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While gel manicures have been around since practically the dawn of time, there’s an alternative method that’s been gaining a lot of attention: dip powder manicures. But what’s the difference between these two types of manicure, and what are the pros and cons of each? In this comprehensive article, we’ll take you through the basics of powder and gel manicures to help you decide which method might be best for you.

Pros and cons of gel manicures

The basics: When you go to get a gel manicure, your manicurist will usually clean, cut and shape your nails; trim your cuticles; and moisturize and buff your hands. Then they’ll apply a gel nail polish in your chosen color. Gel nail polishes are formulated so that they harden when they’re exposed to UV light to form a practically rock-solid, smooth, and shiny coat–so after the polish has been applied, your manicurist will put your nails under a UV light to dry them.

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The pros: Gel manicures are fairly long-lasting, with a life of about two to three weeks. This makes them a strong option for holidays or multi-day events when you want to keep your nails looking their best without any hassle. Meanwhile, the color and texture of a gel polish manicure is usually pretty hard to beat.

The cons: The biggest reason to skip gel manicures is the exposure to UV light. UV light is extremely harmful to the skin and is the main cause of skin damage and skin aging. While it might not seem like a big deal to put your hands under a UV light for a few minutes, the composite effect of regular gel manicures could result in dark spots and premature skin aging. The process of removing gel polish can also put a strain on nails, weakening them over time.

The verdict: Gel manicures can have a big impact, and they’re a great option for certain occasions in our lives. However, the potential threat that they pose to your skin and nail health means that this style of polish is probably best as a once-in-a-while option, and not as a regular part of your grooming routine.

Pros and cons of dip powder manicures

The basics: When you get a dip powder manicure, your manicurist will first go through the basic, universal steps of grooming and trimming your nails. Then they’ll apply a base coat to your nails, and dip them into a pigmented powder to apply your chosen color. (This powder is essentially acrylic nail polish in powder form.) Finally, your manicurist will brush away any excess powder, and apply another clear coat to seal in the color.

The pros: Dip powder manicures last even longer than gel manicures–about a month on average. Meanwhile, they don’t require any exposure to UV light, so they don’t pose a risk of premature skin damage and skin aging as gel manicures do.

The cons: Dip powder manicures are great from a maintenance and skin health perspective, but how do they affect your nail health? The basic answer is that dip powder manicures are probably no worse for your nails than the average, acrylic manicure. The application method and the paint itself probably do a bit of damage to your fingernails, dehydrating them and disrupting their natural barrier. But all in all, if you’re set on getting a manicure, dip powder polishes are probably no worse than any other option. From a price perspective, dip powder manicures are a bit more expensive than other options–about $20-30, depending on the salon. However, when you factor in the long-lasting nature of these polishes, they may be about as cost-effective as other options.

The verdict: Because they last longer than gel manicures, and don’t involve exposure to UV light, dip powder manicures are definitely a better option for regular use. The effect on the appearance of your nails may not be quite as dramatic as the effect of a gel manicure, so we recommend opting for dip powder manicures as a part of your regular routine, and gel manicures for special occasions when you want your nails to make a big impact.