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The Best Ways You Can Remove Powder Dip Nails

Photo by Vera Kandybovich/Getty Images

If you're all about durable manicures, there's no better method than dip powder. This buzzy manicure approach typically lasts between three to four weeks, is gentle on your natural nails, and DIY friendly with the help of the right tools.

Upon first glance, dip powder nails may look like gel nails or short acrylic nails, but the process to create them is quite different. Rather than using UV light like gel nails require, dip nail (which may sometimes be called SNS nails, the name of one of the best-selling powder dip brands) uses a pigmented powder that is sealed between a base coat and a clear top coat.

The name of this style of manicure comes from the act of "dipping" each nail into the powder to build up a strong coat that can outlast conventional nail polishes without chipping or fading. However, like all long lasting manicures, removal is a bit more involved than it would be with regular nail polish, too. Despite dip powder nails lasting longer than gel nail polish, it's actually easier to remove. 

"One of the huge benefits of dip powder removal is the lack of damage to the nail beds," says Joy Terrell, owner of Powder Beauty Co., in Los Angeles. "The processes [between gel nail removal and dip powder removal] are exactly the same until the final step. You’ll find that dip powder slides right off after you soak. You simply take an acetone soaked cotton ball to wipe any remaining dip powder right off." Terrell explains that dip powder is easier to remove thanks to cyanoacrylate, a nail glue that is more sensitive to solvents. "After soaking gel manicures, you’ll need to take an orange stick or a metal cuticle pusher and scrape the gel off entirely," she says. This type of harsh removal can easily damage the nail beds.

About the Expert:

Joy Terrell is the founder of Powder Beauty Co., a nail salon and facial bar in Los Angeles specializing in dip powder nails. 

Want to remove your dip powder nails at home? There are two methods Terrell recommends, and an absolute essential for both is pure acetone. Standard nail polish remover simply won't do the job when it comes to removing dip powder nails. "Pure acetone is the only solvent able to break down the layers," says Terrell. 

What you’ll need:

The tools you need will vary slightly depending on the removal method you opt for. Here’s everything Terrell suggests you have on hand for removing your dip powder nails using foil wraps or via a bowl soak. 

Tools for Foil Removal:

  • Coarse grit nail file

  • Pure acetone

  • Cotton balls

  • 10 small rectangular foil sheets

  • 2 small hand towels

  • 2 plastic bags

Tools for the Bowl Soak Method:

  • Coarse grit nail file

  • Pure acetone

  • Cotton balls

  • Small bowl

  • 1 full-size paper towel sheet

  • 1 large hand towel

How to remove dip nails, step-by-step:

"Dip nail removal requires a little patience, but it's so worth it," says Terrell. "What most people fail to realize is that the removal process is just as important as the application in preserving the integrity of the nails." Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to remove dip nails the right way.

The Foil Method

Step 1: File down the top layer of nail polish

"You’ll start the process by filing down the shiny topcoat layer of your dip. This will allow the acetone to penetrate," says Terrell.

Step 2: Protip: apply petroleum jelly to the cuticle area

Acetone can quickly take a toll on your skin health (plus it can be drying). To keep your skin protected throughout the removal process, apply petroleum jelly to any areas that will be exposed to acetone. "This will help keep the skin around the nail beds stay moisturized throughout the process," says Terrell.

Step 3: Soak each nail with acetone

Next, soak a cotton ball in acetone, place one on each nail, and then wrap each nail with aluminum foil to keep everything in place. "Placing hot towels and plastic bags on each hand will speed up the process," says Terrell.

Step 4: Remove the foil nail wraps and wipe off any leftover powder and remaining polish

After soaking the nails for 10-15 minutes, remove the wraps. The powder should come right off. If there is still some left behind, Terrell says it should be thin enough to come off with a few swipes of an acetone soaked cotton ball.

The Bowl Soaking Method

"If you find the foil application too cumbersome, after filing, you can soak your nails in a small bowl of acetone," says Terrell. "Place a folded paper towel at the bottom of the bowl and move your nails back and forth to create friction. Your dip will dissolve quicker this way." After 10-15 minutes, remove nails from the bowl and use an acetone soaked cotton ball to wipe the dip powder right off. "I also like to place a steaming hot towel over the bowl to speed up the process," says Terrell. Note: Don't forget to apply petroleum jelly to your cuticles and fingertips if you use this method as more skin will be exposed to the acetone.

How to Take Care of Your Nails After Removal

As amazing as long lasting manicures are, they can inevitably take a toll on your nail health if you don't care for your nail beds properly. Here are a few quick tips from Terrell on how to keep your nails strong before and after using dip powder.

1. Take a break between manicures

Terrell suggests taking a break from dip powder manicures once every two to three months so that your nails don't become brittle and dehydrated.

2. Use a nail treatment

While you're taking a break, apply an intense strengthening and moisturizing treatment to bare nails. "Think of it like a mask or deep conditioner for the hair," says Terrell. "Your nails need that too." Terrell personally loves using the nail repair treatments made by IBX and Rejuvacote—the latter of which uses keratin and calcium to mend weak brittle nails.

3. Use cuticle oil and hand cream often.

"Clients should apply cuticle oil to the nails daily to keep the nails and cuticles hydrated," Terrell says. Not only do cuticles protect the nails, but using cuticle oil can also help to extend the life of a manicure. "At Powder, we use pure sweet almond oil. It's full of beneficial vitamins and non-greasy."

After removing your powder dip manicure, make sure you wash your hands really well. You don’t want any leftover acetone on your skin. Once you pat dry, follow up with a nourishing hand cream.

Can You Remove Dip Powder Nails Without Acetone?

You totally can, it may just take a bit more elbow grease. Ingredients like white vinegar, alcohol, and baking soda mixed with toothpaste can all remove dip powder nails following the same steps above.

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About the author
Cortney Clift
Cortney is a New York-based freelance writer who has written about beauty and wellness for more than six years. She was previously the senior writer and special projects editor at Brit + Co where she covered a wide range of news and lifestyle topics.
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Article Last Updated October 6, 2022 12:00 AM