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How to Remove Dip Powder Nails at Home

Find out how to take dip powder nails off like a pro.
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Dip powder manicures are long-lasting, but that comes at a cost: The removal process is trickier than swiping on nail polish remover as you would for regular nail polish. Knowing that, you might talk yourself out of a dip powder appointment at the thought of having to go back to the salon weeks later to have it removed. If you dread spending time and money on a follow-up appointment, your best bet is to learn how to remove dip powder at home. (Related: Discovering This Dip Powder Nail Kit Has Transformed My DIY Manicures)

If you're familiar with dip powder manicures, you know they differ from gel manicures, another style of manicure that similarly offers two-ish weeks of chip-free color. Dip powder manicures involve applying an acrylic powder and then hardening it with a clear sealant, explains Elizabeth Garcia, a celebrity nail artist who's partnered with CliqOnU. Dip powder can be applied to either your natural nails or over nail tips. "There's no need for an LED or UV light," explains Garcia. On the other hand, gel polish "can only be cured with an LED or UV light," she says. Although the two differ when it comes to application, the removal process is very similar. For both, you buff the surface of your nails, soak cotton in acetone, wrap your fingers (commonly in tin foil), and allow them to soak. (Related: How to Remove Gel Nail Polish at Home Without Wrecking Your Nails)

While that initial buffing step sounds optional, you never want to skip it, says Garcia. "Some people skip the first step of filing off the top layer, which is the layer that seals the powder," she says. "You must break that seal before wrapping [your nails] with acetone." Otherwise, the acetone isn't able to properly sink in and break down the powder. (Related: People Are Removing Their Acrylic Nails with Dental Floss)

The rest is mostly a matter of giving your nails enough time to soak. So, as long as you have a few basic tools and some patience, removing dip powder on your own is totally doable. Cue up your current pick on Netflix (Sex Education, anyone?) and follow this step-by-step on how to remove dip powder nail color from Garcia.

Tools You Need to Remove Dip Powder Nail Color:

How To Remove Dip Powder Nail Color at Home:

  1. File surface of each nail with nail file to break sealing layer.
  2. Apply cuticle oil at the base of each nail, to prevent the area from drying out during the soaking process (up next).
  3. Soak a cotton ball generously with acetone, place the wet cotton on top of one of your nails, then wrap your finger in aluminum to hold the cotton ball in place. Repeat on all 10 nails. It's helpful to gently squeeze the foil after initally wrapping the nail to help securely lock it into place.
  4. Allow to soak for about 25 to 30 minutes. Resist the urge to remove the foil sooner, as that can end up prolonging the process. If you remove the foil before the powder has adequately softened up, scraping off remaining residue will take longer and possibly damage your nails.
  5. Remove the foil. At this point, the color should look cracked or wrinkly. If not, re-wrap and soak for five more minutes, then check again. Use your cuticle pusher to gently remove anything left on nails. You should always scrape the cuticle pusher in the same direction that you would apply polish (so, from cuticle to tip, not from side to side) to avoid damaging your nail plate.
  6. Lightly buff the surface of your nails with the nail buffer to create a smooth surface, as some product might be left behind, even after using a cuticle pusher.
  7. Brush away any debris with a fluffy brush.
  8. Spray rubbing alcohol onto nails and swipe with a cotton ball or round to remove any leftover residue. prep your nails for another manicure, if desired.

At this point, your nails and prepped for another manicure — whether you choose to try your hand at a powder dip nail kit at home or hit up the salon — or they are clean and ready for a breather between paint jobs.