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This new manicure lasts longer than gel polish and doesn't use UV light

How does this new long-lasting manicure trend compare to gel nails?
by Aly Walansky /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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As a beauty writer and avowed girly girl, it’s pretty weird to say I’m bored by manicures. But it’s true. While I love having neat and pretty nails, I hate the process of sitting under the dryer and finding a chip a few hours later after cleaning dishes or opening packages.

It sounds like a pretty low-level problem, and I acknowledge it is, but what’s the point in investing time and money into a beauty treatment that just doesn’t last?

For the last few years, I’ve been getting gel manicures — attracted to the longer-lasting, less-likely-to-chip results — but the beauty writer voice in my head consistently cautioned against that all that time under the UV lamp.

Then one weekend I visited my local neighborhood nail salon and I saw a bunch of powder-filled jars labeled "SNS" behind the reception counter. Upon asking the receptionist what they were, it was explained to me that SNS was a brand of dip powder (much like CND Shellac is a type of gel color). These manicures are done with powder instead of gel and last as long as a month rather than a few weeks.

As for pricing, this particular spot charges $25 for a gel color and $30 for dip powder, which I didn't mind if it's going to last twice as long. (The salon did stipulate, however, that if I chose to get extensions on my nails or a nail design, the price would go up accordingly, as with any other type of manicure.)

Intrigued, I gave it a try. But what am I getting myself into?

The process seemed pretty straight forward and simple. The nail tech started by buffing the surface of my nails, applying a primer coat and a base, and then dipping my nails one by one into the pigmented dip powder. She then dipped each finger again (so that each nail gets two coats of powder), brushed off excess powder with a brush and painted on a sealing top coat. At that point, I would have been done — no time under the UV light required — but I decided to take it one step further with a gel-based design on top, so I needed the UV light to dry that part. (I guess old habits are slow to break.)

"Dip powders are basically acrylic powder used in a different technique, however, it shouldn't smell like the standard acrylic,” celebrity manicurist Erica Marton told TODAY Style. “It's geared for nail techs that want to save time or beginner nail techs. It's an easier, faster way. Think of it as a diet acrylic.”

I’m all for my nails going on a diet. But is it a healthy one? In the case of dip powder, what you see may not always be what you get.

dip powder nails
“Are they dipping directly into the jar of powder? Stay away!” said Kandalec.Aly Walansky

As with any beauty treatment, there’ll be a variety in levels of skill and service when you have it done. It’s important to use a salon and tech who knows what they are doing, otherwise your nail can get damaged or this process can be unsanitary. It's a good idea to do some research on the salons you are considering via online reviews or chatting with friends. Make sure they are pouring the powder onto the nail or into a separate individual bowl.

“Are they dipping directly into the jar of powder? Stay away!” said Julie Kandalec, creative director at Paint Box Nails in New York City, which offers traditional and gel-based manicures, but does not do dip powder at this time.

The color option issue is another big one. We're used to picking nail polish based on the color we want our our nails but the powder one won't be as exact. There’s no polish involved in this type of manicure (since you are dealing with pigmented powder) so the results on your nails may not necessarily be the same shade as what you saw in the powder jar.

Your best bet? Show the nail tech a polish option you like and have them choose a powder that will get as close to that shade as possible.

“Colors are hard to tell what they really are because they change from powder form to when they are finished on the nail,” said Kandalec.

Something else to keep in mind is this type of manicure can end up being very thick and bulky on the nail, so make sure to see a nail professional capable of shaping the nail into a more natural arched shape, suggested Kandalec. Even still, you may not be happy with the results: “It can be filed to shape, but then lines of demarcation can be seen,” Kandalec said.

dip powder nails
The dip powder manicure ended up thicker than I'm used to.Aly Walansky

Of course, the thing that makes gel manicures or dip powder manicures more desirable — how well they stay on — has a drawback, in the fact that they're rather difficult to remove.

Be sure you are able to commit to having your manicure professionally removed in a few weeks when it’s time. Trying to do it yourself can damage your nail. The salon will remove dip powdered nails in the same way as gel color generally: by soaking in acetone for around 10 minutes.

Now, about a week in, I am loving my nails that remain painted and feel slightly thicker and stronger. But is it a good idea for your nails?

“I wouldn't say they are healthier but equal to the gels and basic acrylic that are already out. As long as these services are done properly you should be safe!” Marton said. That said, don’t do it too often. “I understand the allure of a manicure that will last three weeks ... but anything on your nails for that amount of time can cause some problems. Make sure you maintain them well!” she added.

"Powder manicures are safe when performed by a properly trained manicurist," said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the Department of Dermatology at The Mount Sinai Hospital. "In fact, they may be safer than traditional gel manicures that use you the light that can be harmful to the skin. I would be cautious with these manicures if you already have dry or brittle nails or suffer from conditions like psoriasis, which can cause thickening of the nails."

So, like with anything else, it's best to try in moderation. Go for dip powder nails every once in the while, but be sure give your nails a break sometimes, too!

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