Mirror, iridescent, and shimmery nails have been among the top players in the nail trends of 2021 and will continue to be famous for years to come. In order to get this beloved effect, a special product called “chrome powder” is used… but can chrome powder be used on regular nail polish for that infamous shimmer?

What is Chrome Powder?

Chrome powder is a finely ground dust that closely resembles a ground metallic eyeshadow and is made of metallic pigments, metals, and even powdered glass, which makes it extremely important that you don’t breathe any of it in. This magic dust is evenly scrubbed onto the nail with a foam sponge eyeshadow applicator until you get the desired opaqueness and shimmer. It will usually come in a little pot or a grid box (similar to a tackle box) with other chrome powder options.

How is Chrome Powder Traditionally Applied?

The powder won’t stick to just anything; you can’t apply the powder to a nail with nothing on it. In the salon (traditionally), chrome powder is spread over a gel top coat polish that leaves a slightly sticky residue. The nail prep process is completed before anything else; if you need help with nail prep, be sure to view our nail prep guide. A gel base coat is applied and cured, a color gel polish is applied and cured, and a no-wipe top coat is applied and cured. The chrome powder is then buffed over the slightly tacky gel, and another layer of no-wipe gel polish top coat is painted over everything to seal the powder in for a glossy, shimmery, perfectly chrome finish.

For more information on traditional chrome powder, view this cool video by cutepolish on YouTube.

Do You Need Gel Polish for Chrome Nails?

Until just recently, it was thought that gel polish was a necessity for chrome nails. However, that is no longer the case, and you can apply the powder onto regular nail polish just fine.

How Do You Apply Chrome Powder on Regular Nail Polish?

No gel polish lying around the house but craving a chrome manicure? No problem! Just use your favorite normal nail polish instead.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Cuticle pusher
  • Cuticle remover (optional)
  • Nail file + nail scissors/clippers (optional)
  • Nail polish base coat (not gel)
  • Polish color of your choosing (this color should be similar to the chrome powder color)
  • Chrome powder
  • Sponge eyeshadow applicator
  • Air-dry or gel glossy top coat
  • UV/LED lamp (if using gel top coat)


  1. Apply the cuticle remover and allow it to penetrate the cuticle (optional).
  2. Push the cuticles back, being gentle enough to avoid any freak accidents. Applying any product over an injured nail is a recipe for infection.
  3. Cut and file your nails to the desired shape and length.
  4. Paint a thin layer of air-dry base coat over each nail and wait for it to dry, usually 2-3 minutes.
  5. Swipe a coat of the color polish of your choice over each nail.
  6. After about 30 seconds to a minute, gently press a finger onto a nail. If there is a fingerprint in the polish but no polish on your finger, you are good to go. If there is no fingerprint, you need to start over as you waited too long. If the polish stuck to your finger, wait a few more seconds before trying again. The polish should be slightly tacky but not wet.
  7. Quickly dip the eyeshadow applicator into the chrome powder and swipe it over the nail, being sure not to press too hard. Too much pressure over the polish can move the color around and ruin the manicure. Repeat this process over each nail and give the nails 2-3 more minutes to dry before applying the top coat.
  8. Paint your top coat (gel or air-dry) over each nail and cure/wait for it to dry, usually 2-3 minutes more.

Want a Longer-Lasting Chrome Manicure?

Try out our Fairy Glamor chrome dip and acrylic powders for 3-5 weeks of color; no UV light required! You’ll never need a sponge applicator or standard chrome powder again, both of which can be potentially harmful to the environment.

Want to learn more about dip powder? Be sure to check out our blog for product drops, tutorials, help, and other fun reads.

October 12, 2021 — Fairy Glamor


Nancy Bachmeier said:

How do you remove all the polish when you’re ready to change her nails?

Julia said:

I still get like a “dissolve” of the powder when applying regular top coat :/

Colleen said:

This article was very informative. Exactly what I needed to know. Thank you

Trina said:

Thanks for the information I was looking for!!💜💜

Trina said:

Thanks for the information I was looking for!!💜💜

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Fairy Glamor designs unique 3-in-1 dip and acrylic nail powders in Galveston, Texas. We're a 100% family owned business that was founded in 2020 and went from making handmaking powders in our spare bedroom to shipping out of a big warehouse. We believe in both quality and affordability--that's why our powders are used by both professional nail technicians and in homes. Our unique colors are hand-designed to give you gorgeous manicures that'll make your nails feel magical.