Dip powder nails are somewhere between a regular mani and a fake acrylic nail. We can consider them a "diet acrylic," says celebrity manicurist Erica Marton. Instead of using UV rays to seal in your polish, the color comes from a pigmented powder. Between base coats and a sealant, you dip your nails into a little jar of your chosen color (SNS and Revel are the two most popular and vetted manufacturers) for a mani that could last three to four weeks. The trend isn't exactly new per se—it's actually been around for years—but social media is quickly popularizing the process and helping it stage a comeback. Over the past two years, more and more nail salons have started offering the service.
Watch the dipping in action is very ASMR-y, but warning: If you have this done at a salon, you won't get to dip. At least you shouldn't. A nail technician should paint the powder onto your nails to keep things hygienic between customers. Otherwise you risk getting an infection.
Now, for the other shoe to drop: Dipping powder isn't exactly the healthiest choice you can make for your nails. Popular nail salons like Vanity Projects and Van Court won't include the technique on their menus. While more brands, like OPI, now offer options for dip powder manicures, if your salon doesn't use a credited manufacturer, it could contain dangerous ingredients. "Some cheaper dip powders can contain MMD, which is extremely harmful to natural nails and banned in NYC," says Vanity Projects' Ariel Zuniga. Ruth Kallens, founder and parter at Van Court, says, "Dip powders are acrylic. I don't use acrylic because the removal process is so detrimental to your nail plate."
Just like gels or acrylics, removing a dip powder manicure requires more time and patience than swiping remover on a cotton ball. "There's no easy way to remove this quickly," says Zuniga. "We recommend using an electric file and soaking off the remaining product with acetone," i.e., similar to self gel removal. Of course, the best way to remove them is to go back to your nail tech; otherwise you risk damaging and weakening your nails.
And no matter if you remove them at home or at the salon, you should try to give your nails some downtime in between to prevent them from breaking or becoming brittle. Zuniga's advice? Invest in some good nail after-care products to rehydrate your nails and keep your cuticles moisturized.
If you're already fond of more permanent mani solutions, Marton contends that there's no reason you shouldn't give dip powder a shot. "They're equally healthy to gels and basic acrylics that are already out," she says. Just make sure you're checking packaging and asking your manicurist what brand she's using. And if you do want to give your hand at trying it at home, the options below are your best bet.