3 Things That Happen If You Don’t Use Activator for Dip Nails




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Being as curious as I am, after I have mastered the gel, acrylics, Shellac, and other standard techniques, I gave myself a task to find something unconventional, but not yet popular, and I found it in the form of dip nails.

Dip nails use a combination of liquid and powder that’s used to create a seamless and smooth manicure look, without using a UV lamp. The dip powder is supposed to be set as a result of a reaction process that’s initiated after an activator is applied. 

To apply the dip powder nail technique, you need an activator in liquid form. Not using an activator would cause your nails to peel off, the color on your nails won’t be perfect, and the powder could come off while filing.

To fully understand what dip nails are and how to apply them, what an activator is and why it is important, how to remove the dip nails and prepare your natural nails for a new set of manicures, stay with me until the end of this article where I reveal the answers to all these questions.

Mia Secret Nail Gel Resin Activator Spray 1 oz.

What Are Dip Nails?

To some of us women, the dip nails were familiar under the name SNS nails. SNS or Signature Nail System is a nail dipping system where the manicure look is achieved easily only by using a base liquid applied by a brush and dip powder. 

SNS Nails Dipping Powder Do It Yourself Home Nails Starter Kit 5 - Gel Base, EA Bond, Sealer Dry, Gel Top, Natural Set Sheer

The powder itself comes in a range of colors and is known to have many advantages over the gel or acrylic technique. Since it is not as invasive, it is also less time-consuming, making it perfect for every woman that’s always in a rush.

Dip nails are not new on the market, they just still haven’t got their five minutes of fame. Because they have not been popularized yet, there are no standards when it comes to specific looks you can achieve with this technique, but a few basic steps do stand out. 

The basic steps will only teach you how to achieve a monochromatic manicure, and if you want to be creative and try a combination of several colors or marble effects, there are no steps that can guide you in the process. You will have to improvise or rely on other people’s experiences. 

This technique will ensure your natural nails are reinforced, and protected from damage. To make sure the nails will endure the toll of everyday activities, you must make sure you’ve used the right products in the right way. Only if the powder hardens properly it can provide the strength that’s needed.

Once the powder sets on the nails, it will allow your natural nails to grow as healthy as they would grow if there was no nail polish on top of it. This is why dip powder is the first choice for many women who are informed about its benefits.

It is also supposed to last longer than gel or acrylics – up to 8 weeks if it is applied properly. If your nails tend to grow at a fast rate, this will not be considered an advantage for you. But if your nails are growing at a very slow pace, then this might be a technique you should consider. 

How to Apply Dip Nails?

Just as like with other techniques, the first step requires a proper preparation. Make sure to clean the nails and cuticles from any excess oils, since this is important to ensure the powder will adhere to the natural nails. If you don’t remove the oils and any dirt from the nails successfully, the dip powder will probably just peel off from your nails.

To prepare the nails for the base coat, you should use a file to create a rough surface so the base coat can bond easily and properly with the natural nails. If you already have your nails filed as a result of some previous techniques you’ve tried, there is no need to over-file them.

Nail Files and Buffer, TsMADDTs Professional Manicure Tools Kit Rectangular Art Care Buffer Block Tools 100/180 Grit 12Pcs/Pa(Black)

Use acetone, alcohol, or similar products to be completely sure the nails are ready for the base coat. When you compare this technique to gel or acrylics, you will notice that it is very important to apply the base coat properly and evenly. 

This is because the base coat will act like glue – it will create a sticky surface that will pick up the powder in step two of the process. If you make a mistake and apply the base coat over the cuticles, the powder will stick to them as well.

One trick you can use to make sure the base coat will not end on your cuticles is to push the cuticles to their base before you start with the application. This will free the space around your natural nails and make them more accessible.

Now that your nails are finally prepared by the book, you can proceed with applying a thin layer of base coat. It is recommended to do this one nail at a time because after you apply the base coat, you need to quickly dip the nail in the powder of your choice. 

essie First Base Adhesion + Protection Base Coat for Nail Polish, 0.46 Ounces (Packaging May Vary)

Waiting for too long may over-dry the base coat, and it will not pick up as much of the powder as you would initially expect. On the other hand, if you feel like you picked up too much powder, make sure that you dust off the excess of your nails. You can do this by gently tapping the finger. 

If you want the color to be more solid, just repeat this step and dip the nails into the powder as many times as you want, until you achieve the coverage you’d like. Just note that with each layer the nails become bulkier.

Now you can understand why the perfect application of base coat is required. A perfectly applied base coat will grant you the perfect manicure in the end. It is easier to be more careful when you apply a base coat in the beginning than it is to fix mistakes later, once the powder is set on the nails.

The dip powder technique does not require the use of a lamp, so to set the layers of powder, apply another thin layer of base coat and dip your nails into a finishing powder. Once again, be careful when you apply the base and avoid the cuticles.

As a final step, apply an activator to start the process of bonding between the liquid and the powder. This is what makes the nails hard and durable. Leave the activator for at least two minutes on your nails, so it has time to do the magic.

If you thought that the process is over – you’re mistaken! Now that you have all the layers of powder set on your nails, you can shape them. Use harsh and smooth files to trim down the length of your nails, and to give them a final touch.

After filing the nails, clean the surface with some alcohol and apply the activator once again and leave it for two minutes. In the end, apply a sealer and leave for three minutes and all it’s left to do is to enjoy your new, shiny manicure!

Saviland Dipping Powder Liquid Set - Dip Powder Activator Base Top Coat and Brushsaver 4pcs 0.5oz for Dip Powder Nail Kit

What Does an Activator Do for Dip Nails?

Maybe you are confused about why you need an activator for dip nails because it seems like gel or acrylics don’t require one. Actually, they both need to have something that will initiate the process of hardening.

To properly cure gel, for example, you will need to use a UV lamp. So in this case, a UV lamp acts as an activator for the gel to cure. The dip powder nail technique does not require a lamp, but it needs an activator in a liquid form.

This activator, when painted onto properly applied layers, will react with the base coat liquid and the powder. In this process, it will bond all the liquids and the powder on the nails into a hard surface.

After three to five minutes on average, all the layers should create a hard bond, and your manicure is good to go.

Can I Skip Using the Activator?

If you feel like you are in a rush and would like to save up some time, my advice is – don’t take it on the activator. The application of final layers is usually the time we ladies lose our patience and can’t wait to finish, but just try to be patient for a little bit longer.

The activator is important because it creates a bond that’s necessary to harden the nails, and I do not recommend skipping applying it for the reasons listed below. 

The Color Would Not Be Perfect

The variety of colors you can choose from is endless, but if you skip using the activator, the color you’ve chosen will not come to the fore. Activator is also formulated in a way to enhance the powder saturation, making the color more vivid and bright.

Without an activator, the powder may seem like it faded away or like something is missing. There is no way to fix this other than using an activator.

Nails Would Eventually Peel Off

A full set of dip powder manicures is supposed to last around four weeks. This is only if you apply all the layers in order, without shortcuts. If you forget to apply the activator, the nails will not harden and thus the external factors will take their toll after a few days, if not immediately.

You may not notice it at first, but after some time your nails start to break, chip and eventually peel off by themselves. In this situation, there is nothing you can do other than remove the manicure and get a new one done.

The Powder May Come Off During Filing

The filing stage is usually where women notice that they forgot to use the activator. If the nail file you are using is too harsh or you are pressing it too hard on the nails, the powder itself will start to come off.

This is because the base coat is not strong enough to hold all the layers together, especially if you applied more than one layer of dip powder. 

This is the best time to discover you have forgotten to apply the activator because you can still save the manicure by going back and reapplying the final layer of powder and base coat. After you’ve done that, just apply the activator to save the look!

Lavender Violets Quick Drying Dip-Powder-Nail-Colors-Set of 36 Colors - Glitter Nude Red Pink Yellow and Green Fast Dry Dip-Powder-Nail-Kit for Home Salon Dipping Nail Manicure M950

How to Remove Dip Nails?

The importance of this step cannot be highlighted enough. You are most likely to damage your nails in this stage if you are not familiar enough with how to properly remove your manicure. 

Although removing the nails is quite a simple process, you would need time, patience, and some tools. To properly remove the dip nails and take care of them afterward, you would need acetone, nail clipped and fine, cuticle pusher, and moisturizer.

To avoid breaking the nails, start by clipping them to your natural nail length. You will be removing the nails anyways, so keeping them full length doesn’t have any sense and it will speed up the process at the same time.

Filing the nails is another tip on how you can cut down the removal time. But, be careful not to damage your natural nails. It would be ideal if you could file the base layers and powder because the surface would be much less bulky.

After this, soak the nails in acetone for at least 15 to 20 minutes. This time should be enough for the powder to come off the nails easily. If that is not the case, soak the nails for another 5 to 7 minutes, allowing the acetone to fully decompose the powder.

Pronto 100% Pure Acetone - Quick, Professional Nail Polish Remover - For Natural, Gel, Acrylic, Sculptured Nails (8 FL. OZ.)

If you try to remove the powder from the nails while the acetone hasn’t finished its work, you will only cause damage to your nails. Just wait for a few minutes more, and eventually, the powder will come off very easily. 

Now that you’ve noticed the powder is coming off easily, use a metal pusher or stick to remove the excess powder from the nails. Use strokes in a downward motion, starting from the nail bed and slowly moving to the edge. Apply just a small amount of pressure to make sure no residue powder is left on the nails.

Utopia Care Cuticle Pusher and Spoon Nail Cleaner - Professional Grade Stainless Steel Cuticle Remover and Cutter - Durable Manicure and Pedicure Tool - for Fingernails and Toenails

After finishing this, if you still find some residue powder on the nails, use a soft nail file to file it off. Make sure you are not damaging your natural nails in this process. Even a buffer should do the job at this stage.

As a final step, and before applying a new set of nails, make sure that you compensate for all the hydration that is lost during the removal process. Acetone can be very harsh on the nails and the skin around them, so use hand moisturizer and nail oils to prevent any damage from dehydration.

Here you can read how to file down dip nails.

Health Concerns over Dip Powder

The dip powder technique is not quite standardized like gel or acrylics are. If you opt-out for a salon to get your dip powder manicure, you might actually find different hygiene standards are (not) being followed. 

Since the dip powder colors come in a small jar, the usual practice was for a client to dip their finger into that jar so the nail can catch the color. The issue is that many customers are using the same jar at the salons, and that’s what has grabbed attention and raised some concerns about this technique.

The correct way to apply the dip powder, if there is more than one user of the jar, is to allocate specific empty jars for different women. The nail technician would need to put some powder in this empty jar and clean the jar after usage (or just use disposable ones).

Beauticom 12 Piece 1 oz. USA Acrylic Round Clear Jars with Flat Top Lids for Creams, Lotion, Make Up, Cosmetics, Samples, Herbs, Ointment (12 Pieces Jars + Lids, SILVER)

Another thing nail technicians can do is to use a brush to sprinkle the powder over the nails, thus skipping the dipping at all. And this is what most technicians actually do nowadays when you ask for dip nails technique.

Using these two pieces of advice, the risk of getting a bacterial infection is reduced to a minimum, making the dip nails as safe as gel or manicure are.

Besides this, another common concern is that the powder used for this technique is not suitable for everyone. This is because the base coat’s active ingredient is a monomer which is known to be a common allergen.

This basically means that after applying the dip nails you might experience an allergic reaction in a form of irritation of the skin at the nail bed. As soon as you feel the dip nails are irritating your skin, remove them to prevent any further escalations. 

Suppose after the first application, you don’t experience any kind of irritation. In that case, it is not likely you will develop an allergy later on, but be aware of the symptoms and be ready to act quickly if they do appear.

Of course, make sure to consult your nail technician before deciding to go for dip powder nails. She can give you the best advice whether your nails are in a condition to bear this technique, or you should reconsider other manicures.


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