Sure, you’re probably pretty familiar with nail polish, or acrylic and gel nails, but there’s a new trend to try: dip powder nails, sometimes called SNS nails.
A dip powder manicure involves dipping the nails one by one into a special type of colored acrylic powder — though a nail technician may brush the powder on instead, for the sake of infection control. Then, they’ll apply a clear sealant on top.
This manicure technique has recently resurged in popularity, thanks to social media.
Dip powder manicures last a long time and are very resistant to chipping. But these perks can prove something of a downfall when it comes time to remove them.
Maybe you’ve had your manicure for a while and feel ready to swap it out for some new nail art. You might wonder how you can remove dip nails safely without hurting your natural nail.
Dip nails can be fairly tricky to remove, especially at home. Your best bet usually involves getting them taken off professionally at a nail salon. Still, home removal is possible.
Read on to learn why you might want to consider professional removal when possible. We’ll also provide step-by-step instructions for when you need to remove dip powder manicures at home.
Dip powder nails last longer than a gel manicure or nail polish — sometimes up to a month before they begin to chip or peel, explains Subhana Khan, a senior nail technician at Paint Nails London with seven years of experience in the nail industry.
Some dip powder manicure brands also include extra nutrients in their product to help strengthen and grow your nails.
After about a month, you might find your nails have started to chip or look a little messier than you’d like. You might also want to remove them early, or simply want to switch colors.
Whatever your reason, if you need to say goodbye to your manicure, you’ll have to consider how you want to remove your nails.
Experts typically suggest not trying this at home.
“We always recommend coming into the salon to ensure these are professionally removed,” says Shadia Laaouiti, director aesthetician of Forbici Knightsbridge.
By visiting a salon, you can reduce your risk of seriously damaging your natural nail.
Plus, dip powders generally prove more difficult to remove than other manicure types, so many people find it more convenient to get this done professionally.
Salons already have all the supplies required to remove dip powder manicures. If you’re only planning to remove one manicure at home, collecting all the supplies you need could be an expensive, time-consuming process.
Technically, yes. It’s possible to remove dip nails at home.
“You can remove them yourself at home with the same process as in the salons,” says Khan, but she also emphasizes that it’s better to visit a salon for professional removal.
If you do plan to regularly remove your dip powder manicures at home, you may find it helpful to visit a salon for your first removal so you can learn the correct technique from a professional.
Before you remove your dip powder manicure, you’ll need to collect all the necessary supplies.
- nail file
- nail clipper
- a wooden orange stick or cuticle stick
- small metal or glass bowl
- a large heat-safe bowl
Step 1: Cut and file your nails
“The shorter the nail, the easier it is to remove,” says Laaouiti.
For your first step, take your nail clippers and cut your nails down to the final length you want.
After you cut your nails, you can also buff the top of your nails to remove the shiny, clear sealant layer. This step will help the sealant dissolve more easily later on.
This step isn’t strictly necessary, and filing the tops of your nails too much can actually damage your nail, so take care to avoid too much buffing.
Step 2: Warm the acetone
Next, prep a bowl of acetone in a well-ventilated area. You’ll want to use warm acetone, rather than room temperature acetone.
To heat the acetone:
- Place a small metal bowl in a larger bowl of very hot water. Make sure the water level is low enough that it doesn’t leak into the smaller bowl.
- If you don’t have a metal bowl, you could also use a plastic bag with acetone in it. Just keep in mind that this could get a little messy.
- Alternatively, heat up a towel and drape it over the bowl of acetone.
Never warm acetone in the microwave or in a pan on the stove.
Acetone is highly flammable and can cause an explosion when heated past the boiling point. This is one key reason why you may want to opt for professional removal.
Step 3: Soak your nails
Once you’ve warmed the acetone, get comfortable and submerge your nails.
They’ll need to remain soaking for approximately 25 minutes.
Step 4: Scrape off the excess
The acetone will mostly melt the manicure, but some stubborn excess may remain, even after 25 minutes.
At this point, you can gently scrape off the layers with the cuticle stick or something similar.
“I wouldn’t try and save money on the tool,” says Laaouiti. “Research some high-quality equipment to help aid the removal and limit damage to the nails.”
Both Laaouiti and Khan recommend using acetone to remove dip powder manicures, just as professional nail technicians do in salons.
Some people have success using acetone alternatives, like alcohol or white vinegar, since they have similar properties.
Still, it can be very challenging to try and remove a dip powder manicure without acetone, unless it’s been on your nails for more than 6 weeks. At that point, the manicure has probably already started to naturally break off.
You may have come across a few alternate suggestions for removing dip powder nails online, but the following techniques won’t work:
Avoid trying to buff your dip powder manicure off.
“If you file them off without acetone, this can damage your nails and put a dent in them. I advise using acetone only,” says Khan.
You can’t remove a dip powder manicure with pure oil, as oil won’t penetrate into your nails to take the color off.
“Oil can help aid removal, but this can be a lengthy process and isn’t very practical,” says Laaouiti.
Like oil, hot water can help speed up the removal process, but hot water alone can’t remove a dip powder manicure.
Hot water does, however, help warm up the acetone through heat conduction, which helps the color melt faster. That’s why you’ll want to (safely) warm the acetone before trying to remove the manicure.
A dip nail removal kit can help you remove your manicure at home.
You’ll want to check that your kit uses pure acetone, or the process likely won’t work.
Laaouiti also recommends making your own dip manicure removal kit with the tools mentioned above. This could be a more cost-effective option if you plan to remove multiple manicures.
Removing a dip powder manicure can be really harsh on your nails and skin. It’s always a good idea to consider visiting a salon if you can.
In addition to following all of the tips above, you’ll also want to take extra care with your nails. Avoid excess filing, especially at the top of your nails, because this can damage the nail bed.
Still, even with the gentlest hand, the removal process can weaken your natural tips and make them more prone to splits and breakages, cautions Khan.
Plus, dip powder manicures themselves can be damaging to the nail, due to the resin base that helps the powder transform into its signature thick, sticky goo.
“Most of the time, those adhesives contain cyanoacrylate, the main ingredient of super glue. Not so gentle on the natural nail,” says Khan.
Before trying a new removal process for your dip powder manicure, you may want to do a patch test with the acetone.
Even if you’ve used it before to remove nail polish, removing your dip powder nails will leave your fingers exposed to acetone for a much longer period of time.
How to do a patch test
Follow these steps:
- Apply a bit of acetone to your skin around one nail.
- Monitor the area for 24 hours to check for any discoloration, swelling, or itchiness.
- If you don’t notice any adverse reactions, you can likely use the acetone safely.
Keep in mind, too, that acetone is a very strong chemical. If you have eczema, psoriasis, or any cuts on your fingers, you may want to consider applying acetone with a cotton ball rather than soaking. Waiting until any wounds are fully healed may be an even better option.
And of course, if you have a fungus on your nails, or any kind of infection, you should avoid getting a manicure in the first place.
The risk of infection is one concern with dip powder manicures, which is why technicians at many salons may brush on the powder instead of dipping. To reduce your risk of infection, you may want to choose a salon that uses this process.
While you can remove dip powder manicures at home, it’s generally best to have this done professionally — at least the first time.
If you need to remove your nails at home, following important safety precautions and using the right supplies can help you successfully remove your manicure without damaging your nails and skin.
Sarah Bence is an occupational therapist (OTR/L) and freelance writer, primarily focusing on health, wellness, and travel topics. Her writing can be seen in Business Insider, Insider, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s Travel, and others. She also writes about gluten-free, celiac-safe travel at EndlessDistances.com.