dip powder vs gel polish


Illustration is by Paige Brown

As a licensed cosmetologist, I have tried many different techniques in all of the beauty categories including hair, skincare and nails. Recently with the pandemic and all the nail salons closing, I decided to attempt to do my own nails at home.

When deciding this, I was presented with a few different options, acrylic (which I knew I didn’t have the patience for), dip powder, or gel. I decided to try the latter two, and it has been an experience so far. I want to share my experiences and my struggles trying to get the best at-home manicure that I could. 

Starting out with dip powder, this is just an acrylic kit, but you don’t use a brush to apply it. You just prime and prep your nails and dip them in the powder. It seems like a pretty simple process, and it really is, but it does take a lot of patience and a lot of time to master. 

When doing dip powder on your nails, you have to make sure it’s even and that they don’t have any divots/pits in them. If you don’t file them well, they won’t end smoothly and they won’t look really clean. 

Another thing that can complicate dip is that you need to make sure they’re all the same length. You can do dip on your natural nails or on your tips, and it does add a little extra that could add length either way. So make sure that your nails, or if you decide to use tips, all end up being even. 

On to gel polish, which is personally the technique I prefer. Once you get a UV/LED light to cure your polish, you can use pretty much any brand of gel. I mix and match brands and there are infinite possibilities when it comes to using gel polish. 

The process is a lot more simple than dip and takes a lot less time. I can sit down and do gel nails in half an hour, but dip takes around one and a half hours for me. Another thing I like about gel is that you can cure it and be done, you don’t have to let anything dry and you can do it almost anywhere. I can do gel with my portable light and there are travel sizes of everything else I need, making for easy transportation.

The last thing I had to consider when it came to doing at-home nails was the cost. Since I work at a beauty supply store I do get a pretty nice discount when it comes to purchasing items there. By using my discount, I paid about the same amount [for better products] as I would if I had purchased them on Amazon. 

My dip kit came with two colors and all the other necessities, besides a buffer and file, and it was only [regularly] $42 with tax. While that is a nice price, I found that it ended up not being worth the money and returned it in the end. I got my gel nail kit for around $80 with tax and that’s a HUGE difference, but I have already gotten a ton of use out of my light and I do my friend’s nails as well.  

After all is said and done, I would recommend gel nails over dip nails over and over. It’s more time-efficient and I enjoy doing it a lot more than dip nails. So, if you want to save some money by not getting your nails done professionally, invest in a gel light and start doing some good at-home manicures! 

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Hi, I’m Maria McGinnis, a senior journalism student from Stow, Ohio. I’m also the editor-in-chief of A Magazine. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important and entertaining news from the realms of fashion, beauty, and culture. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate to A Magazine.