Should I Use Nail Primer Or Dehydrator First? [Answered]

There are many products and processes that you can use before you apply nail polish. These include nail primers and dehydrators. But what exactly are they and should you use nail primer or dehydrator first? Read on for all the answers.

a closeup of three bottles of clear nail polish in front of a white background

In short, you should usually use a dehydrator first, followed by nail primer. The dehydrator will dissolve the oils on your nails, giving the primer a better surface to stick to.

What Is The Difference Between Nail Primers And Dehydrators?

Both nail primer and dehydrator are used to prepare your nails for nail polish and they help the polish to adhere better and last longer – but that’s really all that they have in common. 

Although they serve the same purpose, they work in completely different ways.

Nail Primer

Nail primer is designed to be used before you apply acrylic nails, and you need it if the nails are going to adhere properly to your natural nails. If you don’t use primer, they are very likely to just lift off within a short space of time.

Primers can be acidic or non-acidic, but they both serve the same purpose.

They are corrosive (acidic primers are more so) and they essentially strip away some of your natural nails to provide the artificial nail with a good surface to adhere to. 

They then form a chemical bond when the acrylics are applied to hold them onto your nail.

Nail primers can cause chemical burns if they are not used with care, but they do create excellent adherence between your nails and the acrylics. 

They will also help UV and LED gels bond properly, making your nail job last far better than it would otherwise do.

This is because they make the surface of the nail rougher, providing a better surface for colors to cling to.

This can save you money in the long term, because you will need less frequent manicures, and it will make your nails look much better in the interim period.

If you hate the period in which your nails start to look tatty, primers will massively decrease it.


A dehydrator is used to get rid of the oils in your nails. Oils always make it more difficult for a coating to stick. 

If you think about the way we grease moving parts or oil a pan before cooking, you’ll know that oils prevent sticking.

Your nails produce oils naturally, and while this help to protect and keep your natural nails healthy, it stops products from adhering as well. This is why using dehydrator can help your nail treatments to last longer.

Dehydrators don’t do anything except strip out the oils. This means that they aren’t as harsh on your nails, but they are also less effective than other treatments.

When Should You Use Nail Primer?

A closeup of a woman's hands. Her nails are pained purple, green and gold.

As mentioned, you need to use nail primer if you are going to apply acrylics to your nails, or they will not adhere properly. 

Primer needs to be applied to the surface first because it is what creates a chemical bond between your nail and the acrylic.

If you don’t add primer, there is a high chance that the acrylics will simply lift up and peel away. 

Although primer is damaging to the nail, it has to be applied first if acrylics are to stick properly.

You can also use nail primer before other treatments, like UV or LED gels, and it will improve adherence and make them last longer. 

However, it isn’t necessary to use primer before adding normal nail polish, and doing so will cause unnecessary damage to the nail.

When Should You Use Dehydrator?

Dehydrator is more flexible than primer and there are many instances in which you might use it. 

Firstly, you can use it before primer. This is usually done if acrylics do not bond very well to your nails, even with primer. 

If you find that your acrylics tend to lift and peel, you should try using dehydrator first.

This will strip the oils out of your nails, helping the primer to grip well, and improving the overall adherence. You should find that it helps the nails to last longer and reduces the risk of them coming off.

You can also use dehydrator on its own as a way of preparing your nail for almost any nail treatment. 

Use dehydrators before applying the following:

  • Nail polish
  • UV or LED gels
  • Gel polish

Whether you are applying gel in any form or painting your nails, dehydrator will help to remove unwanted oils and improve adherence.

Any nail enhancement can last longer if you use dehydrator first.

Should I Use Nail Primer Or Dehydrator First?

a close up of two nail polish bottles lying in front of a peach background.

If you are going to be using both of these products, you need to make sure that you use dehydrator before nail primer. 

Putting nail primer on and then adding dehydrator will not work well, because the dehydrator cannot remove oils from the primer, and won’t be touching the surface of your nail.

By applying dehydrator to your nail, you will lift out the oils and let the primer get a better grip.

The primer can then react with the nail more effectively, making the surface rough and providing a good key for the acrylics.

Reversing these products will not work, so make sure you put them on in the right order.

Are Nail Primers And Dehydrators Necessary?

If you are going to wear acrylics, nail primers are necessary, because, without them, the acrylic nails cannot adhere properly to your nails. 

For other nail treatments, such as nail polish or gels, neither product is strictly necessary – but it could be very useful to apply dehydrator.

It is best not to apply nail primer unless you need to because it damages the surface of your nails and makes them weaker.

However, applying dehydrators can be a great way to make treatments like polish and gels last longer and look better.

You do not have to use either a primer or a dehydrator before painting your nails, but if you want the colors and appearance to last, it might be a good idea to add some dehydrator.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is bonder?

Bonder is another product that you might add when preparing your nails for treatment. Bonders are solvent-based and like dehydrator, they remove the natural oils from your nails. They also raise the pH value of the nails, helping nail enhancements to stick properly.

Do I need to use bonder with nail primer?

Like dehydrator, you can use bonder before primer to improve the performance of the primer. This isn’t necessary for everyone but may prevent lifting.

Should I use an acidic primer?

It is best not to use acidic primer unless you are an experienced manicurist. Acidic primer can cause chemical burns on the skin, and it is generally unnecessary if you’ve done the proper preparation. Non-acidic primer will do less damage to your nails.


If you are going to apply both dehydrator and nail primer, you should apply the dehydrator first. This is a great way to improve the adhesion of acrylics and prevent them from coming loose. If you are just polishing your nails or adding another enhancement, you can use the dehydrator on your nails and leave the primer off.