Can You Use a Dip Powder Activator Substitute to Do Your Dip Nails?

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Dip powder nails (also known as SNS nails) have taken the world by storm over the past few years. They’re fun, easy to do at home, and can be super stylish. But for a variety of reasons, you may want to try a different activator for the nails.

Are there dip powder activator substitute options available? There are a few options available, though many different activators end up containing the same set of ingredients.

In this article, we’ll give you a few recommendations for substitute activators. Read on!


What is Nail Activator Used For? How Is it Different than a Primer?

Before getting into substitute dip powder activators, let us first talk about what constitutes an activator, how it is used, and what purpose it serves.

An activator refers to the liquid used in the dip nail system to seal, cure and dry drip powder. It prepares the nails for artificial enhancements, things like gel or acrylics. There are three most commonly known activators: the acrylic activator, the gel activator, and the dip nail activator.

Most people are confused about what a nail activator and a nail primer are.

Nail Activators

Nail activators are used to prime the nails for artificial nails. It roughens up the nails to allow for good adhering and can be used to remove nail polish.

Nail Primers

On the other hand, a primer creates smooth surfaces for painting nails. They also aid in sealing the surface to prevent paint from seeping through. A nail activator is not the same as a primer. However, it can be used for similar jobs.

It is used before adding the top coat.

For an activator to be efficient, it has to dry fast without causing a chemical reaction with whatever top coat you are using. It had happened before, where dip nail systems, particularly cheap ones with an activator, failed to work well with a topcoat.

For an activator to be efficient, it has to dry fast without causing a chemical reaction with whatever top coat you are using.

The topcoat in this scenario seizes and dries after the activator is applied. To avoid this from happening to you, we recommend using a high-quality nail dipping system.

Dip Powder Activator Substitute Options

The first option worth a try is this simple U2 Resin Activator. This activator should work on dip nails, and it contains a whopping two ingredients: ethyl acetate and acetone. While acetone isn’t great for you, it’s not bad, and this is definitely a healthier option.

Another couple of alternatives we might recommend trying might just be in your home right now. Instead of an activator, acetone or 99% isopropyl alcohol can be used to cure your dip nails.

Acetone or 99% isopropyl alcohol can be used to cure your dip nails.

These two substitutes don’t work as a traditional activator. They don’t cure. These substitutes act as drying agents that help seal your powder and prevent it from breaking. They also soften the shell and help to mold it together.

Why Would You Want To Use A Substitute Nail Activator?

There are a couple of reasons why you might be looking for an alternative for the Activator:

  • You’re concerned about the health impacts of standard dip nail activators
  • No activators are available to you at the moment
  • You have an allergic reaction to activators, thus looking for alternatives
  • The brand you have been using is not working as you would like it to

If you are searching for an alternative for the activator, then you are probably on the lookout for a product that will give you the same if not better results.

An activator’s ingredients work to fulfill the curing process. They cure the dip powder and prevent it from chipping from becoming powdery, among other functions.

How Do Dip Activators Work?

Dip powder consists of polymers that bond when exposed to an “activator,” liquid or, to use a phrase common in nail construction, a “monomer liquid.” The polymers in the dip powder are triggered by the monomer, resulting in the powder molecules linking together and forming a nearly impenetrable wall.

Without the activator, dip nails would just be powder-coated fingertips that would most likely rinse off. No one wants that!

Compared to gel and acrylic, the dip is more common and used of the three activators because it is non-threatening and fast.

Some people tend to apply more dip powder after the activator, but this is something we don’t recommend. This is because dip activators create a chemical reaction that aligns the dip powder in place. When you add more powder after applying the dip activator, there will be difficulty in proper adhering, thus causing your manicure to be uneven, and grainy

Some people tend to apply more dip powder after the activator, but this is something we don’t recommend.

In addition to that, dip powder that is not properly activated will be more likely to peel, chip, or pop off. It is, therefore, best to stick to the provided instructions to ensure your manicures look their best for the longest time.

Can Dip Powder Be Used With Any Activator?

A good number of dip powder systems come with their dip activator solution designed to do well with that brand of powder. However, you might just get away with using other dip activator solutions with your dip powder. 

Just make sure they are compatible. An example to check for compatibility includes; if you are using a gel-based dip powder, then use a gel-based dip activator. You can also check for your manufacturer’s information or contact their customer service.

How Are Nail Activators Used?

Usage is simple, apply the activator to the nails before adding the artificial enhancements. They are also useful in removing gels or acrylics. Put a bit of the activator on a cotton ball, then gently rub it on the enhancement surface until it breaks down.

Activators are commonly used in any manicure or pedicure routine because they help your artificial enhancements look amazing.

The Purpose of Nail Activators

Nail activators can be termed glue that ‘cures’ or polymerizes when subjected to ultraviolet light (UV). They attach tips, overlays, and acrylic nails to natural nails. Nail activators also stick jewels, rhinestone, and other decorations to the nails.

They come in two parts: the UV nail dryer or the nail lamp and the glue itself. The nail lamp emits UV light that is responsible for curing the adhesive and bonding the acrylic nail to the natural nail.

A good number of nail activators have cyanoacrylate, a clear-looking liquid that hardens when you expose it to UV light. The same element is found in medical adhesives like sutures and closure strips.

Generally, activators are safe to use, but over-exposing them to UV light might result in skin irritation. We recommend reading and following the instructions provided by the manufacturer keenly. 

What Are Dip Activators Made Of?

Activators contain ingredients that aid in clearing out debris or oil from nails. They also etch the surface; this is done to create a rough texture. The rough texture increases the grip as far as gripping is concerned; they also last longer.

Regarding element composition, the following are some of the things you will find in your basic activator. 

  • Urethane Acrylate – offers chemical resistance, heat resistance, adhesion, and water resistance
  • Hydroxycyclohexyl Phenyl Ketone – aids in speeding up the curing of chemicals when UV falls on it.
  • Isobornyl Methacrylate – polymer-forming reactive solvent
  • Trimethylbenzoyl Diphenylphosphine Oxide – curing agent
  • Ethoxylated Trimethylolpropane Triacrylate Esters – also aid in curing UV reactive coating

Some of these chemicals have cancer-causing concerns, which leads people to want to try alternatives like those mentioned above.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).