How To Remove a Dip Powder Manicure At Home When You Can't Make It to the Salon

It took many, many times over. Many, many stripped nails over, we could say. Many sad, broke-down, torn-up nail beds to get us to the point where we’re finally strong enough to resist picking off gel or dip powder nails. Please, hold the applause.

Like responsible adults, now we take ourselves straight to the salon to get them properly soaked off. Again, the applause. But what happens when you can’t make it to the nail salon for whatever reason? Well, a girl just has to take things into her own acetone-soaked cotton ball. (You’re going to need a lot of these.)

Dip powder manicures (also known as SNS manicures) typically take longer to chip off or degrade than gel manicures. In fact, the base formula is also way harder to peel off on your own, which makes it even more important to remove it the right way when trying to do so at home. Follow these steps to emerge from post-manicure regret unscathed.

How to remove dip powder nails (or SNS nails) at home

Step One: Use a nail file to file the nail polish as far down to the base of your nail as you can without damaging your nail bed. Once you start seeing a decent bit of your nail bed or all of the shiny top coat is gone, you’ll know to stop filing. For this part, a cheap, rough nail file works better than your nice metal one.

Step Two: Once you’ve filed down all of your nails, it’s time to break out the nail polish remover. There are two options. First, you can cut a sheet of aluminum foil into two to three inch squares. For each nail, soak a cotton ball in acetone and then wrap the nail (with the soaked cotton ball on top of your nails’ remaining polish) in the square of aluminum foil until it is snug. Follow with the rest of your nails until you’re looking like you have silver claws. Let them soak for about 25 minutes or longer until all of the polish comes off.

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Tip: It's easiest when you have someone that can help you wrap your nails with the aluminum foil. Additionally, make sure all of the cotton balls are thoroughly soaked with acetone.

Alternatively, you can get a small, shallow bowl and fill it with nail polish remover and let your nails soak for about 20 minutes or longer until the polish wipes off completely and easily with a cotton ball.

Step Three: Make sure all of your nails are clean and bare by rubbing each with nail polish remover once more. Apply cuticle oil (our go-to is Sally Hansen Color Therapy Nail & Cuticle Oil) and your favorite hand cream to help offset any dryness caused by the acetone.

Tip: Applying some sort of heat when soaking off gel or dip powder nail polish makes the whole process go way faster. We suggest either covering your aluminum foil-wrapped fingers with a hot towel or floating the bowl of acetone on top of a bigger bowl of hot water while soaking.

Just like that, your nails can breathe again, sister. Now time to pick out your next nail color…

— Update: 07-01-2023 — found an additional article How to Safely Remove Dip Powder Nails At-Home from the website for the keyword how to shorten dip powder nails at home.

Dip powder manicures are great for so many reasons, not least of which is their durability. Did you know that if they are cared for properly, they can last up to a few weeks, maybe longer? Yes, this is true.

This amazingly long-lasting power is due to the multi-layered application process of dip nails, which usually involves a few rounds of dipping into colored acrylic powder followed by a clear coat of polish to achieve a thick, lacquered look.

However, because the lacquer is bonded on the nail itself, it can also be difficult (re: potentially damaging) to remove. In a perfect world, you’d be able to book an appointment with your favorite manicurist who could help remove your dip powder manicure safely and effectively, sans any damage to your nail bed. But alas, we do not live in a perfect world, and many of us are now left to figure out the ins and outs of DIY dip powder manis at home.

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There is good news, though; if you take the time and follow the below steps, removing dip powder polish can be a gentle and non-damaging process. As celebrity manicurist, Chelsea King explains, “the best way to ensure an easy removal process is focusing on the prep.” So, consider this your step-by-step guide.

What you’ll need:

  • Nail file
  • Nail clippers/scissors
  • Pure acetone
  • Cotton balls
  • Aluminum foil
  • Nail buffer
  • Cuticle oil

Step 1: Rough file the topcoat

“There’s typically a gel topcoat over your dip nails,” King says. “If it’s shiny, it makes it harder for the acetone to soak through the product to remove it, therefore slowing down the removal process.”

This is precisely why you’ll want to start the removal process by gently filing down the top, shiny coat—essentially roughening up the surface of the nail polish in order to allow the acetone to seep down deeper. To do so, use a rough grit nail fil (King recommends around 100 grit) to buff down the topcoat—the thinner you buff it, the easier it will be to remove.

Step 2: Cut your nails

If your dip powder manicure has lasted so long that your nail beds have grown out, it might also be time for a trim. Grab your scissors and clip your nails down to your desired length. You want to do this before you soak off the polish because, again, the less polish you have to soak off (if your nails are trimmed down), the easier and quicker the process.

Step 3: Soak your nails in acetone

There are a couple different methods of doing this. King recommends ripping a cotton ball in half, soaking it in acetone until its fully saturated, and pressing it on top of each nail. Then, wrap a small piece of aluminum foil around each cotton-topped nail, and wait. “I set a timer for 10 minutes, then check the nail,” King explains. “If it still has a long way to go, I reapply the cotton and foil and soak for an additional five minutes.”

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The length of time you’ll need to leave the foil on depends on how many layers of polish you have painted on, as well as the type of dip powder used (glitter generally takes longer to dissolve). “When you remove the cotton after soaking, the dip powder should just wipe off,” King explains. “Gels will have chunks of polish that come off, with acrylics you have to scrape with a cuticle pusher, but dip powder typically just dissolves.”

The second removal method is to literally soak your nails in a chemical bath of sorts, using a small bowl filled with acetone. The time frame is similar for this approach—between ten and twenty minutes—after which your nail color should be able to dissolve or flake off easily (if it doesn’t, soak it for a bit longer).

Step 4: Buff and push

Next, buff any remnants of color off of each nail using a fine-gritted, gentle nail buffer. If you need or want to, this is also the time to grab a cuticle pusher and gently push back any skin that’s crept up too far above your nail bed.

Step 5: Wash and moisturize

“Always wash your hands right afterward, and then apply a good cuticle oil and lotion,” King advises. This is super necessary because acetone seriously dries out your skin. Once your polish is fully removed and buffed away, wash your hands with gentle soap, then apply a dollop of cuticle oil or cream onto each nail bed. A few of our favorite cuticle-nourishing products: L’Occitane Shea Nail And Cuticle Oil, Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream, tenoverten The Rose Oil Nourishing Cuticle Oil, and Olive & June Cuticle Serum.

Finish everything off with a smothering of quality hand cream, and you’re all set! As King explains, “After applying cuticle oil, I like to apply a lotion on top to really seal it in.”


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About the Author: Tung Chi