What is activator for dip nails?
Before we get into what can be used as an alternative for activator, you need to understand what activator is made out of and what its purpose is.
Activator is a liquid used in the dip nail system to cure, seal, and dry dip powder. It is used before the last step, which is to add a top coat. The purpose of activator is to cure the powder quickly and prep it for the top coat. For an activator to work properly, it needs to dry quickly and not cause a chemical reaction with the topcoat you're using. There have been cases with dip nail systems (the cheaper systems) in the past that had an activator and topcoat not work well together, where the topcoat would seize up and dry out immediately after applying over the activator. Obviously we don't want that to happen! So please use a high quality nail dipping system.
What is dip activator made out of?
To be brief, here is the ingredients list in your typical dip activator, from highest concentration to lowest:
- Urethane Acrylate
- Hydroxycyclohexyl Phenyl Ketone
- Isobornyl Methacrylate
- Trimethylbenzoyl Diphenylphosphine Oxide
- Ethoxylated Trimethylolpropane Triacrylate Esters
There is almost a 100% chance I misspelled one of those, but you get the gist! A lot of very big words that are difficult to pronounce. Now obviously ingredients vary between brands, however this is the most common formulation.
Now, I'm going to go through this list and explain a bit on what each ingredient is and what it's typically used for.
Urethane acrylate is typically used in formulas to provide chemical resistance, heat resistance, water resistance, and adhesion in sealants.
Hydroxycyclohexyl Phenyl Ketone
Hyrozycyclohexyl Phenyl Ketones are used in UV reactive applications (such as gel top coats) to form a chain reaction. it's a staple used in many UV curable applications such as inks, resins, and adhesives. In other words, when UV light is used on this substance, it helps the chemicals cure faster.
Isobornyl Methacrylate is a reactive solvent used for forming polymers.
Trimethylbenzoyl Diphenylphosphine Oxide
Trimethylbenzoyl Diphenylphosphine Oxide is specifically used for nail products in curing acrylic ester polymers, the main ingredient in dip and acrylic nail powder. It's a UV photo-initiator that reacts with UV light.
Ethoxylated Trimethylolpropane Triacrylate Esters
Ethoxylated Trimethylolpropane Triacrylate Esters are also used for UV reactive applications to help cure.
So What can You use Instead of Activator for Dip Nails?
I can only think of a few reasons why you won't or can't use activator. You either: don't currently have it available, are allergic to it and looking for an alternative, or your current activator brand isn't working right.
If you're looking for an alternative to activator, then it's safe to assume that you need to look for a product that works "similarly" to activator. This means we need to analyze the ingredients in activator and find something that has the same properties. In this case, activator is made out of ingredients designed for "curing".
Activator is unique in that it uses a special chemical designed specifically to cure acrylic esters. It's not something that you can readily find in places like Walmart. However! There is an alternative to activator that you can use and you might even have it in your home right now. Try using 99% isopropyl alcohol or acetone to cure your dip nails instead of activator. While they don't really "cure" the powder in the same sense that activator does, alcohols can help work as a drying agent to seal your powder and keep it from breaking, while also softening the shell to help mold it together.