I'm an acrylic full-set girl through and through. Every two to three weeks, I march into my local nail salon with a collection of nail inspiration pictures, ready for my nail tech and I to create magic. But, after spending hundreds of dollars each month on full sets and gel manicures, my love affair with the services left me with cracked, fragile nails.
Then, a co-worker mentioned dip powder nails to me. As a self-professed beauty lover, I pride myself on staying on top of the latest fads in the makeup, hair, and nail world but I had to admit defeat—I never heard of the trend and was eager to find out what it entailed.
I was riddled with questions, mainly, "Is it safe for my nails?" which were in serious recovery mode post-acrylic. I Googled the best salons in New York City that offered the procedure, and took a trip down to Snow Fairy Nail Spa to see what the hype was all about.
To start, Anna, one of the nail technicians in the salon, removed all nail polish from my nail using acetone before pulling 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 instead of my usual squoval—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 (pink, nude, purple, etc.) my heart was set on the pale orange shade I saw upon arriving at the salon so I chose to go with that.
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 protective clear 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 round the clock.
"But is it healthier than gel manicures?" you’re probably thinking.
"They are similar in that both provide an extra layer of protection to natural nails," says licensed nail technician, Harli G, the nail mastermind behind the nail art account @nailsbyharlig. "Dip nails don't require UV/LED light and are typically a much quicker process to apply from start to finish. Gel nails tend to look a bit more natural on the nails than a dip powered enhancement, so I prefer gel manicures."
Before you speed over to your nail salon to test the manicure out for yourself, Harli suggests you consider a few things:
You probably shouldn't try this at-home.
"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 harming chemicals, so it's just safer to go to a salon for both gel and dip treatments."
Unlike regular manicures, dip powder treatments can last up to a month.
"Dip manicures are supposed to last 3 weeks, but they may even last up to a month or more depending on the level of at-home care after the treatment is applied."
Many salons don't carry the treatment due to sanitation concerns.
"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."
Your natural nail can become really fragile.
"Not only that, but as 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 are a result of nail enhancements, particularly dip nails, and stem from attempts at a DIY removal at home. It is always safest to go back to the salon and have a licensed professional remove any product for you."
Lastly, after-care is extremely helpful to restoring your nail's health.
"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 both 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 a lot of the problems that can arise from the dip powder enhancements. Try to apply cuticle oils and high quality moisturizers multiple times a day."
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