Dip powder nails are having a 2024 renaissance—as a nail tech, here's what I want you to know

The gel manicure alternative

Dip powder nails - gradient manicure holding yellow handbag
(Image credit: Getty Images / Edward Berthelot)

Being a beauty editor and nail tech means I've tried all the different types of manicure and kit out there, including dip powder nails—and I have thoughts. 

Dip powder nails aren't new but they have been doing the rounds on Instagram and TikTok, piquing nail enthusiast's interest once more. Whether you're totally new to dip powder nails or just want a refresh on exactly what they are, here I break down exactly what dip powder nail are, how the application process works, benefits and downsides. Plus, I've included some of the best dip powder nail looks to take to with you on your first (or next) dip powder nail appointment. 

What are dip powder nails? 

Dip powder nails are pretty much what they say on the tin. It involves a nail tech dipping or brushing powdered pigment onto the nail instead of using a liquid gel or polish. You might have also heard them being called SNS nails, which is a brand. A bit like people calling gel Shellac, which is CND's version of gels. 

The process involves first adding a layer of clear base coat nail polish to give the powder something to stick to before each nail is dipped into the chosen colour. In between dip layers (a few is typically needed to get the desired result and colour), a clear polish is applied to give the next layer something to stick to and lock in the colour. Once the desired colour is achieved with the powder, often a layer of clear powder is also added over the top of the coloured powder to make sure the shade stay intact when filing at the end. 

Once all of the dipping is finished, the nails are filed into shape; removing any bulk and refining the shape. The final step is adding a final top coat either normal nail polish or gel nail polish to give a glossy finish. Just like other nail enhancements, it's important to wear cuticle oil—like CND Solar Oil—to prevent lifting and promote longevity. 

How do dip powder nails differ from gels or acrylics? 

Dip powder is most related to acrylics, as the powder is made from powder acrylic mixed with a resin, which acts a bit like a glue. Just like traditional acrylics do, dip powder nails dry in the air and don't need an LED or UV lamp to 'cure'. 

In addition to this, dip powder nails typically last longer than gels (if applied correctly) and are a durable nail enhancement. But sadly, with great durability often comes a more laborious removal process. It's exactly the same process as removing gel nail polish (file the top layer to break the seal and then soak in acetone) but dip nails take longer. 

Since dip powder nails involves powder, people tend to assume it's the easiest nail enhancement out there. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news but it can be just as tricky as others to get the hang of. Aside from learning how to dip and paint effectively, the main reason for this is because dip powder nails run the risk of being pretty bulky—and if there's one rule in nail enhancement it's that bulkiness gives the game away. 

Benefits of dip powder nails 

Dip powder nails tend to last longer than gels and have great durability if you're a little accident-prone. But you don't always want your nails to last too long. Remember, this can lead to growth issues for your natural nails. 

Dip powder nails don't need to be cured in-between uses like gels do, the only part of the process that may involve gels is the last clear coat at the end, but even then, your nail tech might opt for regular nail polish to give a glossy finish over gels. 

You can encapsulate and have fun with glitter powders, similar to acrylics—an effect you can't achieve in the same way using polish. 

Downsides of dip powder nails 

When it comes to getting dip powder nails professionally, it really is down to personal preference. Not every nail tech offers dip powder nails, which is obviously something to consider when booking an appointment; make sure the tech does dip powder so that you're not disappointed when you arrive. 

If you're doing them at home, the main downside to dip powder nails is that it's not the easiest process to get the hang of, despite it looking and sounding like a doddle. They can be quite fiddly, particularly at the beginning when you're still practicing. 

Dip powder nails are safe when done properly. This includes not getting any of the liquid polish on your skin and following the protocol of the kit brand you're using. If you're getting them done professionally, it's important that your finger is not being dipped into the same pot as other customers for hygiene reasons—ask if you're unsure. 

Dip powder nail inspiration

Beauty Contributor

Tori is a freelance beauty journalist and contributor for Marie Claire. She has written for various titles, including Allure, Glamour, Elle, Refinery29, Brides, and more. Currently training to be a nail tech, Tori is a total nail enthusiast and always has time to talk all things nail art. When she’s not writing about beauty and testing products, Tori can be found walking her rescue dog Pip, drinking great coffee, and eating as many croissants as humanly possible.