Is Dip Powder Bad For Your Nails? Pros & Cons Of The Faux-Nail Procedure

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Woman's Hand with Neutral Painted Nails and Two Rings
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Dip powder is hailed as the mani with staying power—many even deem it the "healthier" faux-nail procedure, as it doesn't involve that harmful UV light associated with gels. It's received a bunch of hype, but how does dip powder get on with the clean beauty community? Ahead, we list the pros and cons of this long-lasting mani. 

First, what is dip powder?

The process typically goes as follows: After filing and buffing the nail smooth so that the powder will stick, a nail technician will brush on a sealant primer and dip your nails into a jar of your preferred colored powder (or they'll paint the powder on using a brush—more on that later). They'll usually repeat the process a few times until the nails are sufficiently coated in color. Then a clear top coat, a few minutes under the fan, and you'll strut out of the salon with an immaculate mani for around three to four weeks. 

Holds a certain allure, no? However, some concerns have sprung up in regard to dip powder and its effects on nail health. Here's what you need to know: 

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1. Has the same base as acrylics.

Many might consider dip powder a safer alternative to acrylics. But essentially, "dip powder is an acrylic powder," says Evelyn Lim, chief educator of Paintbox. That's because the two share the same base ingredient: acrylic ester polymers. While dip powder doesn't lay on as thick as acrylics, both are strong materials that can have adverse effects on the natural nail—specifically, they can be quite heavy on the nail beds, sometimes suffocating the area and leading to irritation.

2. Can be harsh on the nail plate. 

Dip powder—similar to acrylics, once again—also requires harsh buffing and filing in order for the adhesive to stick. "To put on acrylics or dip powders, you have to roughen up the surface of the nail plate with a much tougher file," adds Lim. That process can weaken your natural tips, making them more prone to splits and breakage

Plus, dip powders require a resin base to help the powder transform into a thick, sticky goo; most of the time, those adhesives contain cyanoacrylate, which is the main ingredient of Super Glue. Not so gentle on the natural nail.

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3. Doesn't require UV light. 

The main praise with dip powder is that it doesn't involve any UV rays to cure the formula into that candy-shell lacquer. In that regard, dip powder may be a better option than gel manicures: One study found that just 10 minutes under a UV nail lamp produces as much energy as the daylong limit recommended for outdoor workers

4. Can have some sanitation concerns. 

A dip powder appointment typically plays out in one of two ways: You're either dipping each finger into the jar of powder (sometimes more than once), or a nail technician might use a brush to layer on the pigment. The former sprouts a higher sanitation concern, but either way involves repeatedly dipping into the jar. 

Most likely, nail technicians wouldn't toss every jar after a single use—so by dipping multiple people's tips into the jar over and over again, the powder could become contaminated with bacteria and even lead to infection for some. That said, if you do go for dip, make sure your nail tech isn't repeatedly dipping your fingers into the powder—painting the powder on with a brush might be more sanitary. 

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The verdict. 

Here's the skinny on dip powder: We commend the fact that it doesn't require UV light, but that doesn't make it A-OK for nail health. It can have a pretty similar effect on your nails as acrylics, as each includes the same base ingredient and roughens up the nails quite a bit. And from a safety standpoint, we can't ignore the contamination concerns with repeat dips. That said, if you do opt for a dip manicure, make sure you see a nail tech who brushes on the powder instead of dipping each finger in the jar. 

If you've had your fair share of dip powder manis, don't lose all hope for your natural nails: Simply keep those tips hydrated and moisturized (a daily cuticle oil is best, says Lim), and keep up with healthy nail maintenance until they've completely grown out. It may take some time, but hey—a strong, bare nail is always on-trend.

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