Dip Vs Acrylic Nails – A Complete Guide

Reviewed by: Jenna Law - Nail Artist

With so many manicure options to choose from it can be difficult to pick just one. To help you decide, let’s break down dip vs acrylic nails. What are the benefits and drawbacks of each?

close up of nails being painted blue by another pair of hands.

What Are Dip Nails?

Dip nails are a style of manicure that differs quite a bit from standard options. They are also known by the name of one dip nail brand: SNS or Signature Nail System. The dip name comes from the way they are applied.

This method involves special powders that you dip your nails in after applying the base. These days, most nail technicians have moved away from dipping your nails in the same powder jar. 

The sanitary concerns of dipping many people’s fingers in the same jar are quite reasonable. 

Benefits Of Dip Nails

There are plenty of benefits that make dip nails a favorite of many. Naturally, they come with various drawbacks, but the pros are enough to overcome them in most cases. 

Some of the benefits include:

  • Simple application
  • Relatively quick application
  • Lightweight
  • Feels natural
  • Long-lasting
  • Cheap
  • Flexible

What Are Acrylic Nails?

On the other hand, acrylic nails are a mixture of polymers in powder form and monomers in liquid form. 

This mixture ends up as a paste that is then brushed on your nails and extensions. Then they harden by air drying just like regular nail polish. 

These nails are what most people think of when they think of nail extensions. 

Benefits Of Acrylic Nails

Acrylic nails are one of the most popular styles for a reason. Many celebrities wear them for their looks and numerous benefits. 

Some of which include:

  • Durable
  • Can be touched up
  • Great for extensions
  • Versatile nail shape options
  • Widely available
  • Long-lasting

Dip Vs Acrylic Nails – What Are The Main Differences?

Eight small pots of nail polishes of various colors on a white table with lots of nail polish bottles in the background.

To those unfamiliar with dip or acrylic nails the differences may seem small. There are plenty of differences that can help you decide which style is the best for you. 

Some of the factors to consider are simple like the differences in the process from the time it takes to what is involved. 

How long they last and how much they cost are both very important. Not to mention how easy they are to remove. 

Above all, the difference in appearance will be a deciding factor. 

The Process

Standard manicure procedures such as cleaning up the nails and hand aside, the processes for acrylic and dip nails have a few key differences. 

Dip nails

After preparing the natural nails, the process for dip nails goes like this:

  1. The nail technician applies a base coat to one fingernail.
  2. Then the nail is dipped into a jar of powder. To be more sanitary the powder can be brushed on.
  3. Next, any extra powder is brushed off the nail.
  4. The technician repeats these steps until the color and opacity are at the right levels.
  5. The technician will do this for every finger. 
  6. Then a top coat sealer is applied to each nail.

The entire process should have little to no chemical smell. 

Acrylic nails

Here’s how the process for acrylic nails goes:

  1. The nail technician will start by buffing the natural nail.
  2. Then they will attach a nail extension with nail glue if the client wants them.
  3. After this, the monomer and polymer will be mixed for application.
  4. The technician will apply the mixed acrylic to the natural nail and the extension.
  5. Then you’ll wait for the acrylic to dry.
  6. Once dry, the technician will file the nail to smooth out any imperfections.
  7. Lastly, the technician will apply a top coat.
  8. When that is dry you’re done unless you’re doing nail art.

The mixture that makes the acrylics will make a strong chemical smell.

How Long Does The Treatment Take?

Between standard nail preparation and the actual process, neither option is fast. However, dip nails tend to take less time. Time will also depend on how much you want to be done and the speed of the technician.

Dip nails

In total, most dip nail treatments will take half an hour to 45 minutes. The upper limit of treatment time is an hour. The dip powder does not need to be mixed and dries almost immediately.

Acrylic nails

Acrylic nail treatments will take at least an hour to an hour and a half. The more complicated nail art you want, the longer it will take.

How Long Do The Nails Last?

Both styles will be more durable than classic nail polish. That said, how long they last will depend on how you treat your nails.

Dip nails

Dip nails can last as long as 5 weeks. This can be longer or shorter if you maintain your nails, but 5 weeks is average. As your natural nails grow you will need to fill in the new growth.

Acrylic nails

Acrylic nails can last up to 6 weeks with an upper limit of 8 weeks. As with dip nails, this time can change depending on how well you maintain your nails. You will need to fill in the new growth of your nails over time.

How Much Does It Cost?

In addition to lasting a long time, these manicures need to be a reasonable price. Pricing depends greatly on what you want and the salon in question.

Dip nails

On average, dip nails cost around $45 though they can be as low as $30 or as high as $50.

Acrylic nails

Acrylic nails can cost around $35 to $60. The price will be more expensive if you want longer acrylics with complex designs. 

How Easy Are They To Remove?

The removal process will take some time no matter which style you have. That said, dip nails are easier to remove. Aftercare is very important for both styles.

Dip nails

To remove dip nails you need to soak them in acetone or warm water. Filing down the topcoat beforehand can give the acetone a head start. After soaking you can rub off the nails. The whole process should take 10 to 15 minutes.

Acrylic nails

Similar to dip nails you should file down the acrylic nails first. Then you can soak them in acetone. After that, you can scrape the acrylic off. It should take 15 to 20 minutes.

What Does The Result Look Like?

All the other factors can be the best possible, but if the end result doesn’t look good there’s no point. Taste is subjective, but each style has a few typical qualities for you to evaluate.

Dip nails

Dip nails will look less bulky than acrylics in most cases. However, if done incorrectly they can be just as bulky. Dip powder comes in many colors so you will have plenty of choices. Dip nails can also be styled to look more natural than acrylics.

Acrylic nails

Acrylic nails will be a little bulkier than dip nails. Just like dip, there are many colors for you to choose from. Additionally, acrylic extensions can be shaped in all manner of ways. This adds a lot of versatility when it comes to visual styles.

Dip Or Acrylic Nails? Which Is Best For Me? 

Close up of a nail being painted with clear nail varnish.

What is best for you will vary greatly from person to person. When it comes to beauty, both styles can be made into beautiful nail art. 

Either choice will allow you to choose the colors and designs you like.

If you do a lot with your hands you will want to go with dip nails over acrylic. 

Dip nails are more flexible and can be more forgiving if you bump into something.

 Acrylic nails are more rigid and run the risk of ripping your natural nail.

If you don’t mind salon visits every two weeks then acrylics are great. You will need routine filling in which means regular appointments. 

While dip nails can be filled in, it is not as common of a practice. 

Then comes the consideration of price. 

With regular salon visits comes regular spending. Both styles will add up, but acrylic tends to be slightly more expensive.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the least damaging fake nails?

What is most important when measuring the damaging effects is the nail technician. A skilled nail technician can reduce any potential damage by following proper methods and using quality products. However, soak-off nails are best in general.

Do acrylics ruin your nails forever?

If your acrylics are applied or removed incorrectly they can damage your nails. Properly handled acrylics should not damage your nails. Most damage will heal if treated correctly.

How long should you let your nails breathe between manicures?

When taking a break between manicures you should let them rest for as long as it takes your nails to fully grow out. This can take roughly six months. If your nails were not overly damaged from your last manicure you can shorten this time.

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