I chew my nails and cuticles. I’ve tried everything to stop over the years but the only thing for me that worked long-term was getting acrylic tips on my nails. This made the nail impossible to chew, and the nail bed thicker so I can’t get to my cuticles with my teeth. For almost four years I’ve been making the bi-weekly trip to my nail salon to get my nails done.
For acrylic nails, there’s a long process that requires drill-style filing of your natural nails and the acrylic nail covering which creates a lot of dust. My technician wears a mask and uses small fans to direct the dust away from us, but it still is in the air. Also the chemicals mixed to make the acrylic coating makes fumes. On top of this, gel polish is a good choice for acrylic nails as it doesn’t chip and can be filed off at the next appointment while prepping the nails for a fill. Gel polish requires UV light to set, which are like tiny tanning beds for your hands. (Update: Salons now use LED lights which are safer and gentler; thank you Jessica for this!)
While I’m improving my health and looks by preventing nail biting, I’m damaging my health and looks with the acrylic nail process. When my acrylic nails were removed I also found my natural nails to be damaged and paper thin, prone to splitting and breaking. So when my nail technician told me about the acrylic dip system I was intrigued.
With the powder acrylic dip process, there are no drills and no UV lights. A base coat is painted on the natural nail, then a clear powder is sprinkled onto the nail or the nail is dipped into a container of the powder (hence the name). Another product is painted on the nail, then the nail is dipped into acrylic powder the color you desire. A second layer is applied, the nail is buffed, then a topcoat added for a shiny finish that rivals gel polish. My salon has dozens of colors in classic glossy shades, others with subtle shimmer, and many with enough glitter to outshine a disco ball.
After 2-3 weeks when your nails have grown, you return to the salon and they remove the entire acrylic product, color and base. This is done by soaking cotton in acetone and pressing it to your nails for about 15 minutes. No file or scraper is needed, a couple rubs with the cotton ball and everything is dissolved and removed. Your natural nail is trimmed and filed to the length and shape you desire. Then the dip/pour process is done completely again. The nail can also be shaped after the acrylic powder coats are applied. This whole process takes less time than the standard time for an acrylic nail fill and gel polish and is comparable in price.
I have now done the acrylic powder dip process a few times and am officially a convert. My nails are MUCH thinner. No weird thick obviously fake nails; most would look at your nails and think they’re natural but they’re still so thick I can’t chew. Since the color is in the powder, the entire nail is coated evenly and it gets all the way to the cuticle without any color getting on your skin. And since the color is in the acrylic powder, there’s no chipping or peeling. For New Year’s Eve I went with silver glitter nails and the glitter was so intense yet shiny and smooth and so easily removed.
Many get acrylic nails to have that strength. The acrylic dip does strengthen your nails exponentially, but they’re not made of steel and I find not as durable as classic acrylic nails. Also if you’re healing from wearing classic acrylic nails, they can only do so much to make your nails strong. My first time, I had three nails within two weeks have the whole acrylic layer chip and break purely because the dip was on pliable paper-thin damaged nails. The breaks happened when my nails bumped against something – the steering wheel when trying to get out of the car and my bag caught on the gear shift, when I went to open a door and the door opened and slammed into my hand, when I tripped and fell into a wall (I’m kinda a klutz). Also, I didn’t wear gloves when cleaning and washing dishes for Thanksgiving (but that will cause damage to any kind of nails). When the dip was removed after the first time, I could already see how much healthier my natural nails looked and loved that the process was pain-free, fume-free, and acrylic dust-free. The second time, I had one nail crack after bumping into a wall (what can I say, I’m a klutz), but the third time and since no cracking, breaking, or chipping within two weeks.
Some salons claim this process is healthy for your nails. I don’t think any coating applied to your nail is healthier than leaving them alone, but it does seem healthier than a classic acrylic nail for both me and my technician. There can be a sanitation concern depending on how the salon applies the powder. Some dip nails into a communal jar of the powder, some sprinkle a bit into a separate container and dip your fingers and toss the residual powder, and some sprinkle directly onto the nails. Some salons will use the drill file on the top layer of the dip to rough it up to get the acetone to penetrate more easily for removal. Some salons are so addicted to the drill they will file down your natural nail; my technician said this is not necessary though a standard file may be needed to smooth down natural nails the first time if the nails are rough from old acrylic damaging them.
I am no expert. My technician says the dip process is not for everyone and to go to the same technician after 10-14 days to assess how your nails did with it to determine if you should continue. What’s great is if it’s not something you like, it’s easy to remove without any damage. But if you’re interested, do your homework and find a quality salon who does this process in a hygienic and gentle manner.