why your dip nails are cracking

Why are my dip nails cracking?

Did you get a beautiful manicure done, only to have it crack a few days later? Cracking dip nail color is one of the most common dip complaints we see. Luckily, it’s also extremely easy to fix—whether you are using too many dip coats, not using activator correctly, or other problems. Try our 5 fixes below to narrow down your cracking issue and get back to dipping!

You are using too many dip coats.

Adding too many or too little dip nail coats can cause your nails to crack. You should only need to dip 2-3 times to fully cover each nail. If you’re having trouble getting full coverage in 2-3 dips, consider switching dip liquid or powder brands. There’s either not enough pigment or the powder was primarily formulated for an acrylic system and not a dip system.

activator for dip nails

You are not using activator correctly.

Many people unknowingly skip the activator step either because they don’t know what it’s for, or don’t think it’s necessary. Activator is used to cure the powder and harden it. While it may not look like it does much on the surface, when you add activator over your powder a chemical reaction occurs that helps form the powder into one solid mass.

If you’re having issues with your at home dip nails cracking, the easiest remedy would be to add more activator and see if that helps. Try adding a generous amount of activator after each layer of powder and see if that helps with the breakage.    

You are applying dip powder too close to your skin.

This may seem obvious, but if even a small portion of your powder overlaps the skin or presses against your skin, it can cause cracking. When you move around and use your hands on a daily basis, even a small amount of pressure from your powder pressing against the skin can cause damage. Make sure to apply your base and bond around 2mm away from the skin to prevent the powder from touching.


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You are over buffing your dip powder.

After you’ve applied your dip coats, it’s a good idea to buff the top of your nails to even out the powder if it isn’t smooth enough. However, if you buff too roughly, this can later cause your nails to crack. Do not over-buff the top of your powder. Only buff to smooth out any lumps or bumpy areas.

Your dip liquids are low quality.

Dip liquids vary greatly from brand to brand. Many people don’t realize that dip liquid kits are formulated specifically for the type of powder that a brand sells. While you can interchange dip liquid kits and use them from one brand to the next, you may not always get the results you’re looking for. Quite frankly, some dip liquids are just higher quality than others.

If you’ve tried all our fixes above and still are having issues with your powder cracking, consider switching dip liquid brands. Look for 9-FREE or 21-FREE dip liquid brands that are healthy and high quality. It's better to use a brand that has glass bottles instead of plastic, as your dip liquids will last much longer and resist spoiling. 

paparazzi fairy glamor dip nail powder

You are not using a real dip powder brand.

Did you know not all dip powders are ‘real’ dip powder brands? Despite what many people think, dip powder and acrylic powders are made from different ratios of acrylic polymers. Dipping powder also contains a chemical that reacts with activator to cure the powder. There are many different types of acrylic polymers and some work better for dipping than others. Some are also more expensive than others.

Some acrylic powder brands will try and sell you their acrylic powder as a dip powder. Acrylic powder is much cheaper to produce than dip powder because the polymers are less expensive. If you must use more than 3 coats of powder to color your nail, there’s a good chance you’re trying to use acrylic powder with a dip system, which won’t work nearly as well as a true dip powder. Acrylic powder will crack much more than dip powder because it isn’t designed to work with the activator liquid needed to cure your powder.

If you’ve switched dip liquid brands and are still having to apply more then 3 layers of powder, you should try using a different brand of powder and see if that helps.

You are not waiting long enough between dip coats.

Most of the time you will need to apply more than one dip coat to full cover the nail (around 2-3 dips). However, if you apply your dip colors too quickly, the color will not dry or set properly and this will cause the powder to crack. Some dip powders are quick dry, like Fairy Glamor, but some are not. If you're using a quick dry dip powder you should only need to wait around 5 seconds before dipping again. But if you are not using a quick dry brand you'll need to wait a minute or two before applying another coat.

When you apply a second coat of powder too quickly, it sits on top of the unfinished first layer that hasn't set yet. This causes instability. Think about it like trying to build a road over mud--the mud will move under the pressure and the firm bridge will try to compensate, causing cracks.

How to fix your cracked dip nails at home.

A crack in your otherwise perfect manicure does not have to spell doom and gloom! There are a few ways you can fix the crack without sabotaging the rest of your nail.

The difference between a crack and a break.

Our methods listed here are assuming you have a crack and not a break. A hairline crack is a small line that goes through your color. A break is where a chunk of your nail breaks off.

The buff and fill method for cracked dip nails.

This is the most common fix for cracked dip nails. If the crack happened beneath your top coat, you're going to need to buff the surface away so that you can reach the crack. You can either use a nail file or a drill for this. Once you've removed the top layer you can apply your base coat over the crack and dip your finger in the same color again. The layer will become uneven--don't worry about this. Apply activator and let the layer dry before buffing it smooth. Then apply a thin layer top coat over the entire nail. Tada! Good as new.

The easy "patch" methods for cracked dip nails.

Let's say you're back from the nail salon and you don't have the matching dip color on hand. No need to fret! You can still fix your crack without the original color.

If you have any nail polish (preferably gel) on hand that somewhat matches, you can go ahead and paint over your entire nail. This will mask the crack. Gel is better because it's thicker and will hide the crack more.

If you don't have any colors you'd like to use, then bring out that bling! Rhinestones and nail decals are a great way to hide cracks in the nail while adding a little extra style.

Cracked dip nails are annoying, but not impossible to fix.

One small mistake can make all the difference when it comes to applying your dip nail powder properly. Try making small adjustments to narrow down why your dip nails are cracking. Once you find the problem, you’ll be kicking yourself that you didn’t find it sooner!

If you're looking for a new dip powder brand that won't leave cracks in your nails, then we suggest trying Fairy Glamor. They're a U.S. based nail powder with plenty of unique finishes to choose from.

Have you had problems with your dip nails cracking before? What were you doing wrong? How did you fix it? Let us know in the comments!

May 14, 2021 — Fairy Glamor
Tags: dip nails

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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.