In case you haven’t noticed, there is a resurgence of interest in glue-and-acrylic powder enhancements. Let’s look back at what made acrylic dip systems so hot to begin with and find out why they’re making a comeback.
Three years after completing nail school in 1997, Denise Gottschalk discovered acrylic dip systems. The fast application and nearly next-to-no-learning curve inspired her to incorporate the technique into her menu, and she’s been offering the service ever since.
At the time, Gottschalk of Nailz “T” Go in Laurium, Mich., was on vacation in Illinois and visited a nail salon in the area for a fill. During the service, she noticed the nail tech filled the growth gap using Backscratcher’s Extreme Powder Glaze System and the application process sparked an interest in the glue-and-powder technology. “I was fascinated that the nail tech did my fill in 30 minutes. I even hung around to watch her do a full set in under an hour,” Gottschalk says. “She made it look so easy to apply, there was less filing to do, and the nails were thinner, so much stronger, and looked so natural.”
In the early ‘80s when fiberglass wraps, gels, and liquid-and-powder acrylic systems were fairly new, many nail techs still opted for a dipping process. It could fix split and broken nails and it was an easier way to overlay natural nails with a flexible, lightweight, soft, and durable finish similar to gels.
The technology offered a method of strengthening the nail using a powder and adhesive, instead of monomer, which reduced fumes in the salon.
“Since liquid monomer is not used in dip systems, there is no toxic smells,” says Caroline Scroggins, brand manager for SuperNail in Commerce, Calif. “The application only utilizes a resin, an activator, and finely milled acrylic powders, which allow it have no odor.”
For newly licensed nail techs or those with less experience, dip systems allowed technicians to work efficiently, and it was convenient. “The application and removal process is quick and easy,” Scroggins says.
“There is no sculpting necessary — as opposed to traditional acrylic nail application, which requires technique and extensive experience to sculpt the nails — and the final results are comparable. With the introduction of colored dipping powders, there is no need for nail polish.”
Dip systems required fewer tools, too. “The learning difficulty isn’t as high because there is no need for acrylic brushes to build the nail, no lamps, electric fans, or French cutting tools,” says Ricky Huynh, brand manager for Amazing Nail Concepts in Wellington, Fla. “It’s geared toward beginners or someone who wants to save time.”
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Powder coating enhancements are making a comeback because they boast long-lasting and lightweight results when applied properly. A set of dip systems enhancements will last four to six weeks while traditional acrylics last about three weeks. Because there is no primer (sometimes acid-based) required or used, the damage is less to the nail, and lifting, splitting, peeling, and breaking is minimal. When you use the system, the adhesive (usually cyanoacrylate) is applied to the natural nail or to an applied tip. The chemical reaction of resins-to-moisture is in contrast to acrylic products, which harden when the monomer interacts chemically with powders (similar to when gel is exposed to UV or LED lamps). Then, the still-wet nail is dipped into an acrylic powder (polymer). This process is usually repeated two to three times to build up a strong enhancement. An activator is then applied over the powder to dry the glue. As soon as the activator touches the acrylic powder, the catalyst in the liquid activates the initiator and the chemical reaction begins the bonding and hardening process. Finally, the nail is then buffed to shape, and shined. To remove, simply wrap or soak the nails in acetone. Soaking in acetone will break down dried cyanoacrylate — the resin that is structured to cure and harden when exposed to moisture.
The technique is simple, fast, and industry scientist Doug Schoon thinks it’s safe. “It’s an old technique (similar to) fiberglass wraps and uses the same type of adhesive. In this case, the fiberglass is replaced by an acrylic powder. These are not much different and are just as durable,” Schoon says.
“The powders are pretty inert and not likely to cause allergic reactions.”
But not everyone embraces it. “I will not offer dip to my clients,” says Ellegra Davis, co-owner of Jewels a Nail Box in Chicago. “Dip enhancements were offered as a non-toxic alternative to acrylic nails but when using it for the first time the glue would burn my eyes and nose when I got too close to it. I felt like it was more toxic because of that. The removal process was a nightmare for me. The instructions said acetone would soak it off but it took over an hour to remove the nail.”
In addition to safety, sanitation concerns emerged. “It is clearly not sanitary to double dip clients nails into the powder,” Schoon says. “Responsible companies will instruct nail techs to sprinkle the powder over the coated nail. It will provide the same results, but in a sanitary fashion.”
Manufacturers today are adapting. In April, Young Nails introduced SlickPour to the professional market. The manufacturer launched powder coating kits available in 30 colors to offer nail techs a fresh and clean approach on the old technology. “The more we did our research we found out that powder coated nails are a service that is requested more than gel-polish because of the nature of its application, the nature of its wear, and the nature of its removal,” says Greg Salo, co-founder of the professional nail products brand. “We don’t call it dip because dipping to us (especially if you’re doing multiple people) is an unsanitary way of doing it. That’s why we decided to do a method of pouring.”
Aware of potential disregard for direction and proper application, Salo suggests an alternative. “If they are going to dip, they should put the powder in a separate dish and once they are done, they throw it away. You don’t want to dip fingers in the same spot,” he says. “The reason we went with the pouring method is because you have great control. When you dip the finger to the powder, it forces the product all the way back to the cuticle area. So you have to come down flat or at a certain angle or you have to scoop it with your finger. With this method, you simply brush it on and pour it on top; you get a more even application when you pour instead of dip.”
Nail tech Kelly Quear of Rockstar Nail Studio in Struthers, Ohio has been doing nails for four years and just recently added SlickPour to her service menu starting at $40 a set. “I wanted to offer my clients a cool new product,” she says. “I have a lot of gel-polish clientele and a few had mentioned that they’d love the added strength and durability of acrylics without the commitment. So I went with the powder coating system because of its color selection and easy removal.”
The colored dip powders offered in dip systems are specifically blended with pigmentation, allowing nail techs endless opportunities to get creative.
Amazing Nail Concepts educator Nancy Tran of Rose Nails by Nancy in Port Orchard, Wash., says 90 % of her business is made up of glue-and-acrylic powder enhancements. A single color set starts at $55, extensions start at $65, and nail art using dip systems will start at $85. “My clients love dip powder nails because they are durable, strong, they look natural, and they like that it’s odorless and there are no harsh chemicals involved,” she says.
In addition to nail art with colored powder, Cuccio Pro is thinking beyond the hands to offer nail techs a new kind of colored-themed kit designed for manicure and pedicure services. Unable to confirm product name and launch dates at press time, Arica Carpenter, brand manager for Cuccio Pro in Valencia, Calif., said that the nail product manufacturer is working on a line of match maker kits similar to matching gel-polishes (for hands) and nail polish shades (for toes) sets. Cuccio Pro will offer dip system colored powders designed to match the exact same shades as Cuccio Colour nail polishes. “We are going to launch with 36 shades and the idea is to do the powder on nails and the lacquer on toes,” she says.
Looking at the trends ahead, OPI educator Danny Phung forecasts a surge in enhancement requests. “People want some sort of strength on their natural nails or some sort extension to what they currently have,” he says. “Dip systems are coming back because enhancements are back. It’s a fast way to do an overlay and now you can eliminate the extra step of gel colors and an LED lamp. Kill two birds with one stone.”
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