Changing my Nail Game with Acrylic Powder “Dip” Nails

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My Experience with Acrylic Powder Dip Nails - Wardrobe OxygenI 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 acrylic dip powder 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 dip powder 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 dip powder 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 powder 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 acrylic dip powder 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 acrylic dip powder 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.

What about you? What do you think about the acrylic dip powder process? Do you get your nails done regularly? Let me know in a comment below!


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  1. I know this post is a bit old but I figured I’d ask my question anyway. Do you have the problem of the dip cracking after a few days? It may be that my nails are so weak and bend easily. And I bite my nails and cuticles too and this has made all the difference. I don’t hide my nails anymore.

    1. It will get better. Mine would crack pretty quickly because my nails were so soft and my cuticles chewed off. It was like I could just lightly tap something and the nail would chip or crack and in a week I usually lost half or a whole acrylic topping. But now (I still get powder dip acrylic every 2-3 weeks) they last unless I start futzing with my nails in my mouth (that nail biting habit is hard to break!). Too much water, whether it’s your mouth or washing dishes, will soften the nail and make it more likely that your acrylic will crack or pop off. I now wash dishes with gloves which can keep my manicure looking better up to a week longer.

  2. I’ve been doing my own nail dip at home for a couple of years. You don’t need those expensive kits and 4 different bottles. Just the colored dipping powder, brush on nail glue, and fast drying glue spray. Disenfect your nails, lightly buff, add tips if you wish, lightly buff tip base. Brush on nail glue, dip in powder, lightly brush off excess, and repeat. Brush on a final coat of nail glue then spray with the fast drying glue spray. Buff lightly, then brush on 2 coats of clear polish. To those naysayers about brushing on nail glue.. I’ve been doing this for over 2 years and my nails are very healthy. However, I’m not an expert, so try at your own risk. Also, to get nail tips to adhere quickly and more solidly, lightly dampen (not wet) your natural nail first before applying the tip with the glue. Water reacts with the glue to bond faster.

      1. Any dipping powder brand will do, heck, I’ve even used finely crushed eyeshadow, and instead of dipping you finger into the powder, just sprinkle it over your nail with a spoon.

  3. Both salons where I got dip powder done used the electric drill on my natural nails, I never liked that but always thought that was the process. I’m going to ask them to use a regular file next time. Having that electric file on your nail bed can’t be healthy..

  4. I got my nails done with the dipping powder, and I don’t like how long they are. Can they be cut shorter without needing to dip them again?

  5. After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify
    me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever
    a comment is added I receive four emails with the same comment.
    Perhaps there is a way you can remove me from that service?

    Many thanks!

    1. I’ll be honest I’m not sure how you did that as I don’t have that feature on my site and therefore don’t have a place to remove people from the service. I will investigate and if I ever find something to do this I will take care of it!

  6. I’ve had the powders on now for several months. I love it! My nails have been so pretty. But I had to have one taken off so my doctor could check it for a fungus. My natural nail is in such bad shape. It looks as though the tech has gotten into my nail with the buffer. It is so sore and more tha paper thin. I dont know what to do. I love my nails but am so afraid that all my nails will get this damaged. Please give me some advice! I wish they didnt have to use the electric buffers!

    1. I recommend finding a new nail tech. Powder Dip can be done without the electric buffers. Acetone will take off the old dip without any issue, they can use a file block to smooth any roughness. The only time my tech brings out the electric buffer is when I broke a nail and he’s adding a tip to have my nails even. Good luck!

  7. Can dips be used with tip extensions? I need some length as I bite my nails. Would like extensions without the smelly acrylic/liquid.

    1. Yes they can! I broke a nail and my tech added a tip and then out the powder dip over it. When I came back they wrapped my nail in foil with an acetone-soaked cotton ball and all came off, top and color. He then added a new tip. My tech didn’t charge extra for the tip.

    2. I am a licensed Manicurist in San Antonio, Texas, and to your question, yes you can use dipping powder on to a nail tip or tips. Make sure you prep the nails and once the tip is placed, you will need to file the tip to blend to the real nail. Don’t file too much, you will make an indention in the nail.

  8. OMG this post was SPOT ON perfect for me today. I have had my acrylic nails on for probably the better part of 3 years now and I just took my full set off the other day. I had thought for 2018 I should try to just have my nails be my nails but I too am a nail biter and of course now my nails are SUPER thin. I have an appointment tonight and kept debating if I should do gel polish or a powder dip and now with this handy post I am going to get powder!! Thanks for sharing so in depth because I was nodding my head the entire time. I too am a massive klutz so I’ll be sure to chip something within the next few weeks.

  9. I am looking into switching from gel to powder (I have naturally thin nails/am disabled, so going to the nail salon about once a month is more appealing to me than 2x or more. I even go just for color changes on my toes bc I will pass out if I bend over and have a tremor).
    Anyway, I have been trying to figure out if “fill in” (which costs about half as much as the initial application) means that I have to keep the same color and/or the beat up old nail from before stays.
    I just got my second gel manicure this summer that didn’t last 3 days and I’m ready to lose it. I just want thick nails that stay in place.
    Your post has been the most informative one that I’ve come across so far! 🙂 U am just curious if when they take it back down to the base if you pay for the full set again or if that is a fill in. Or what is a fill in?

    1. When I get my nails done, it’s one layer of clear powder, then two of color. So if you get a straight fill-in, it will have to be the same color or else you’ll have a stripe. I know some salons do actual fill-ins and just add to the new space at the cuticle; my technician takes all the layers off and starts fresh so he can trim and shape the nail before applying product. The nail can be shaped with the layers of powder on, but not cut. Updates aren’t cheaper than the first time for me, but then I don’t do actual fill-ins. However, powder dip is cheaper than acrylics; acrylics cost more initially because you’re paying for the application of the fake tips along with the acrylic and painting process. With powder dip, there’s no tips so it’s the same price each time.

      As an FYI, my nails hardly last 3 weeks because I am super hard on my hands. I sometimes still chew my cuticles, I wash dishes without gloves, I’m a klutz and usually at three weeks one nail has popped off and a couple have the acrylic separating from the nail. Like regular acrylics, you’ll have to be more careful with your hands, these nails are not tools (I need to keep reminding myself of that). I’m getting my nails done this evening, let me know if you have any other questions, happy to help!

      1. That’s really helpful! The place where I have the best gel manicures is super pushy with their sales, so I didn’t want to ask them because they would have them on me before the sentence came all the way out of my mouth.
        And there is a chain that probably has a lot of colors, but the reviews are so mixed.
        And I go to a third place, right beside my house for my toes because it is clean and inexpensive, but I don’t think I want them doing my fingers. And I hate having my toes and fingers done at the same time. It’s not relaxing at all. I will drive to two salons in one day or gonon back to back days to avoid them doing it all at once!
        I only had acrylics once–in 8th grade, for our formal dance. My mom didn’t know anything about them (and neither did I), so she didn’t take me back to have them removed. I pulled them off during English class one day and spent the entire summer before high school with horrible nails!
        I am super careful with my nails, so I might try them 🙂 I keep a towel by the tub to dry them off when I’m not washing my hair. And I keep them short. I have a collarbone that dislocates on a regular basis, so my dominant arm is super weak. I don’t even cut vegetables–my husband does all of the cooking. I put stuff in the washer, but he takes it out, so I don’t pass out, etc. So, there is really no reason for chipping.
        Thanks again for the info! I will try a neutral color the first time, maybe. Something that I could wear a lot. And then see what a fill in looks like. And if I hate it, it doesn’t actually sound more damaging than removing gel, if it is done correctly. 🙂

  10. Can i paint over the dip powder. I got it done today and hate the glitter one i got. Can i cover over with regular nailpolish?

      1. I haven’t done this myself, but I heard that if you buff down the surface to make it just a tiny bit rough, polish will stick better. You just have to make sure that it’s not so rough that you can see the texture through the polish. 🙂

  11. This is great! I’m allergic to monomers (the mono methacrylate) used in acrylic and gel, so I’ve just ordered my first dip kit to try at home myself. Dip kits don’t have any of the irritating compounds that trigger the nail allergy so I can’t wait to have manicures again!

    1. I’ve been doing my own dip nails at home for almost three years, and I LOVE them! I’ve tried SNS, ANC, EzDip, Revel, U2, Jo-Kel, Kiara Sky, Cuccio, Gelish, ASP, Entity, and probably a few more that I can’t remember. (I also know of but haven’t tried Trudip, SlickPour, Nexgen, Nugenesis, and Peppi Gel.)

      The products are totally interchangeable (you can use the powder from one line with resin from another), and I find that there isn’t a huge difference in the product quality or price. So it’s mostly a matter of finding colors you like.

      The biggest downside to the dip powder format is that the final color looks nothing like the powder, and manufacturers’ color swatches can be *wildly* inaccurate, so you can’t always tell what color you’re getting. If you’re getting them done at a salon that has swatches, that’s no problem. But if not (and if fidelity matters to you), Kiara Sky, Gelish, and OPI’s colors are mostly dupes of their lacquer colors, so you can mostly tell what they’ll look like. SNS, Revel, and ANC have the largest color selections, but they’re more of a crapshoot unless you can find photos of them on real nails.

      1. Thank you for sharing your knowledge! I have been wondering about interchanging products. I am new to the dip products and wondering if you have encountered any dulling with the top coat? I used opi dip system for each step except the clear powder layer. My steps were: nail prep, Opi base, 1 coat clear powder (artistic perfect dip), opi base and opi dip color, repeat, applied activator, filed/shaped the nail, applied activator and waited what seemed like 2 min., opi top coat, got dull splotches after waiting for dry time and then proceeded with another layer of top coat with ofcoarse more dull splotches. I think possibly I did not allow the activator to dry long enough? Couldn’t the 2nd activator be skipped? Any thoughts you can share would be appreciated, thanks.

        1. I think you might be waiting too long to apply the second layer of top coat, actually. For most systems, the manufacturer tells you to apply the second top coat immediately after applying the first top coat on all 10 nails. You should not wait for the first top coat to dry.

          And definitely don’t skip the second activator step. The activator’s job is to harden the resin in the base and top coat. The first coat of activator hardens the base, and the second coat helps the top coat harden. (When I have forgotten the second coat of activator, I also get a splotchy result, and it takes forever to try.)

          If you still have trouble, try a shorter wait after applying the second activator. I haven’t timed it in a while, but I think I usually wait about a minute. The trick is that you want to evaporate enough of the activator that it doesn’t harden your brush, but still leave enough on the nail to harden the top coat.

          (And if you do mess up, file off the top coat layers once it’s hardened, then start over from the second activator step.)

          I hope that helps!

          1. What is the clear powder that is put in first? Do all of the systems have a clear powder?

          2. The clear powder is totally optional, but useful. You can:

            1) Put a layer of clear over the color, so you don’t accidentally file the color too thin while you buff. (Also good for protecting ombres and other art designs.)

            2) Apply extra layers underneath the colored powder for extra strength, or to create more curvature in the surface of the nail. (The pro tutorials I’ve seen on this use a “natural set” translucent color, but clear works as well.) You can also just do extra layers of colored powder, but depending on the color you may see the layers.

            3) If you prefer to file it off instead of soaking it off, putting down a clear base layer makes removal easier. You can just file off the color, and leave the clear layer in place, then apply your new color over it.

            4) If you like frequent color changes, but still want the strength of the dip powder, you can dip in clear or natural set, and apply the polish of your choice. ( I don’t do this myself, but I’ve heard that polish lasts longer on and enhancement then on a natural nail, because it’s more rigid.)

            So short answer, you don’t need clear powder, but it’s worth getting some once you decide that this method is for you.

      2. Jess, my nail tech has recently started doing the dipped powder nails. After she puts the 2 coats of top coat on the top coat becomes cloudy. Do you know why this is happening? Do you think when she is smoothing the color with a file that she is filing too much? She is putting a regular nail polish top coat on to remedy the problem but she is trying to figure out why it’s turning cloudy. I’m just trying to help her solve this mystery. She is using the OPI DIPPING POWDER SYSTEM. THANKS!

  12. To be fair, most salons use LED lights now rather than UV to cure gel polish. It works faster and is safer.

    1. The LED lamps still emit UV rays. They’re just faster than the older UV bulbs. So they don’t prevent UV exposure, they just shorten the service time. (To limit UV exposure, you can get gloves that cover all but your fingertips.)

  13. I am glad you found something that works. I have stopped going to the salon for my nails. It seems a bit extravagant and because I have so many extravagances I let this one go. I still go a few times a year for pedis because my feet look pretty bad in sandals otherwise. I am lucky because my nails look good naturally short and clean. I am a contact lens wearer and I scratch my eye when the nails get too long.

    Pro tip for taking out contacts at night; remove contacts before brushing teeth. I have done the reverse and don’t like it when my eyes become minty-fresh.

  14. I have been having a gel polish manicure twice a month for almost 5 years now. It makes me feel pretty. They rarely chip, and if my nails didn’t grow out so fast I know it would last even longer. It’s my one splurge. I’ve had a few people in my life be passive-aggressively judgmental about it. My manicurist is a local female businesswoman who keeps an immaculate, well ventilated shop. She takes good care of me and my nails.
    I wear every polish color under the rainbow, but 50% of the time my nails are red. I just had them painted icy pink with a glitter top coat. It’s freezing here in Minneapolis, so a little extra sparkle is a good thing!

        1. Thank you! I livee so near by there, but have never tried that shop. I will for my next gel for sure. Stay cool!

    1. I’ll try to get some after I get them redone this week. I wrote this with the glittery disco nails that are in need of being redone, didn’t think it was a good selling point. But I’ll try to update this weekend and will leave a comment when i do so you know when they’re up! 🙂

  15. I do biweekly gel polish (CND brand). I have literally no problems with gels, although some are slightly more difficult to remove than others; my nails beneath the polish look fine (I use a nail mousse/hydrating product twice a day). My salon uses a non-acetone remover and you do soak in it, but it’s not as damaging to the nails. My salon does not do acrylics, only gels or regular polish. No drills and only crystal files. I love how my nails look with gels because the manicure lasts for two weeks. With regular polish, they only last about 7 days. I’m glad you have found a product that works for you. So much better to have nice looking nails, plus healthier for your hands.

  16. I am so glad to see you write this post because I have the same issues you do with biting nails/cuticles, kept the acrylics on for the same reasons you did…was so happy I finally had pretty nails but for many reasons stopped about 6 weeks ago. Is the Powder Dip Nail the same as a Gel nail? Approx. how long do you spend every few weeks when you return to the salon? I did try doing the gel nail polish on my own but my nails are so thin and weak they just broke off and there was I was back again biting them…and now they look horrible and I have to do something. I bought the awful tasting “no bite” polish to at least let them grow in enough to have something for a technician to work with…so anxious to hear your thoughts on what I should do…thanks in advance

    1. Powder dip is different from gel nails. The powder is acrylic, and the color is infused into it. It’s thicker than gel polish, an actual layer onto your nails with the color built in. I had my nails done the week after Christmas and haven’t been back though likely will go today or tomorrow because they’re getting a bit too much gap between the cuticle and color and feel long. Two weeks is comfortable for me. As for the time at the salon, with the traditional acrylic I’d schedule 2 hours, but this is less. A bit more than an hour, time more dependent on how stubborn the nails are at getting off with the soak which can take 15 minutes but sometimes especially the thumbs can take a bit longer.

  17. I did do the “dip” nails for a time, but…….the salon I went to would just drill down your top layer and then “fill” the growth. They never removed the “dip” process completely. I now wonder if that salon was doing it wrong all this time…….

    1. Fills are totally normal. (I’ve seen several manufacturers’ pro tutorials, and they all cover how to do it.) If you’re not changing colors, it’s a great option: faster, uses less product, and doesn’t require acetone exposure.

  18. I live in Michigan and had never heard of this technique. While in Dallas for my daughters wedding last month, the bridal party and us “moms” all went to a salon to get mani/pedis and I had them use this dip system. I loved everything about it. I am going to call around to some local salons and see if I can find one that uses it here where I live.

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