And are they better for you than gels, the long-reigning, long-wear manicure type?

If you're a manicure aficionado, you may have heard of dip powder. If not, allow us to explain: Instead of using liquid nail polish to coat the nails, a dip powder manicure involves a glue-type and finely milled, pigmented powder which hardens when it hits the air. Like with a regular manicure, your manicurist will start by applying a base coat. After that, he or she will dip each finger individually into the colorful dust, brushing the excess off your skin, and applying a topcoat to set it. "This process will happen a few times until each nail is completely covered in your color of choice," says Rita Pinto, founder of Vanity Projects. Ahead, everything you need to know about dip manicures—and how they square up against other long-wear manicure types, like gel.

woman painting nails red nail polish
Credit: Glow Images Inc./Getty Images

Dip isn't necessarily safer than gel.

Because dip powder manicures last longer than conventional paint-based manicures, they've frequently been compared to gels. (Some even say they can last a few weeks longer than the popular long-wear manicure type.) Dip powder is frequently cited as safer than gels, as well, since they aren't cured under an ultraviolet light—but bacterial infection can be a concern, should your technician not take the proper measures. "Dip is perfectly sanitary in a salon if you allocate a separate disposable portion of the powder to a specific client rather than dipping the client's nails in the whole pot," explains celebrity manicurist Rita Romain. "You could also sprinkle the powder over the nail using a tool, making sure that excess doesn't fall in the pot where the product is." As for whether or not dip is physically safer for your nail bed than gel? "UV exposure and bacterial infections are both medical concerns which should not be taken lightly—but when performed correctly, you are less likely to have any health risks from nail enhancements," explains Romain.

Dip manicures come with more benefits.

There are several more advantages to dip, though: The powder adds an extra protective, nonporous layer to nails, which can help prevent breakage and allow the natural nail to grow underneath, Pinto says (it's a great option if you're looking to add length over time!). The removal process is also notably safer: "Dip powder removal requires no scraping, so it's definitely gentler," says Romain.

This manicure type is easier to remove at home.

Romain adds that removing this manicure type at home is a breeze—and safer than taking off gels yourself, to boot. "Buff the surface of your mani with a nail file to remove the shine, then soak a cotton ball in the acetone and place it directly on top of your nail," she advises. "Follow this by wrapping each finger with a small piece of foil; after 10 to 15 minutes, you should be able to buff the dip powder from the nail plate. Also, by wrapping the hands in warm towels, you can accelerate the time of removal."

There's no dry time.

Like gels, there's also a convenience factor to consider; with dip, it's just powder and top coat—you don't have to wait for nails to dry. Pinto herself, however, still prefers gel to powder. "The appearance of a more natural nail is achieved with a soft gel manicure," she explains. (Dip powder manicures can have a thicker, layered appearance, similar to acrylics.)


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