Why Won’t My Dip Nails Dry? (AVOID Doing This)

Reviewed by: Jenna Law - Nail Artist

Dip nails are a relatively easy way to get a long-lasting, chip-free manicure and they look fantastic if they’re done right. ‘So why won’t my dip nails dry’? you might ask. Don’t worry, I’ve done the research and in this article, I’ll share the five things you need to avoid when doing dip nails.

why wont my dip nails dry

Main Takeaways

  • Dip nails will dry much better if you use an activator
  • Don’t apply too thick of a top coat
  • Look out for contaminated nail products
  • Don’t mix brands
  • Be patient
  • Keep brushes clean and use high-quality products

What Are Dip Nails?

Also known as SNS nails, the dip nail technique involves applying a base coat, then dipping each nail into a colored powder (or brushing the powder onto the nail), brushing off excess, waiting a few minutes then applying an activator and a topcoat.

You can see a video of the process here.

Dip powder nails create a long-lasting manicure that won’t chip for up to a month.

Why Won’t My Dip Nails Dry?

There are 5 common reasons why your dip nails won’t dry, and these are:

  1. You forgot to use activator
  2. You applied too thick a layer
  3. The topcoat or activator has become contaminated
  4. Mixing brands
  5. You need to wait longer

Let’s look into each of these reasons so you can get a better idea of where you went wrong.

1. You Forgot To Use Activator

Using an activator is an important step when doing dip nails at home.

The activator contains polymers that fuse together when they come into contact with the dip powder, sealing the powder in place.

It rapidly speeds up the drying time too.

If you don’t use an activator, your dip nails will take much longer to dry (up to 45 mins). Or worse, your nails won’t dry at all or will revert to a dust-like state.

Try A Thinner Layer

If you use too thick of a layer for your top coat, it can be difficult for the polish to dry. Buff your nail to make sure you get that smooth finish and then use less product for the top coat.

You could also try leaving a tiny bit of activator on the nail when adding the finishing coat.

You don’t want it to be too much or your brush will harden but give your nails a wipe 30 seconds after you applied the activator, and then add a thin layer of top coat.

3. The Topcoat Or Activator Has Become Contaminated

Dip nail products can be fickle, and product contamination is a common reason for dip nail issues.

Contamination can happen from anything as simple as dust getting into product bottles, or from dropping a brush and neglecting to clean it.

It’s important to keep the lids on your bottles until you’re ready to use them and keep your nail application area clean.

If you drop a brush while applying your dip nails, switch to a clean one. Remember to wash and dry everything once you have finished preventing contamination.

4. Mixing Brands

a woman resting her hands on a towel next to nail polish

Make sure you are using the same brand for every step of your dip nail application process.

This is because different brands may have different quality levels, and contain different chemical compounds that may not work well together.

Even though it’s okay to mix brands with many different beauty products, it’s best to avoid this with dip nails to avoid any mishaps.

5. You Need To Wait Longer

It sounds simple, but sometimes you may just have to wait a little longer.

Drying time can depend on the brand, and sometimes you just need to be patient.

Give your dip nails another 10 to 15 minutes extra to dry.

If it’s been an hour and your dip nails haven’t dried, then it’s fair to say that something has gone wrong and you may want to start again.

How Long Should Dip Powder Nails Take To Dry?

Close up of a woman's dip nails

If you use an activator on your dip nails, it should take as little as 3 to 5 minutes for your dip nails topcoat to dry.

If you don’t use an activator, it can take anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes for your dip nails to dry.

The thickness of your topcoat will also affect the drying time.

It is recommended you paint your topcoat on as thinly as possible to speed up the drying time.

How To Make Sure Your Dip Nail Topcoat Dries

Use A Good Quality Product

Cheap products can cause issues for all types of manicures, whether they are dip, acrylic, or gel.

To ensure you get a high-quality and long-lasting manicure, first make sure that you use good quality products for your dip nails.

Keep Your Dip Nail Products Free From Contaminants

Keep your topcoat, activator and other dip powder nail products clean and free of contaminants.

Make sure that you keep all lids on your bottles and pots when you’re not using them.

This will ensure that no dust, product particles, oils, and fluff get into your products, which could ruin your manicure.

Store Your Products Correctly

It’s important to store your dip powder nail products in the right conditions.

Don’t keep them in a place that is too hot or cold, or in an area where there’s a lot of moisture, such as a bathroom or kitchen.

The best place to keep your dip nail products is in a cool, dry, and dark cupboard.

This will keep your dip nail products fresh and prevent their chemical compounds from degrading so that they remain effective.

Keep Your Brushes Clean

It is important to keep your applicator brushes clean and dry or they may affect how your dip powder nails cure.

Wash your brushes in warm soapy water after each dip nail application, and dry them in a clean, safe place.

Once dry, store them in a place where they won’t gather dust or debris.

Use A Gel Topcoat

A close up of a woman's nails that are in many different colors

One great tip if you are struggling to get your dip nails topcoat to dry, is to use a layer of gel nail topcoat. This is especially good if you haven’t used an activator.

You will need to use a UV lamp to cure the gel coat, for no longer than 30 seconds to 1 minute.

This will give your dip nails an extra-strong protective coat that shouldn’t be an issue to dry.

How Many Coats Of Dip Powder Should I Use?

About three coats should be enough. Remember that each layer of base coat and dipping powder you apply will thicken the finished nail and give it a deeper color.

If you’re new to dip nails, start with three coats. You can then adjust up or down according to your preference.

Why Is My Dip Powder Not Sticking?

This problem is known as lifting, which occurs when dip powder doesn’t adhere to the nail properly. This issue is caused by the nail not being prepped correctly.

As with all types of manicures, you must ensure that the nail plate is free from moisture, oils, and debris before starting.

How Often Should You Take A Break From Dip Nails?

All types of manicures, whether dip, gel, or acrylic, can cause damage to your nails if done repeatedly. If you’re a fan of regular dip manicures, it’s best to give your nails a break every 2-3 months for at least a few days.

Of course, it also depends on the condition of your nails. The best practice is to give your nails a break between every dip manicure and use a nourishing nail and cuticle oil to keep your nails healthy.

Is Dip Better Than Acrylic?

It comes down to personal preference. The main advantage of dip nails over acrylics is that they are longer lasting. While acrylic nails usually last between 2-3 weeks, dip nails can last up to 4 weeks.

Dip nails also last longer than gel nails, which last 2-3 weeks on average.

So, Why Won’t My Dip Nails Dry?

Your dip nails will take longer to dry if you are not using an activator. With an activator, dip nails can dry in as little as 5 minutes whereas without, it can take up to 45 minutes.

You should also not apply too thick of a topcoat and don’t mix brands. Make sure your polish is stored correctly to avoid contamination and always clean your brushes.

Finally, be patient. Dip nails can take a little while to dry but the wait is definitely worth it.

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