Dip powder manicures – a.k.a. Signature Nail System (SNS nails) – are the latest trend in manicures. They have taken the nail salon community by storm! This technique is durable, lasts for ages, looks natural, and comes in pretty much any color you can imagine.
They’re a great alternative to acrylic, gel, shellac, and other traditional nail polishes. If you’re looking to vamp up your nail game but were wondering “what are SNS nails?”, this is where you’ll find out everything you need to know about dip powder manicures.
You can get SNS Nails at a salon, or use one of the many dip powder kits at home to rock your own dip powder nails!
What are SNS nails?
Dip nails are entirely unique compared to your average manicure.
Simply put, a dip powder manicure is made with a powder and glue, which together create a long-lasting bond on your nails.
Dip powder manicures are often called ‘SNS nails’. SNS is actually a name brand of dip powder , like people calling tissue, Kleenex or adhesive bandages, Band-Aids.
Instead of using a traditional “painting on” application, color and designs are applied to your nails with powder. You can mix and match dip powders to create different effects and colors.
Just as the name suggests, you literally dip your fingernails into a pot of colored powder, which is then secured with a bonding liquid.
It’s bit more complicated than that, but we’ll get into the application process a little bit later.
SNS Nails vs Shellac, Acrylic, & Gel Nails
If you are not sure of the difference between acrylic, gel, shellac and powder dip nails, the easiest, most basic explanation is as follows….
- If they paint your nails with a thick gooey substance from a pot, then stick your hands under UV or (LED light), you’re getting a gel manicure.
- If they paint your nails with what looks like nail polish, then stick your hands under UV light, it’s shellac.
- If they mix liquid and powder together, then smear it on, it’s acrylic or fiberglass.
- And if they paint your nail and then sprinkle colored powder on top, it’s SNS aka Dip Powder.
Let’s see how SNS nails stack up against other types of manicures.
SNS nails, shellac, acrylic, and gel nails are all much more long-lasting manicures, compared to traditional, plain old nail polish.
If you are getting your nails done at a salon, the time it takes for each type of manicure is about the same – around 45 minutes. The removal process for each application is also pretty much the same.
Here are some of the ways that SNS nails differ from the others.
SNS nails look more natural than acrylic and gel nails because they are not as thick.
With dip powder, you don’t have to file your nails too far back, so nail beds will be in better condition than, say, an acrylic.
The SNS nails process also contains fewer fumes than acrylic nails and does not require harmful UV light to cure, unlike some shellac and gel nails.
How are SNS nails applied?
The process of applying SNS nails is fairly simple:
- The nail is filed and shaped, then cleansed with a primer.
- A coat of Resin is brushed on the nail.
- Each finger is dipped, one at a time, into the color powder (or the powder is applied using a brush), and resin is then applied again.
- An activator is brushed on two or three times (depending on the product).
- The last step is the glossy top coat to give the look its luster and shine.
How long do SNS nails last?
SNS nails can last anywhere from two to four weeks without chipping or fading.
This is usually dependent on the regrowth of your nail beds. You can get powder manicures refilled, but most of the time you will have to get all of the color removed and get them completely redone.
How to Remove SNS Nails
The process of removing powder manicures is similar to that of acrylic, gel, and shellac manicures. Here’s the basics:
- 1. Buff off the top layer
- 2. Soak a cotton ball or cotton pad in acetone
- 3. Secure cotton balls on nails with foil and let soak for about 15-20 minutes
- 4. Rub the rest of the colour off
SNS Nails Pros and Cons At-A-Glance
- lasts 2 – 4 weeks
- fewer fumes than other types of manicures
- doesn’t need UV light to cure
- lighter and more durable than acrylic nails
- less messy application and need for touch-ups
- thinner than acrylic and gel nails
- can be expensive to maintain
- can have hygiene concerns
- complicated, multi-step process is harder to do at home
- can be harsh on nails
We’ve put together a more detailed look at the Pros and Cons of SNS Nails here.
Are SNS nails Bad for your Nails?
SNS nails are being touted as the ‘healthier’ manicure. While it’s true that they do not require UV light to cure, dip powders are temporarily damaging to the nails.
The seal layer of your nails is broken in the process.
However, it is not permanently damaging.
Dip powder is essentially an acrylic powder, which shares the same ingredient as acrylic nails: acrylic ester polymers.
While dip powder doesn’t lay on as thick as acrylics, acrylic ester polymers can have adverse effects on the nail beds, sometimes suffocating the area and leading to irritation.
Dip powder, like acrylics, also requires harsh buffing and filing in order for the adhesive to have something to stick to. This is commonly done using an electric nail file.
This process can weaken your natural tips, making them more prone to nail splits and breakage.
SNS nails require a resin base as part of the process. Most of the resins contain cyanoacrylate, which is the main ingredient in Super Glue, so you can imagine it’s not super gentle on nails.
The last point of contention is that hygiene can be a concern with SNS nails if the nail salon is dipping, rather than brushing the powder on.
It’s unlikely a nail technician is using a new jar of dip powder for every client.
So having multiple people dipping their fingers into the same jar of dip powder, can lead to contamination with bacteria and even lead to infection.
The salon should be emptying power into a separate container for each customer, rather than having everyone use the same container. But not all do.
That all having been said, SNS nails are not that bad for your nails. The damage done by adhesives and resins is not permanent. As long as you give your nails a little breathing room in between applications, your nails should be fine.
There are a number of cuticle oils such as L’Occitane’s Shea Nail And Cuticle Oil , EMMA Beauty Drench Juicy Citrus Cuticle Oil , and hand and body lotion fortified with Vitamin E to keep those nails and cuticles hydrated while you give them a rest between your SNS manicures.
Can I do SNS nails at home?
Absolutely, you can do SNS-style dip powder nails at home. But it takes a bit of practice.
Doing an SNS or dip powder manicure is not just a matter of ‘dip and go’. They require a number of steps and if you’ve never had it done professionally, you may want to see the way it’s supposed to be done properly before you give it a go on your own.
If you are feeling confident enough in your manicure skills, there are easy-to-use kits you can get that come with everything you need to get dipping.
We’ve put together a list of the best dip nail kits to get you going.
You can also buy the color dips on their own or in multi-packs with different colors and textures as well.
SNS Nails, or Powder Dip nails, are a great way to get a long-lasting, chip and fade-resistant manicure that will last up to 3 weeks.
SNS nails do not require the UV light used to cure shellac and gel manicures, and don’t give off the heavy fumes of acrylic manicures.
But like acrylic, gel, and shellac manicures, SNS nails can damage your nails because of the harsh resins, adhesives, and chemicals in the process of application and removal.
The best way to keep your nails healthy is to give your nails a rest and a chance to heal themselves for a week or two between removing and reapplying your SNS nails.