Dip powder nails have taken the beauty industry by storm. With salon and at-home options, these nails are less toxic than acrylics and trump shellac or gels, as there is no need to use a skin damaging UV lamp with dip nails. It’s no wonder they’re so popular!
To get a perfect finish, the technique involves adding multiple layers of resin, dip powder, and activator until the desired look is achieved, followed by a top coat to seal it all in. Although multiple layers provide a strong nail, they also present the problem of difficult removal if you want to do it acetone-free.
Whether removing at home or at the salon, the method of choice for speed and efficacy is hands-down acetone, but it can be very unkind to your skin and nails. Acetone is extremely dehydrating and causes nails to become weak and brittle.
Don’t fret; just as dip nail videos go viral, so do removal hacks of the same. More and more people are finding interesting, low-cost ways to remove dip powder nails without acetone.
So, how do you remove dip powder nails without acetone? There are several acetone-free methods for removing dip powder nails, including using acetone-free polish removers, rubbing alcohol, dish soap and oil with warm water, and even floss.
We’ll explore all of these current and popular trends in this article, with step-by-step instructions on how to remove dip powder nails at home.
How Does Acetone Work?
Would you believe acetone in higher concentrations is a chemical commonly used as paint stripper? Of course, it’s diluted for cosmetic use, but there is no misconception about how harsh and damaging it can be.
Acetone works by causing polymers to break down. Polymers are a chemical compound or mixture of compounds formed by polymerization, where small molecule structures are repeated to create larger structural units.
When acetone is applied to acrylics, shellac, or dip powder nails, the chemical reaction which takes place breaks down the nail and polish polymers really fast. It basically turns the hardened nail products back into a liquid form, allowing them to soften and come away easily.
Typically, acetone is used to saturate cotton, which is placed on the nail. The entire fingertip is then wrapped in foil. After 15-20 mins, the dip nails can be gently pulled away. You can see why acetone is the favorite remover of choice. It’s quick and easy.
But when it comes to your health and the protection of your skin and nails, are alternative removal processes worth exploring? Especially if you don’t have acetone around the home or if you can’t get to a salon?
Yes, of course! Let’s get right down to it…
1. Acetone-Free Remover
Readily available in drugstores, superstores, and online in abundance, acetone-free removers (like our favorite one from OPI) were designed to remove polish from acrylics in place of acetone removers.
The acetone had the undesired effect of triggering the chemical process of liquifying the product and removing the acrylic nail. Bummer if all you wanted was a color change!
Acetone-free removers, on the other hand, are made up of less harsh solvents like isopropyl-alcohol and ethyl acetate. These are gentler chemicals compared to acetone.
Some removers may include essential oils, which can also assist in the process of breaking down molecules. However, be mindful – if you have sensitive skin, essential oils could irritate delicate areas.
Acetone-free removers present the least complicated substitute for acetone removal, so if you want something kind(er) but don’t want too much of a hassle, this could be for you.
Using an acetone-free remover is much kinder to the skin and nails, especially if you want to switch up your dip powder nail game regularly. The downside is that the removal process will likely be much longer and more labor intensive than using acetone.
As mentioned, dip powder nails are built up in layers. You have to essentially reverse the layering process when removing dip powder nails using any acetone-free method, so get ready for a lot of filing.
You will need: foil, cotton balls/pads, cuticle scraper/nail file/buffer (or all three).
- Cut foil in 2×2 inch squares or as much as you feel you need to wrap your finger tip.
- Saturate cotton with remover and place onto the nail.
- Wrap securely with the foil and wait 15mins.
- Check the nail.
- Gently buff, file, or scrape away the softer areas.
- Re-wrap in cotton and foil to loosen the next layer.
- You can try to lift the nail slightly using tweezers, an orange stick, or a cuticle pusher, allowing the remover to seep in between the natural and dip powder nail, but do not tug or pull to avoid causing damage.
- Repeat until the dip powder nail is fully removed.
- Buff your nail until smooth.
- Wash your hands.
- Moisturize and apply cuticle oil.
While this process is used in many a home, it is not recommended. Amateurs are warned to be extremely careful not to damage the nail or skin by filing or scraping too aggressively.
If you’re anything like us, the desire to just rip it off rears its ugly head as soon as we get the slightest bit frustrated. Don’t do it! Your nails will thank you for your restraint.
2. Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol in a high concentration can be effective at removing dip nails, but again it’s not ideal, due to how irritating it is to the skin. Still if this is all you have, you can use the alcohol in exactly the same way you would use the acetone-free remover.
Bear in mind, a whole heap of filed dip powder along with alcohol fumes make for potentially toxic breathing, so it’s best to wear a mask and operate in a space with plenty of ventilation.
3. Dish Soap, Oil, and Warm Water
You may have come across the dish soap, oil, and warm water soak somewhere on the internet. This method (if it works) is by far the least harsh and skin kind approach.
Influencers around the world have tried this with varying results. Some rave about it, and for others, it’s an utter failure. So how can you know if it’s worth a try? The answer is if you already have some lift.
If you are experiencing some lifting at the base of the nail or on the sides, this just might work for you.
You will need: a heat-proof bowl, warm water, dish soap, any oil of your choice (coconut, olive, almond, sunflower are all good), an orange stick/cuticle scrapper.
- Mix a good squeeze of the soap and 2-3 tablespoons of oil into the warm water.
- Soak nails in the solution for 10-20 mins.
- Gently lift away the dip nail from the natural nail in the already lifted areas using the orange stick or cuticle scrapper for assistance. Do not tug or rip the nail. If it does not come away, re-soak.
- Keep trying to gently lift and re-soak until the nail is fully removed.
Tip 1: Cutting the dip powder nail from the top edge can help to reduce pulling on the natural nail as well as freeing the top of the nail from the weight of the old and grown dip powder nail.
Tip 2: Using warm water helps this process, so use a large bowl and keep a kettle handy for careful top-ups.
Now it gets interesting. This method has been used successfully by wedging floss in between the natural and fake nail and gently moving from side-to-side releasing the bonded product from the natural nail.
It has been well-liked for removing acrylic nails with ease, but can it be used for dip powder nails? The answer is no, not really, but kinda.
We would never recommend using the floss method as a stand-alone way to remove dip powder nails, however used in combination with the warm water dish soap-oil soak, crucially, on nails that have some lift, the floss technique could work well.
You will need: a heat-proof bowl, warm water, dish soap, any oil of your choice, and dental floss sticks.
- Mix the soap and oil into the warm water.
- Soak nails for 10-20 mins
- Find an opening and insert floss between the dip nail and natural nail.
- Gently move from side to side, down towards the tip of your nail. Do not pull;this will guarantee damage to your nail.
- If it does not come away, re-soak.
- Keep trying to disrupt the bonded dip nail with the side-to-side motion of the floss and re-soak as necessary until the nail finally comes off.
We personally like the idea of using floss as a tool for nail removal with any removal technique. It is perfectly agile and thin enough to get into teeny tiny nooks and crannies.
Trial and error may be the call of the hour for this topic but whichever acetone free technique you choose, remember to be gentle and patient with the process, always loving the beautiful skin you are in!
Are There Other Ways To Remove Dip Powder Nails?
If none of these methods worked for you, take a look at these slightly different methods from Gabby Angelique on YouTube.
Up Next: How To Tell Your Nail Tech What You Want