When the need for a solid, long-lasting manicure arises, most of us default to trusty gel polish. But, while it’s definitely more durable and enduring than regular polish, it doesn’t always last the touted full two weeks without chipping or peeling. Until recently, though, I thought gel manicures were the best I could get without going full-on acrylic. Apparently, I was wrong. I recently discovered something called “dip powder manicures,” which are, well, exactly like they sound. Instead of painting on coats of liquid polish, the nail technician applies base coats and then dips your nails into colored powder, and the end result lasts even longer than gels (two to four weeks!) without the permanence or damage of acrylics.
After hearing about dip powder manicures from my sister — and seeing how great hers looked — I was intrigued. The process sounded cool, and I’ve never been good with maintaining manicures: The second the polish starts to chip or separate from my nail, I get to peeling. So, the notion of a non-damaging option that could withstand my compulsive polish-peeling tendencies had me sold.
But, after doing some digging online, I learned there are a few other worthy benefits. For starters, dip powder manicures don’t require UV lights like gels do, which can be damaging to your skin. And, though they’re not completely natural and 5-free, they are free of three common nail polish chemicals: formaldehyde, toluene, and DBP, according to SNS, one of the two major brands that create dip powder products for salons (the other is Revel Nail. Even better, the products include vitamins and calcium that can actually help strengthen your nails.
Dip powder manicures aren’t brand new, but they’re not very common, either. After calling around to a bunch of Chicago salons and searching “SNS manicure” on Yelp, I only found a couple places that offer the service, and settled on my sister’s frill-free, neighborhood spot, Super Nails. The process started out much like getting a gel manicure: I picked out my color from a bunch of painted, plastic nails, and the nail technician (who, by the way, told me she attended a two-day training course with SNS to learn how to properly do this) filed, buffed, and prepped my nails per usual. Then, she applied some sort of base coat and dipped each of my nails in a light pink powder, shaking the excess off each time. After that, she applied a different base, then dipped my nails into the colored powder the same way. After repeating the base and colored powder process a few times, she filed and buffed my now-powdered nails again, applied a sealant, wiped each nail with a paper towel, then applied a topcoat. A minute or two later, she added one final product: vitamin oil. The process probably took about the same amount of time as gels, and my nails were completely dry and ready to go as soon as the nail technician was done.
Though it was hard to envision a smooth, shiny finish looking at each coat of fresh powder on my nails, sure enough, that’s exactly what I got. Though both SNS and Revel Nail tout powder manicures as being more lightweight and flexible than gels, the final product actually felt pretty thick to me. For the first few hours I had it on, I almost felt like I was wearing fake nails. But, I quickly got used to it, and actually appreciate the durable feel — it’s like a manicure security blanket; I feel like these puppies can withstand anything. And, sure enough, so far they have. It’s only been one week since I got the manicure, but in that time, I’ve flown across the country, lifting a heavy suitcase in and out of an overhead bin; danced my way through two weddings; swam in a pool; and played beach volleyball — and my manicure remains completely intact, not a tiny chip to be found. If it continues at this rate, I’m counting on at least another week of flawless nails.
I of course haven’t gone through the polish removal process yet, but I’ve been told (by the SNS website, my sister, and the nail technician), that all it takes is soaking the nails in acetone; they won’t even need to scrape any excess off my (hopefully newly strengthened) nail bed, like is sometimes the case with gels. When all is said and done, my nails should be in strong, solid shape and ready for round two — which is great, because I’m now highly intrigued by the concept of a powder French manicure.
Related: This Is the Clumsy Girl’s Secret Weapon for a Perfect At-Home Manicure