Dip Powder vs. Gel: What’s the Difference?

When your clients choose a nail service at your salon, it’s helpful for you to know what their expectations are and how that can translate into a particular service. If your client is looking for a sophisticated, glossy manicure, they might not know exactly how to achieve their desired look — applying dip powder or gel can give your client slightly different results, sometimes with differing price tags.

Here’s a helpful breakdown of dip powder vs. gel that you can use to educate your clients and give them the mani they’ve been searching for.

What’s in a Name

If your client is confused by the difference between dip powder and gel, they’re definitely not alone. A few basics will help them navigate your service menu and ensure they get what they want.

Dip powder vs. gel

Photo source: @newimagesnails

Typically, liquid and powder is an application method where a brush is dipped into a liquid monomer and then a powder to create a creamy bead. The bead is then placed onto the nail and formed into a substance called acrylic. Dip nails, however, are slightly different; with this technique, the technician will brush a resin directly onto the nails, then dip the nails into a powder. This process creates a similar hard-coated acrylic substance.

Dip powder vs. gel

Photo source: @mette_steenberg_cnd

A gel service doesn’t include powder at all. In this service, the nail professional will apply gel directly from a bottle and use a UV light to cure the gel, often creating a strong coating.

What’s Healthiest

The nail plate actually acquires everything it needs to exist when the individual cells are formed. This means the nails do not need to breathe, they do not absorb or need vitamins and you cannot feed them anything to make them physically thicker. Applying a quality cuticle oil daily, however, helps keep the nails and nail coatings more flexible, and less dry, in addition to the surrounding skin. Therefore, professional nail products — be it dip powder or gel — are equally healthy for the nails.

In fact, the most important thing to know about dip powder or gel is that neither inherently causes damage to the nail. Instead, damage is caused by improper application or removal of nail coatings. If your dip powder, gel polish or enhancement is picked, pried or peeled off, it can cause damage to the nail. If several or all of your nails consistently burn or get warm when filed during the nail service, they are being damaged by over-filing.

Dip Powder vs. Gel

In the battle between dip powder and gel, which is better? The short answer is: It depends on what your client is looking for.

Nail dip systems use a polish application method that can be accomplished with decent polish skills and no mastery of mix ratio or nail structure. Fingers are placed in a polymer powder, creating partial hardness similar to a liquid and powder (acrylic) type nail, without the usual application time. Your client’s service might be a bit shorter, and they still walk out of your salon with amazing nails.

Most gels, on the other hand, have a thicker viscosity than others, so they take a bit longer to cure. Gel provides flexibility as well as resistance to solvents. If your client frequently stains their nails and nail coatings, gel could be a great option for them. You can deliberately sculpt gel to create an arch, which provides structure and shock absorption for the nail, lessening breakage like shocks do for your car.

In short, both services will give your client an excellent manicure. When deciding which service to provide them, assess their nail health, desired service time and whether the nails have any stains — the answers to these questions will guide you to the right service.

Getting to Know Your Client

Understanding the wear and tear your client’s nails face every day is key to helping them determine which coating you should use. Dip powders generally need to be redone in two to three weeks, while the standard for gel is three to four weeks. Resins in a dip powder may be susceptible to water and household cleaners, while gel is solvent resistant. If your client uses or washes their hands regularly, a gel service might be better for them.

A salon should be a safe space, where your clients can expect a clean, honest service that makes them feel good. They should leave with the nail service that meets their expectations, then follow the home care regiment suggested for best results. Giving your clients all the information they need to make an informed decision will help give them the best service — and it’ll keep them coming back to the salon for more.