Have you ever wondered how people get their dip nails looking so “perfect” at home? Maybe you’ve tried dip powder before and struggled with lumps, shine, shape… and a host of other issues! I still remember my first time doing my own dip nails… the nail technician had made it look so easy and perfect that I HAD to try it for myself. It ended up looking like a child had painted my nails (no offense to children… I guarantee there are many more capable than me).
My first experience with dip nails sent me back to regular polish for a few months. I thought the dip system was just too difficult for me and didn’t understand it how to use it properly. It wasn’t until a watched a tutorial video and did a bit more reading that I tried dipping powder again. And it worked! I fell in love with dipping powder and never used regular polish again. You just can’t beat how long it lasts and how quick and easy it is to apply (once you get the hang of it, of course!).
I’ll be going step by step how to apply dip nail powder (the right way!) using our own Fairy Glamor dip system and discuss some of the mistakes you might be making (I feel as though I am qualified to walk you through mistakes, as I make plenty). I really hope this tutorial helps you on your new dipping journey and you fall in love with acrylic powder as much as I did.
If you’re more of a visual person (as I am) this photo dip nail application tutorial should help immensely. If you need a little more guidance, keep reading below!
Step by Step Process on How to Apply Dip Nails:
- Lightly buff your nail beds.
- Apply nail dehydrator (or rubbing alcohol). Wipe away excess moisture.
- Apply dip base liquid to your nail.
- Dip your finger at a 45 degree angle into the powder.
- Leave your finger for 2-5 seconds.
- Slowly lift your finger out of the jar.
- Brush away excess powder.
- Apply nail activator to seal the powder.
- Apply your dip top coat or gel top coat.
- Use activator to cure dip top coat without UV light. Or use a UV light to cure gel top coat.
Time it takes for a full dip manicure: 20 minutes.
If you want a more detailed tutorial, read below! We go over many of the mistakes people make when applying dip nails for the first time and how to avoid them. Getting the perfect dipped nails the first time you try it at home is very unlikely (unless you're just a skilled perfectionist. If so, I envy you!) so don't be discouraged if your nails come out looking a bit sloppy the first time.
Step 0. Prep your nails
This step may seem redundant (because, well duh) but it’s extremely important when applying dip nail powder. Acrylic powder is heavier and more “solid” than regular polish, so you really need to push your cuticles out of the way, or it could really bring you discomfort or even pain if you ever decide to remove your nail powder. I want to emphasis… this stuff is STRONG. It will NOT chip or break like regular polish. More than likely it will just pop off your nail in a big chunk. So be sure to push your cuticles all the way back and do not apply the powder over your cuticles.
You also need to buff your nails. You don’t need to go crazy with it, but your nails should feel “rough” to the touch. Just buff up the surface a little. The better you buff, the longer your nails will stay on. I’m not kidding when I tell you I’ve had nail powder last 2 months on my nails. Yes, they had grown out quite a lot (you could see large “moons” on my nails) and they weren’t exactly pretty at that point. If you want your nails to last a long time (like I do, I’m lazy!) then you need to buff, buff, buff. Did I say buff? You need to buff, lady! Powder nails are prone to “popping” off due to the smooth-ness (is that a word?) of your nail bed. If you roughen up the surface, the bonding liquid will sort-of seep into all the rough cracks you made and REALLY stick the powder to your nail.
After you've buffed, wipe away any dust particles and then apply your nail dehydrator. This step is important if you want your nails to last a long time and not pop off! If there's any moisture left on your nails the powder won't stick as well. If you don't have any nail dehydrator at home, you can substitute acetone or isopropyl alcohol for it. Just make sure you dry your nail really well afterwards.
Step 1. Apply Base & Bond Dip System Liquid
Of course, we recommend using our own Fairy Glamor Base & Bond as our powder is a bit different from other brands (we can’t promise how well our powder will work with other systems because we designed our dipping liquids to chemically react to a certain formula). Most dip systems have two separate liquids, Base, and Bond, but we created a new product that does both to speed up the application process.
Apply Base & Bond directly to your nail, leaving a small 3mm space AWAY from your cuticles. This is usually where people new to dip powder mess up. If you apply the glue-like liquid too close to your skin or cuticles, the powder will bubble-up too high and end up looking messy. Remember, dip powder is much thicker than normal polish. If you want a smooth finish you need to chant “smooth” 5 times out-loud and spin in a circle 3 times.
Step 2. Time to dip, baby!
The fun part of dip nail powder is that if you mess up, it’s REALLY hard to remove… Wait… That’s not what I meant. The fun part is dipping your nail and getting the super perfect finish you’ve always dreamed of! That’s right. That’s what we’re going for.
Our Base & Bond liquid is specially formulated to react to our acrylic powder, so no need to rush!
Dip your finger at an angle into the powder. You don’t want to go straight up and down, otherwise the pressure from the powder can “push up” the powder already on your nail and create those ugly bumps you’re trying to avoid.
Leave your finger in the powder for about 3 seconds. You want to give it enough time to fully bond to your nail. If you move out too early you risk “pushing” the powder down and creating a lumpy mess.
Once you’ve removed your finger, wait around 3 more seconds for it to fully dry and then brush any excess powder off with a brush.
Advanced Dipping Techniques
- Use a pointy tool, like a toothpick, and run it around your cuticle area after dipping. Use it to remove any excess powder while it's still somewhat soft and moldable. This will give your cuticles a cleaner look!
- Always do your first dip around 3/4 of the way down your nail. Go 4/5ths of the way down your nail on the second dip. This will help create an apex and help your nails last longer!
- If you're dipping with chunky glitters, you'll need to adjust the individual glitters between each dip. This is also where a toothpick can come in handy. Check out our comprehensive tutorial on chunky glitter dip nails for more details.
- If you're dipping with extra long nails, you can use a cupcake liner and fill it with powder for a wider surface area to dip in, and then just dump any remaining powder back in your jar for later use.
- If you want to prevent bumpy nails, you can gently lay your nail flat into the powder jar instead of dipping. This will prevent the "pushing" motion of dipping your finger into the jar and help you avoid lumps from the powder bunching up.
Step 3. Applying Activator
Applying activator is probably one of the easiest steps, but a lot of people don’t understand or know what activator is in the dip nail application process, so we’re going to cover that.
What is the Activator step?
We get this question a lot! People don’t understand what activator does, or why is used. Technically you could skip the activator step… but you probably don’t want to.
Activator contains a chemical hardens the nail powder when they come in contact. Simply put, a chemical reaction occurs. If you touch the surface of your nail right after applying activator, you can feel the warmth of the reaction.
So, what’s the point of this step? Well, activator helps fully seal the powder together into one large mass. It also removes any excess powder that may be left after brushing so that when you apply your top coat, it doesn’t pick up any powder.
How to apply activator.
Activator is as simple as brushing it over your nails. You don’t need a lot of it, and you don’t really have to worry about “missing” your nail, because it won’t leave any residue behind like gel or matte top coats would.
After applying, wait around 5 seconds for it to dry (it’s fast!). You can wave your hands around like a crazy person to speed up the process.
Follow step 2 and 3 all over again to create more vibrant color and longer lasting nails. Sometimes one dip coat is enough, but usually you’ll need two full dips.
Step 4. Apply a Top Coat (Optional)
While it’s better to “seal” your powder in, a top coat isn’t necessarily necessary, so you can skip this step if you’d like!
We have three options for you to choose from. One method requires a UV light, and the other method does not. There are benefits to each method and we'll go over those in a second.
The UV light method for at home dip nails.
A no-wipe top coat is nice because you don’t need to wipe it down with alcohol after curing it (regular gel top coats leave a sticky surface behind that you need to remove).
How to apply your gel or matte top coat over dip powder.
Brush your top coat over all your nails as you would applying regular polish. Be sure not to get any on your skin (if you do, you’ll feel a slight burn when you use a UV/LED lamp!). Seal the ends of your nails as well. This will help keep your color intact.
Put your nails under a UV/LED light for around 30 seconds. Some lamps are stronger than others, so your time may vary. For us, it’s around 15-30 seconds.
Note: Gel top coats are a little tricky to use with dip powder, because if you don't apply it correctly, the top coat can peel off. A little trick we've found is to apply a thin layer of dip base before applying your gel top coat. This will help it stick better and last longer!
How to apply dip powder nails without a UV light.
Most dip nail liquid systems use this method of application. It does not require a UV light to apply and is frequently referred to as the "dip top coat" application method. What many people don't realize is that the base dip liquid step (commonly referred to as step 1) is the same exact liquid as a dip top coat. Our Fairy Glamor system does not have a dip top coat because you can use the dip base as a top coat if you do not want to use the UV method.
What you will need:
- Base dip liquid or dip top coat
- Paper towel
How to apply your dip top coat.
- Apply dip base or top coat over your finished dip powder nails
- Wait around 2-3 seconds and then apply activator over your dip base
- Apply another layer of dip base or dip top
- Apply activator to cure
- Wipe your dip top coat with a paper towel between applications. This will prevent the activator from hardening the brush.
Which method is better, dip top coat or gel top coat for at home dip nails?
Dip top coat and gel top coat both have their pros and cons. Gel top coats tend to be glossier and shinier than dip top coats and take less layers (and therefore, time) to look pretty. Dip top coats tend to take around 2-3 layers to get a glossy effect. However, dip tip coats are great if you are worried about exposing your skin to UV rays. Dip top coats also tend to stick better to dip powder, and last longer than gel top coats.
Here is a quick overview of the tips we shared for the dip nail application process:
- Buff your nails before applying dip powder if you want your nails to last longer.
- Apply your base liquid 2mm away from your cuticles to give the powder room to expand.
- Only apply 1 or 2 dip coats if you don't want your nail looking thick.
- Use a pointy tool around your cuticle area between dips to remove any lumpy particles.
- Dip your finger at a 45 degree angle.
- Lift "up" instead of "out" when removing finger from the powder.
And You're done applying your new dip nails at home!
Congratulations! You’ve applied your (hopefully perfect) new dip nails. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Dip nail powder takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, I guarantee you won’t return to regular polish. We hope you enjoy your long lasting nail color (up to five weeks!) and really hope this dip nail tutorial helped you with the process. Don't forget to read up on how to remove your dip nails or how to apply chunky glitter dip nails. If you have any questions or would like us to cover another topic, let us know in the comments. Thanks for reading, Fairies!