With so many nail applications to choose from, a trip to the nail salon can get overwhelming. Acrylics, gels, dips, shellac, SNS, and everything in between – which one should you choose?
Acrylic nails have been the gold standard in the industry for a long time, but lately there has been a shift to alternative nail enhancements.
One of those alternative nail enhancements that are rising in popularity is SNS. If you have been curious about this nail application, we want to give you the info so you can better understand what it is.
So, what’s the difference between acrylic and SNS? There are a few key differences, mainly in the application and removal process of these two nail styles. In terms of durability, acrylics are the winner, but SNS nails will last up to 3 weeks.
In this article, we will get into a detailed dissection of both, so that you can decide for yourself!
Difference Between Acrylic And SNS
Acrylic nails have been around for a long time and most people are familiar with them. But SNS nails are less well-known, even though you’ve probably heard the name from time to time.
The best way to talk about the differences between the two styles of nail applications is to dive into their main characteristics: application, materials, durability, removal process, and cost.
But before we dive in, let’s talk about the name “SNS.”
SNS is actually the brand name, short for Signature Nail System. The actual nail application that they’re known for is also referred to as dip powder. So, when you’re getting SNS nails, you are actually getting dip nails from the brand Signature Nail Systems.
“Acrylic” is a more general term. There are many brands out there that create acrylic materials, so when you ask for acrylics, your nail technician will choose which brand of materials to use.
Alright, now that we know what SNS stands for, let’s dive into the main differences between acrylics and SNS:
Acrylic Vs SNS Application
The application processes for acrylic and SNS nails are vastly different.
Before the application begins, your nail technician will prep your nails. This process is pretty much the same for both acrylics and SNS (and most other nail applications).
It involves removing any old nail polish or enhancements, trimming your nails, and removing cuticles. The surface of your nails might get slightly buffed to remove the shine. At this point, your nails should be ready for the application of your chosen nail enhancement.
Here is where the differences start. With acrylic nails, your nail tech can use acrylic materials to add length and shape to your natural nail. Acrylics allow your nail tech to mold the material into any shape you want.
When applying acrylics, your nail technician will mix a powder with a bonding agent to create a paste. The paste will then get applied on top of your nail, and the nail technician will mold it into the right shape and size.
The paste will air-dry and become solid after a few minutes. For at-home acrylics, here’s a great tutorial from Kiara Sky Nails on YouTube.
With SNS nails, the process is very different. First, the nail technician will apply a base coat activator over your nail. Then your nail will get dipped into a tub of fine powder in the color of your choice. A thin layer of the powder will stick to the base coat.
You need to add nail tips or nail extensions first, before applying the SNS material itself, if you want to add length to your nails.
If you don’t add nail tips or fake extensions during the SNS application, then the SNS material will simply cover your natural nail without adding any length to it. This is often referred to as “overlay.”
So, with SNS nails, you have to tell your nail tech before the application begins whether you want a simple overlay or added length.
This step will be repeated several times until the layers of powder are thick enough for your nail. Then, the nail technician will apply an activator coat over your nails, which will cause the powder to harden.
Unlike gel nail applications, both acrylic and SNS nails harden without the use of UV light, which is great for people who are concerned about the effects of repetitive UV exposure on their skin.
Here’s a great tutorial for doing SNS nails at home from Jianna Jay on YouTube.
Acrylic Vs SNS Materials
Although there are significant differences in the application process of acrylic nails and SNS nails, the materials they use are actually similar.
Both acrylics and SNS nails use the same general components: acrylic powder, bonding material, and activator.
The difference is that with acrylic nails, these materials are mixed into a paste first, and then applied to the nail. With SNS nails, all components are layered onto the nail separately.
The other main difference is that Signature Nail Systems has made improvements to the acrylic powder by creating a more fine-milled version of it. They also added a resin-based material to the activator liquid to make it stronger.
So, while regular dip powder solutions are made of pretty much identical materials to acrylics, SNS has made some proprietary improvements to their materials that make them more flexible and easier to use.
Acrylic Vs SNS Durability
When it comes to durability, acrylic nails are still the most durable option on the market. A set of acrylic nails can last a month.
But SNS nails follow closely behind. Most SNS applications can last up to 3 weeks. They are also more flexible, putting them somewhere between acrylics and gel nails in terms of flexibility.
This can help avoid cracks and chips in the nail, meaning they will look brand new and shiny even at the end of their 3-week lifecycle.
Acrylic Vs SNS Removal Process
Acrylics and SNS nails have to be removed through an acetone soaking process.
With acrylics, you usually have to soak for at least 10-15 minutes. At that point, the acrylic material becomes softer, and your nail technician can remove it gently using special tools.
SNS nails are a little bit quicker to remove since the layer of material on your nails is a little thinner. You still need to soak your nails for 5-10 minutes, and then they can be wiped away.
Overall, removing SNS nails is easier and quicker than acrylic nails.
Acrylic Vs SNS Cost
The difference in cost for SNS and acrylic nails is not huge. Acrylic nails have been around longer, and most salons know how to do them well, so you are more likely to find affordable options for acrylics.
A typical application of acrylic nails costs around $20-25 plus tip. Of course, if you’re adding any special designs or decorations onto your nails, it can cost more. The set should last you about 4 weeks so factor that into the calculation.
SNS nails cost a little more, at $30-45 plus tip for a basic application. They will last you about 3 weeks, so factor that in.
Another thing that makes acrylics more affordable is that you can get them filled after a few weeks without having to re-do the entire set. This means you can save a lot of money since fills don’t cost as much as a new set.
With SNS nails, you can’t do a fill. You’ll have to remove and re-do a new set each time you visit the salon.
Acrylic Vs SNS: Which Is Better For You?
Now that you know the main differences between the two styles of nail applications, you can make an informed decision in regard to which one is better for you.
If you are budget-conscious and want to stretch the dollar, acrylics are better. They last longer and they are inexpensive. If you are looking for elaborate color options (like ombre), smoother results, and a quicker application, then SNS can give you that.
Another thing to consider, especially in the post-2020 world, is hygiene. With SNS (and any other dip powders) you will be sharing the powder tub with other clients. Everyone’s nails get dipped into the same tub.
And although it’s unlikely after thorough cleaning by your nail tech, germs can get passed through. So, if you are very hygiene-conscious, acrylics will give you more peace of mind!
Both options can give you extensions and strength. Both options can provide you with different colors and designs. Both options work without UV light, so you don’t have to worry about that.
But acrylics can appear bulkier and less uniform, whereas SNS nails usually come out looking neater. Both options use acetone in the removal process, but acrylics take a little longer to soak.
Acrylics are more widely available, so you can find them at any nail salon. SNS nails are not available everywhere, so you may have to call around to find a place that can do them. You’ll have more luck finding regular dip powder nails if you don’t specify the brand “SNS.”
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which option is best for you. You can ask your trusted nail technician for advice. At the end of the day, you might want to give both a try and see which one you like better!