Manicure Spotlight: UV Gel Polish vs. Dip Powder

Beyond standard nail polish manicures, you are probably familiar with three main types of manicures that offer longer-lasting color than simple polish: acrylic, dip powder, and UV gel. Acrylics are the oldest and most widely known option and can last for up to a month. Acrylics add a layer and often a fake nail tip to the natural nail and then are painted with standard polish. But, acrylics have fallen out of popularity in recent years. The most common complaint with acrylics is that they produce a very stiff, unnatural feeling nail, and they are applied using glues that can contain harmful chemicals. Many women report smelling the chemicals during application, which can be unpleasant and concerning. At this point, they are considered by many an outdated option. Most salons prefer either UV gel nails or a dip powder manicure. While both of these options are healthier than acrylics and can last just as long, they each have their pros and cons:

UV Gel Nail Polish

UV Gel nails produce a more flexible nail with a natural feel and often last up to 3 weeks. Like acrylics, they are applied in three steps: a gel base coat, gel color polish, and gel topcoat. However, in between each coat, the gel is cured under UV light for about 30 seconds. The application process is quick and easy, and the UV allows the polish to dry instantly, meaning you can walk out of the salon without worrying about smudging the manicure. Some people refer to this as a shellac manicure, but Shellac is actually a brand. All of the high-quality brands offer a gel polish line, including SNS and OPI. 

The biggest drawback to a gel manicure is the use of UV light. Exposing your hands to this amount of UV radiation is a risk to your skin’s health over time, just like using tanning beds or suntan lotion. Excessive UV exposure can lead to skin cancer later on down the road. However, there are easy ways to protect yourself with sunscreen or fingerless gloves. SNS Nails, who have a reputation for focusing on nail health, have introduced a hybrid LED/UV light with several safer features. Salons that carry the SNS Healthy GelStar should also be using this light but be sure to ask ahead. 

Because gel nails are lighter and more flexible than other methods, they may not last quite as long as the alternatives. With any manicure method, proper removal of the polish is essential for protecting your nails. Most people are tempted to peel off their gel polish once it begins to chip, but you will likely end up peeling off the top layer of your nail if you do this. Gel nails are easily removed with an acetone soak, which can be done at home or in the salon. Although the removal process for gel is more straightforward than dip powder, soaking in acetone can weaken and dehydrate your nails, as well as irritate the skin. 

Dip Powder

A dip powder manicure involves applying a base adhesive coat to the nails and then dipping the nail into color powder. Sometimes this process is repeated, and then a top sealing coat is applied. This manicure method is the fastest to cure and does not require UV light. Dip powder nails are well known for their strength, flawless intense color, and ease of application. The hardness of dip powder nails is between acrylic and gel; they are not super flexible, but many women prefer durability over natural-feeling gel nails. 

There are a few aspects to note to keep your nails in top shape when enjoying dip powder manicures. The most important is the dip powders’ quality and the salon’s techniques. Cheap dip powder brands could contain harsh chemicals and toxic ingredients that can damage your nails, so it is essential to use health-focused brands like the SNS, as previously mentioned. SNS Gelous Color truly sets the bar high for quality and health, though there are a handful of newer lines that may be approaching this level of quality. Further, most salons will use the same container of dip powder for every customer.  If you are unsure, ask the salon to use the pour method for your manicure. 

Just like gel nails, dip powder must be removed properly. As it is much stronger than gel, dip is best removed at a salon, where they will file some layers away and then use an acetone soak. As stated before, this process can make your nails weaker and more brittle. If you get routine manicures, proper nail care and nourishment is essential (such as SNS Vitamin Oil applied daily). Hydrate your nails after soaking in acetone, use cuticle strengthener, and ideally, take breaks in between manis to keep your nails strong and healthy.

At the end of the day, the preferred manicure for you simply depends on your preferences. If you want a more durable and long-lasting manicure, dip powder is probably the way to go. But if you prefer a more natural feeling nail, gel is often a less expensive option. The perfect nail polish method is different for everyone!

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