What Are Dip Powder Nails? The Benefits, Cost, and More

brown manicure


Where gel polish and acrylic extensions have had their time in the spotlight, we think it’s time dip powder nails get the same attention. If you’re one to get caught up scrolling through Instagram’s top beauty posts or are mesmerized by oddly satisfying videos on Tik Tok and YouTube, there’s a good chance you’ve witnessed a dip powder—also referred to as SNS—process at some point in your life. But, what makes dip powder such a worthy nail choice, you might ask?  To determine that, we chatted with two nail pros for the rundown on all things dip powder nails. Ahead, find out why dip powders are worth a try—including their biggest benefits and drawbacks.

Meet the Expert

What Are Dip Powder Nails?

Dip powder nails—also called SNS nails—are a hybrid between gel nail polish and acrylic extensions that involve "dipping" the nail into a carton of pigmented powder. The powder is then topped with a clear sealant for a longer-lasting manicure.

Board-certified dermatologist and nail expert Dr. Dana Stern adds to this, noting that dip powder nails, while currently trendy, aren't some new-fangled nail technique. Rather, they've been around since the '80s and are comprised of a gentle-yet-effective glue paired with acrylic powder. 

How Does Dip Powder Work? 

Whether you're getting your nails done at the salon or doing them yourself at home, Aaron says the process takes special care and attention. Each salon varies slightly in technique, but you can expect the following steps to be true of most nail salons (and at-home dip powder kits):

  1. The nails are prepped: "Before starting any manicure, you must ensure the nails are prepped by cleaning and freeing the nail plate of any dirt and oils," Aaron says. This is also where you should push your cuticles back, clip any hangnails, and buff the surface of the nail plate.
  2. Bonder is applied: Once you've cleaned and prepped your nails, Aaron says you may apply a bonder so that the product can adhere to the nail plate and lessen the chance of lifting.
  3. Base and powder are applied: "Brush on the base just as if you were polishing your nails," Aaron instructs, noting to go one nail at a time. Once you've applied the base coat to a single nail, dip the nail in the dipping tray of powder and repeat on each nail, brushing off any excess. You may want to re-dip your nails two to three times based on your desired opacity and color intensity.
  4. Wait a few minutes, then apply a topcoat: "This step is to dry and harden the product," Aaron says. "You should wait two to five minutes before beginning to shape and file nails after applying the activator. After you shape and file your nails to your desired look, apply a topcoat."

Aaron says that some dip powders are thicker than others and may only need two dips per nail, with a new coat of base between each. "Normal-length nails may be dipped two to three times," she says. "For nails with more length, you may dip the nail three to five times. For longer nails, your first dip should start at the apex (the weakest point of the nail where you would like the arch)."

The Benefits of Dip Powder Nails

"The benefits of dip powder nails are that they are more durable, last longer than gel polish, and can easily be done at home," Aaron explains. "I have found myself telling clients that if you can polish your nails, you can easily do the dip system."

  • No curing with UV lights: Once you finish your dip powder nails with a layer of top coat, you don't have to cure your nails with UV lights (as is the case with gel nails).
  • Easy to do at home: There are several complete at-home gel nail kits available for use at home, and the manicurists we've tapped agree that if you can paint your nails with polish at home, you can do dip powder nails at home.
  • Lasts up to a month: Dip powder nails last a long time. When done properly by a professional, you should expect your nails to remain chip-free for up to a month. When you DIY your dip, you can expect your mani to last about two to three weeks.
  • Endless color choices: With the boom of dip powder nails, companies scrambled to provide a wide array of color choices, just as you would have with traditional nail polish. You shouldn't have trouble finding powder shades to replace your favorite lacquers.
dip powder nails


The Drawbacks

Here’s where things get a little tricky. Depending on who you ask, the drawbacks of dip powder nails vary greatly. 

  • Can look bulkier than regular polish: If too much powder goes onto the nail, you can quickly find yourself with a very thick, bulky look. This can be avoided by tapping the excess powder off of your nail before applying sealant.
  • Hygiene issues in some salons: If you're getting your dip powder done at a salon, your nail technician shouldn't actually "dip" your nail into the powder pot, as dipping everyone’s nails into the same jar of powder could be a means for infection and other sanitary issues. Instead, your nail tech should brush the powder directly onto your nail or pour powder from the pot into a Dixie cup for single use (this is wasteful, so most salons use the brush-on method).
  • Some people are allergic to dip powder: The bonder used for dip powder nails is often a monomer, and according to Stern, monomers are common allergens and can cause irritation along the nail beds.
  • Removal can damage nails: Lastly, removal can be a pain. While Aaron says that a simple soak-off should do the trick, Stern says that if 10 to 15 minutes of soaking isn’t doing it, then damage is more likely to occur to the nail, as filing will be necessary. 

Dip Powder Nails vs. Gel Nails

Aaron doesn't think dip powder is better or worse for your nails than gel. Gel nails and dip powder nails last roughly the same amount of time (some manicurists argue that dip powder manicures last longer, but it depends on the client). "The most important thing to remember when it comes to nail care is how you take the product off," she says. You never want to pick or peel your dip powder off since you'll rip away layers of keratin from the nail plate. "Instead, gently file the top coat of your nails with a classic nail file and then soak them in pure acetone (not nail polish remover) for 15 minutes," says nail technician and nail health expert Evelyn Lim.

Removal aside, Aaron does point out that there's a difference in application, as gel nails require a UV lamp. "My selling point to upgrade clients to dip from gel polish is that unlike gel polish, there will be no bending to the nails, which cause cracks to gel polish and sometimes even breakage to the nails," she shares.

Dip Powder Nails vs. Acrylic Nails

"For clients used to acrylic nails, I only suggest dip powder when it's time for a new set," Aaron says. "So when soaking off for a new set, I begin the consultation by first looking at the condition of the client's nails and asking: Do you want to keep your natural nails, and if so, at what length?" Then, depending on their answer, Aaron will recommend dip powder, as it's typically gentler than classic acrylic.

How Long Does a Dip Powder Manicure Last?

Dip powder nails can last anywhere from two weeks to a month, depending on how hard you are on your nails (and how willing you are to deal with your nails growing in a bit at the base), according to Aaron. If you do your nails, this is great because it means less time dedicated to a gorgeous nail look. And, if you get your dip powders done, it means less money in the long run because they don’t require as much maintenance.

SNS pale pink dip powder manicure with yellow diagonal stripes


How Do You Remove Dip Powder Nails?

"Gently file off 85% of the product with a 180/100 grit file and then soak your nails in pure acetone for 15 mins," says Lim. "Use an orange wood stick and buffer to remove product. Repeat if necessary." If the dip doesn't easily flake off from there, don't force it. Picking and peeling at your dip powder is a recipe for disaster and can cause serious damage to your nails.

Is Dip Powder Safe For Your Nails?

Overall, yes. As mentioned in the drawbacks section, there are pros and cons to every nail treatment. In addition to what was mentioned there, Aaron says that the one thing she strongly recommends when considering dip powder is to evaluate the health of your nails first. When DIY-ing, you never want to dip into a fresh pot if you have any sort of nail fungus going on. What’s more, she says not to share your powder with other people in your household unless you’re pouring it into their own separate container. This will nix the likelihood of any infections arising as a result.

The Final Takeaway

Dip powder nails are incredibly popular for a reason. They're more durable, last longer than gel polish (up to a month), and can easily be done at home (they don't require a UV lamp). Plus, they are incredibly easy to remove. But it's worth noting dip powder nails have a few cons. They can look bulky if done incorrectly, be unhygienic if salons don't follow proper protocols, and potentially trigger irritation (the powder contains monomer, a common allergen). Regardless, dip powder nails are worth considering when thinking about your next nail look.

  • How often should you get dip nails done?

    Like any nail service, back-to-back dip powder use can weaken your nails, so it's best to give your nails at least a week of recovery between services (and even more time in-between if you notice your nails are brittle, peeling, or chipping).

  • Can you dip short nails?

    Totally. You can use dip powder on any nail length, including short natural nails. If you are looking to grow your nails out, however, you might want to avoid dip powder, acrylic, or gel nails—constant exposure to acetone during the removal process can compromise the health of your nails.

  • Can you add length with dip nails?

    Similar to gel and acrylic nails, you can add extensions to your dip powder set. "I typically like to use the dip powder on natural nails however this system can also be used with extended nails (such as with tips, but not with forms)," says Aaron.

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