Dip Nails vs. Gel Nails ~ You can never go wrong with classic nail polish. But let’s admit that comfort picks can get a little too… boring. Luckily, we have other (dare we say, better) options that have been recently gaining popularity and accessibility; so let’s talk about dip nails and gel nails.
A Must Read: Manicure Basics
Are they really new?
Surprisingly, not at all. Gel nails and dip powder nails were invented in the ’80s and ’90s respectively, so they’ve been around for quite some time. But their popularity has only recently gone up, especially with dip powder nails.
We’ll quickly go over the important details—definition, the application process, and the removal process. Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, it’s up to you to decide whether you’d go for gel nails or dip powder nails.
Gel nails—what are they?
Gel nails have a thicker consistency than normal nail polish. They are mostly known for their durability and extra glossy finish. While they have already existed way back in the ’80s, gel nails didn’t really sit well with the nail clientele until about the ’90s, where better innovations for gel formulas were made.
There are essentially two main types of gel nails: hard gels and soak-off gels. Hard gels contain a non-porous formula that is impermeable by solvents such as acetone. In other words, hard gels are highly tolerant of acetone and can only be removed by filing them off. Soak-off gels, on the other hand, can be removed by soaking them with acetone.
Hard gels typically come in builder gel types. Builder gels are a sub-type of gel nails that allow you to form an extension off of your natural nails.
Here’s a short video on the two main types of gel nails; it also explains how to apply for a builder gel extension.
Additionally, a new gel formula has made its way into the nail community, and it’s called a hybrid gel. Hybrid gels have a mix of acrylic and gel properties. They can be used as an overlay on the natural nails or as nail extensions. Most nail techs and DIY-ers alike more commonly refer to hybrid gels as PolyGel, a brand widely known for establishing hybrid gels in the market.
You have essentially two ways to remove gel nails—by filing and by acetone. As we have mentioned before, certain gel formulas are resistant to acetone, so you virtually have no choice but to file them. This rule only applies to hard gels, though.
You can, however, use acetone to remove the bond formula that glues the hard gel and the nail plate together. This video perfectly demonstrates how to remove hard gel through e-filing.
Next is through acetone. When removing gel nails through acetone, you’ll need a couple of materials:
- Cotton balls
- Aluminum foil
Gel nails are easy to remove with acetone, you’ll just need a bit of patience. What you’ll do is break up one big cotton ball into enough pieces for each nail. The cotton pieces have to be small enough for it to completely soak into the acetone, but large enough to cover the whole nail.
Next, place the soaked cotton piece onto your nail; then wrap cut-up pieces of aluminum foil on each nail. Note that this is an important step as the presence of the aluminum foil helps conduct heat, allowing the acetone to dissolve the gel faster. After wrapping with foil, wait about 10 minutes before removing everything. Once they’re completely soaked off, remove the bits of gel with a cuticle pusher. They should be breaking off easily.
Tip: You’d know the gel is ready to be removed if some of it comes off as you pull out the cotton from your nails.
Dip nails—what are they?
Dip nails or dip powder nails are the latest trends in the nail community thanks to its unique formula. The idea behind dip powder nails is simple—to deliver sturdy, highly-pigmented nails without the need for precision. Almost every nail polish out there comes with its own brush; so if you don’t have a steady hand to properly apply nail polish, dip powder nails offer an alternative option.
They can be removed through either acetone or e-filing. Here’s a quick video on how to remove dip nails through acetone.
Now that we’ve laid out all the essential information on both formulas, let’s compare them side by side.
||Gel Nails||Dip Powder Nails|
|Durability||2-3 weeks||3 weeks to 9 weeks|
|Application process||Brushing, the tool can be cleaned after||Dipping (unsanitary)|
|Removal process||Acetone, e-file||Acetone, e-file|
Dip powder nails are more superior to gel nails when it comes to durability. However, one of the reasons why they are not commonly offered in nail salons as a service is because of how they are applied. Dip powder nails come in tubs where the nail is supposed to be submerged in. It’s not exactly an ideal setup if you have different clients that share the same tub; that would be unsanitary and even illegal in some states.
But if you’re planning to DIY, then dip powder nails can work beautifully. The only concern from there is the budget. A single dip powder kit can cost at least $80-$100.
Dip nail pros:
- Lasts for up to a month, even longer
- Can help weak nails become sturdier due to the formula
- Delivers strong, vivid pigments
- Ideal for those with shaky hands
Dip nail cons:
- Only ideal for a single user due to tub packaging
- Less control over product during application
Gel nails had to deal with a ton of stigma before the nail clientele before it became widely accepted. Due to its need for UV light and thicker consistency, many were once skeptical about the procedure involved in getting gel nails. Its critics claim that UV can cause harm to the skin, which is not completely false. Researchers say that because skin cancer can take years before it shows symptoms or even develops, it could take decades to tell if a simple nail UV lamp can cause such a health issue. But one thing’s for sure, FDA has stamped UV lamps as low-risk for cancer.
Many also think that the viscous nature of gel nails can inhibit the nails to breathe. But the thing is, nails do not technically breathe. They get their necessary nutrients and oxygen from our bloodstream and not from the air. In other words, gel nails are not the reason for nail discoloration. Rather, it could be the bond formula that’s causing the yellowing.
Gel nail pros:
- High gloss finish
- Gives a smooth, consistent look on the whole nail
- Lasts for up to 3 weeks
- Can be used as either nail overlays or extensions
- Relatively affordable compared to dip powders
- Has different consistencies, catering from beginners to experts
Gel nail cons:
- Requires 1-3 minutes of ‘curing’
- Can be inconvenient to remove for some
Choosing between a dip formula or a gel formula all depends on preference and ability to apply polish. If you are perfectly capable of applying the polish using a brush, your reasons for choosing a powder formula narrows down from slim to almost none. Personally speaking, the gel is superior in more ways than dip powder formulas. But at the end of the day, it’s all about choosing what will work best for you. Even better, you can always experiment with both!