Every month, like clockwork, I march into the salon of my go-to nail technician, ready for us to create magic. I’ve been loyal to Aprés Gel-X (soft gel nail extensions) for about three years now, but that doesn’t mean my mind won’t occasionally wander. As someone who is rarely ever seen without a vibrant gel manicure or intricate art on medium-coffin Gel-X nails, I’m always looking for cool, inventive ways to spruce up my claws. According to a fellow co-worker, dip powder nails deserved my attention.
I was riddled with questions, mainly, “Is it safe for my nails?” which were, at that point, in serious recovery mode. A quick Google search led me to one of the best salons in New York City, which offers the procedure Snow Fairy Nail Spa. I went to see what all the hype was about.
To start, Anna, one of the nail technicians in the salon, removed all the nail polish from my nail using acetone. Next, she pulled out her electric buffing machine to smooth out any rugged areas on my nail and create a clean canvas for the powder to stick to. After cutting and shaping my nail—I opted for an oval shape—and pushing back my cuticles, it was time for the fun to begin. Anna brushed on a primer, then swiped on a clear polish. While there were an array of powder colors to choose from, I kept it simple with nude.
To my surprise, the dip powder manicure process was fairly simple: Anna dipped each finger into the clear, finely-milled powder, brushed off the excess powder, set it with a clear protective polish, and repeated these steps until my nail was fully coated and hardened. After applying OPI’s Freedom of Peach, Anna sealed each nail with a gel top coat and placed my hands under a fan dryer. The process took about an hour and a half in total, and for $51, the manicure was still in tip-top shape after a week of fumbling through my handbag for my keys, typing on my laptop, and washing my hands around the clock.
“But is it healthier than gel manicures?” you’re probably wondering.
“They are similar in that both provide an extra layer of protection to natural nails,” says licensed nail technician Harli G. “Dip nails don’t require UV/LED light and are typically a much quicker process to apply from start to finish. However, gel nails tend to look a bit more natural on the nails than dip powder.” Are you ready to switch to dip? Here are a few things to consider.
Can you DIY dip nails?
While nail dip powder seems harmless, they still contain harsh chemicals that pose a health risk. “I would never recommend doing either of these treatments as a DIY at home because, for both treatments, there are chemical products that can harm skin or the nail plate if not properly applied. Even professional-grade products and products marketed for at-home use contain harmful chemicals, so it’s just safer to go to a professional for both gel and dip treatments,” Harli advises. When in doubt, err on the side of safety.
How long do dip manicures last?
As a result, nail dip manicures can be cost and time effective. “For busier clients, dip powder is a great option as they last three weeks or longer, depending on the level of at-home care after the manicure,” Lily, a nail technician at @zilythenailbar, tells us. This is almost twice the longevity of your standard gel manicure.
Do all salons offer dip powder?
Check your salon before you make an appointment. “A huge risk for dip nail manicures is sanitation. It is incredibly unsanitary for multiple clients to dip their fingers in the same container of powder. Even pouring the product over multiple clients’ nails and allowing the product powder to fall back into the container is an easy way for nail infections to be passed between clients. If you notice techs applying the dip powder in either of those ways, leave and go to a different salon,” warns Lily.
Can you get dip extensions?
For years, people have gravitated towards acrylics to achieve long nails. Dip powder still allows nail techs to extend the nail’s length. In fact, “dip powder is more lightweight than acrylic, which allows it to wear and tear better and last longer,” Lily shares. Once the nail tech adds fake nail tips, they will file the nail down to the requested shape, and then use the “dip” technique to apply a thin layer of colored powder to the nail.
How do you remove dip manicures?
Dip manicures can be harsh on your nails—to minimize the impact, don’t try to remove your manicure yourself. “With all nail enhancements, there’s a risk of your nail plates becoming dehydrated and brittle. The removal process is crucial. In my experience, most issues with poor natural nail health result from nail enhancements, particularly dip nails, and stem from attempts to DIY removal at home. It is always safest to go back to the salon and have a licensed professional remove any product for you,” Harli emphasizes. We know picking at a manicure is tempting, but it’s just not worth the health consequences, plain and simple.
How should you take care of your dip manicure?
Outside of your manicure, being thoughtful and gentle towards your hands goes a long way. “Excess exposure to chemicals such as those found in household cleaners can lead to weakened enhancements or brittle natural nails. I always recommend wearing protective gloves to protect the enhancement, your natural nails, and the surrounding skin from weakening, which could lead to painful breakage. Restoring hydration after the treatment and during the wear time will help you avoid any mishaps from dip powder enhancements. Try to apply cuticle oils and high-quality moisturizers multiple times a day,” Harli suggests. We all know how important moisturizing is, so ensure your hands get the same treatment. Thankfully, we’ve done the research for you. Behold, the best nails serums on the market:
Beauty Commerce Editor
Nerisha is the beauty commerce editor at ELLE.com, covering all things beauty (and fashion and music). She has a penchant for sneakers and nude lip glosses, and spends way too much time re-watching 90s sitcoms.