with dip powder nails? Acrylics? Or be bold enough to try both?