While scrolling through Instagram and TikTok, you’ve likely stumbled upon a mesmerizing nail tutorial involving a finger being dunked into a mysterious, colorful powder. These are dip powder manicures, which are long-lasting, quick-drying, and highly pigmented — and totally ASMR-worthy.
The process essentially involves a base coat, an acrylic powder in the color of your choice, a sealant or activator, and a top coat, and can be done at salons or at home. They differ from gel and acrylic manicures in that they last a bit longer — typically over three weeks — and don’t require any downtime under a UV lamp. Also, they’re more durable. “Dip powder is stronger than gel, so natural nails do not break as easily as they would with a soak-off gel,” celebrity manicurist Elina Ogawa tells Bustle.
While dip powder manis have been around for quite some time — salon brand SNS released their brand of powders in the ‘90s — there’s been a resurgence of at-home dip powder kits. And the craze shows no sign of stopping: OPI predicts dip powder nails to be one of the biggest nail trends of 2021. “[Dip powder manicures] are just easier for non-professionals,” says Honey, a nail pro who works with brands like Tom Ford and Shiseido.
Should you feel inclined to dabble in the magic of dip powders in the comfort of your home, first consider the below tips from some of the nail industry’s top experts.
1. Prep Your Nails
First things first: Clean, buff, and file. You want the adhesive to stick to your natural nail, so it’s important to free your nail beds of any oils or residue. Think of it as starting with a blank slate. Push the cuticles back if you want nails to appear longer. Oh, and pro tip: Do one hand at a time. “Do the other hand after because it’ll be a mess if you do all 10 nails at the same time,” says Ogawa.
2. Follow The Application Process
The application process varies from kit to kit (and salon to salon), but for the most part, you’ll start by painting each nail with a base coat, which is usually made of a glue-like ingredient called cyanoacrylate, explains Darlene Sritapan, OPI’s North America Education and Capability Manager. “Precise application is required,” she adds. Paint in thin, outward strokes, avoiding the cuticle area. Next, while nails are wet, dip each one into the colored powder until fully coated. Tap lightly to remove any excess powder. Repeat this process until you’re satisfied with the color; twice will usually do the trick. Then, apply an activator or sealant to nails. “This is going to dry everything,” says Honey. After about five minutes or so (drying time will vary depending on your kit), apply one or two layers of top coat. “Be sure to check the length and shape before applying,” adds Ogawa.
3. Remove The Dip Powder Very Carefully
Avoid aggressively buffing your nails or attempting to peel off dip powder with a sharp nail file, lest you want to suffer severe nail damage or “greenies” (aka trapped bacteria that can cause infection), warns Sritapan. “There is no cure for greenies or nail damage except for waiting three-plus months for the nail to grow out.” Instead, start by shortening your nails as preferred, and then filing the nail surface with as thin a file as possible, says Ogawa. “This process makes it easier to soak off.” Next, soak a cotton pad in pure acetone, gently wrap it around the nail, and then cover it in foil or the plastic removal clips that may come with your kit. Consider placing nails under a mini steamer while they’re soaking, suggests Honey, as pure acetone can feel uncomfortable. From there, wait 15 to 20 minutes before removing everything. Any remaining residue can be removed with a cuticle pusher or nail file.