Beauty Trends

Powder Dip vs. Gel Manicures: Key Differences to Know — Expert Advice

Dip powder manicures generally last longer than their gel counterparts. To give you a sense of just how strong the hardened dip powder formula is, Deborah Lippmann, manicurist and founder of the namesake nail-care and color line, explains that “dip powders are bonded using a glue called cyanoacrylate, which is also the main ingredient in Krazy Glue.” To get more specific, cyanoacrylates are “a family of strong acting adhesives,” explains Robinson. Dip powder can be thought of as a glue-based resin that hardens when exposed to air (just like, you guessed it, actual glue).

Simply put, dip powder polymers are stronger than those found in gel polish, and, therefore, dip manicures will generally last longer — up to five weeks, if properly cared for.

Bottom line: Gel manicures typically last between two to three weeks, while dip powder manicures can last for up to five (with proper prep, application, and maintenance).

3. Removal process

The acrylic-like, multi-layered (re: thick) nature of dip powder manicures can ensure that they last longer than gel, but it also means they are more difficult to remove.

“Overall, gel polish is much easier to remove than dip powder,” King explains. “They both need to be soaked off, but dip powder will take longer.” For both gel and dip powder, you’ll want to pencil in at least 30 minutes — either at the nail salon or at home — to get the job done. 

The removal processes for both are similar in nature. First, the top layer of polish is gently sloughed off with a coarse nail file, then the nails are soaked in an acetone solution. For gels, this can be done via acetone-soaked cotton balls, but it’s necessary to soak fingers directly in a bowl of acetone to remove dip powder; typically your nails will need to be submerged for between 10 and 20 minutes.

Bottom line: Because of its thick, multi-layered, and acrylic-like nature, dip powder takes longer to dissolve and remove than gel polish.

4. Potential damage to nails

Impatience during the removal process can result in nail damage with both gel polish and dip powder. “Both manicures have the potential for damaging your nail beds, especially in the removal process,” Lippmann explains. “A lot of people get impatient with the amount of time that it takes for the gel to dissolve, and they end up pulling the polish off, which ends up damaging the nail.”

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