What Are SNS Nails? Pros, Cons, Design Ideas + More

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As nail-obsessed babes, we’re always on the hunt for the latest mani trends. The new kid in town? SNS nails! 

While this manicure first became popular in the ’90s, it’s been tossed aside in favor of more flashy artificial nails and gel manicures.  

Woman with nails done. Example for SNS nails post

Lately, though, beauty gurus and enthusiasts have recently started hyping SNS nails up, writing rave reviews, and showing off their manis on social media! 

But wait — what are SNS nails? What benefits do they offer? Is it possible to get intricate, stylish nail designs with SNS powder?

Read on as we give you a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about SNS nails. As a bonus, we’ll also give you amazing ideas for SNS nails with designs!

What Are SNS Nails? 

SNS nails are dip powder nails or dip powder manicures. 

As the name suggests, this mani involves dipping the nails into a colored powder.

Each powder dip is made with strong acrylic polymers and a highly pigmented formula. The result is rich, stunningly vibrant hues with a glossy, long-lasting, and crack-resistant finish.

Unlike regular polish or gel, SNS products are lightweight and odor-free. In lieu of UV light, they use an activator to bond the product to the nails and extend their life. 


Fun fact: SNS stands for Signature Nail Systems, a specific brand of dip powder!

Nail enthusiasts often refer to dip powder nails as SNS, even when other dip powder brands like Nail Boo, Kiara Sky, NotPolish, and Gelish are used for their manicures.

SNS nails stuck as a name due to the fact that the company invented dip powder in the ’90s.   

How Are SNS Nails Applied?

A typical SNS manicure involves three main steps:

  1. Applying a glue-like resin base (used as a bonding agent)
  2. Dipping nails into the powder
  3. Brushing on the activator

Let’s elaborate on the process. 

1. Apply a resin base

Firstly, most nail techs start by cleaning, filing, and buffing the nails to create the desired shape. They also push the cuticles back to ensure proper adhesion of the powder as well as prevent nail infections. 

DIYers should also do this at home before getting started on the nail application process! If you don’t want to push your cuticles back, make sure to avoid the cuticle line instead. 

Then the resin base, which is used as an adhesive to bond dip powder to the nails, is brushed onto your natural nails. 

2. Dip the nails into the powder

Each nail gets dipped into a natural sheer powder, which strengthens the nails and protects them against staining when using extremely pigmented colors and against damage from other products in the dipping system. 

After this, each nail gets dipped into your choice of colored powder then brushed off gently for a smoother finish when applying more layers.

A thin coat of the resin base is applied afterward to seal the color, and the three previous steps are repeated 2 to 4 times for proper coating. 

3. Seal the nails with an activator 

When the nails are ready to be sealed, a final layer of the natural sheer powder may be applied as a top coat to lend extra shine and strength. 

Doing this also allows you or your beauty tech to buff and file your nails for a clean, even surface.

Finally, an activator is brushed onto the nails to harden them, seal the color, and provide a glossy finish. 

Of course, nail technicians and DIYers customize or add to these steps depending on the complexity of the design. 

Some brush dip powder onto the nails to create intricate patterns. Others also use regular polish or gel polish as a top coat or skip out on using the natural sheer powder to prevent an overly thick finish. 

The best part? SNS nail application is customizable and easy to DIY! You can follow the steps above for your first at home-application and tweak them as needed. 

Get a step-by-step tutorial of how to DIY your dip powder nails here:

SNS Nails: Pros & Cons

All manicure techniques have their benefits and drawbacks, and SNS nails are no exception. 

So before you hop on this hot trend, it’s essential to consider a few factors to decide whether this type of manicure suits your needs and preferences. 

See the advantages and disadvantages of SNS nails here:

Pros of SNS Nails

  • No UV Light
    Traditional gel manicures require UV light for curing. Unfortunately, exposure to UV radiation from nail salon lamps — especially when prolonged — can cause long-term damage to your health. 

    Premature aging and an increased risk for skin cancer are only a few of its known health hazards.

    Luckily, there are less risky alternatives like dip powder nails! Dip powder uses an activator to air dry quickly, eliminating the need for UV lamps. 
  • Odorless and Nourishing Formula
    Hate the strong, stuffy acrylic smell of nail polish that greets you every time you walk into a nail salon?

    Good news for those with sensitive noses: SNS powders have no odor!

    What’s more, the brand’s formula focuses on boosting nail health with vitamins and minerals in their dip powder formulas as well as in their bases and sealers.

    Among the vitamins included is vitamin A, which strengthens the nails and promotes healthy growth. Their products also have ample doses of calcium and zinc to prevent thin, weak, and brittle nails. 
  • Lightweight Finish
    A common complaint among acrylic and shellac lovers is that artificial nails tend to feel overly tight and heavy.

    On the flip side, SNS powders leave a thin, lightweight finish on nails, lending a more natural and less bulky look. 
  • Long-Lasting Alternative
    Ever had freshly done, picture-perfect nails that got ruined the minute you got in the shower? We’ve all been there.

    Gel manicures only last up to three weeks at most. Lacquer polish is even worse; many experience chipping within a few days of application.

    By contrast, SNS gives you a long-lasting manicure! Properly applied and cared for, it has a life span of two to four weeks before the color starts lifting off the nails.

    The solid, durable finish also makes it less prone to cracks and other unsightly signs of wear and tear.  
  • Wide Selection of Fun Colors and Designs
    SNS comes in an array of stunning colors for every personality, from classic reds to earthy neutrals to whimsical teals!

    You’ll also find plenty of nail artists who specialize in dip powder art, creating swoon-worthy designs that appeal to your tastes.  

Cons of SNS Nails

  • Steep Price
    Looking for bargain beauty trends? Beware: SNS nails cost more than regular manicures and gel nails.

    Of course, the actual price varies from salon to salon, but you can expect a dip powder mani to cost $15 to $45 more than regular or gel manis.

    But since SNS lasts longer than both lacquer and gel polish, it may well be worth the extra splurge.  
  • Acetone Removal
    Unlike liquid nail polish, dip powder doesn’t come off with a few drops of acetone on cotton balls.

    Instead, it takes a 15- to 20-minute acetone soak to soften the hardened powder and remove SNS nails entirely. 

    Why is this concerning? Acetone is a harsh chemical that can irritate your nail cuticle and dehydrate your nails, leaving them dry and brittle. Worse, it can dry out the skin around your nails.

    Now there are ways to avoid using acetone and still complete the SNS removal process successfully.

    You can ask your beauty technician for acetone alternatives at the nail salon..

Quick Tip

Nourishing oils and lotions should be used after an acetone removal to reverse the above effects.

  • Sanitary Concerns
    Double-dipping: an issue at parties and in salons! Even experienced manicurists are guilty of dunking the nails of multiple customers in the same bottle of dip powder.

    This unsanitary practice — aside from generally being gross — can put your health at risk.

    Dipping an infected nail in dip powder can cause germs and bacteria to pass from the affected person to the next client. 

    Make sure to ask your beauty technician about their method of applying SNS nails. It’s best to have them pour the powder over your nails and throw away any excess product immediately.

    The same goes for DIY dip powder projects. Avoid double-dipping your fingernails or placing powder that’s fallen off your nails back into the container..

Quick Tip

The safest way to double-dip is to completely sanitize the nail before dipping it again into the jar.

  • Allergic Reactions or Contact Dermatitis
    Both the bonding agent and dip powder in your SNS kit contain ingredients that may trigger allergies when the product is applied or touched to the skin, causing overexposure and reactions.

    Symptoms like itching and swelling can manifest even days after your manicure, according to dermatologists.

    So if you’re sensitive to certain ingredients in beauty products, see to it that you check the ingredient list of each component in your dip powder kit.

    Consult your doctor before using any SNS product as well..
  • Varying Results
    As with any manicure technique, this is a risk to consider. Some users note changes in the powder’s color after application, while others notice cracking within a few days.

Quick Tip

Taking proper care of your manicure and avoiding unnecessary exposure to tanning beds, bleach, household cleaning supplies/chemicals, pool water, and ocean/lake water can help you avoid these issues. 

Wearing gloves while cleaning or doing dishes helps too.

18 Fabulous SNS Nail Design Ideas

Now that we’ve gotten the nitty-gritty details out of the way, get ready for the most exciting part: SNS powder nail designs! 

To help you find the perfect new look, we’ve compiled a few of the best SNS nail styles to give you a good dose of SNS nail inspiration: 

Red SNS Nail Designs

Trendy hues come and go, but red nails stay hot forever. Sultry and refined, red nails with glitter are a no-brainer for days when you want to go with sophisticated simplicity.

Want to kick things up a notch? Try contrasting designs with a red hue to tie them all together. 

Ombre nails and delicately placed rhinestones can also offset fully covered nails, creating visual interest that instantly draws the eye. 

Black SNS Nail Designs

Black dip powder? Sophisticated. Leopard print? Fierce and unapologetic. 3D nails? Attention-grabbing. This SNS nail design marries all these qualities for a manicure that’s as bold as you. 

Who says black can’t be playful? Dark florals, distorted checker patterns, and black tips in this cool design create a hypnotic, multidimensional look without compromising on cohesion. 

Pink SNS Nail Designs

Pale pink with a pearlescent sheen embodies modern femininity at its finest. Versatile and DIY-friendly, these nails add a hint of luxury to every outfit. 

A few flecks of glitter at the tips can make an ombre nail truly pop! The round shape helps keep the entire look understated and wearable.

Summer SNS Nail Designs

Green popsicles and yellow beach umbrellas recall the simple summers of childhood, encapsulated in this nostalgic palette. Of course, you can’t go without a few flecks of gold for a stylish finish. 

For a more subdued summer vibe that transitions into spring without a hitch, get a muted orange and pink combo. The single green leaf brings a subtle hint of coolness, encouraging you to savor the warmth while it lasts. 

Winter SNS Nail Designs

Icy blues and frosty whites make this effortlessly enchanting design worthy of snow queens in fairy tales. A subtle ombre gradient under the glitter polishes off the look with a magical allure.   

Christmas is all about bringing family members — each with their own quirks and styles — together, so why not celebrate the spirit of the holidays with multicolored, multi-patterned nails? 

Spring SNS Nail Designs

An oldie but a goodie, floral nails welcome the warm embrace of spring and its promise of renewal. Classic spring hues are also at the forefront of this style, with soft pink as the focal point of the palette. 

Earthy hues and delicate blooms also signal spring’s arrival with a calmer, more laid-back approach. With serenity and simplicity at its core, this design looks best on short nails.

Autumn SNS Nail Designs

Never underestimate the capacity of a tortoiseshell design to elevate a plain look! Paired with short black SNS nails, tasteful tortie accents bring the dramatic flair of fall to your everyday style. 

Halloween nails you can wear to work and fancy events? Yes, please! Cute and bewitching, little white ghosts give a spooky twist to your trusty neutrals.  

Cute SNS Nails

Is there anything cuter than hearts on nails? We don’t think so! This sweet, delightful design is perfect for girly girls who remain hopeless romantics at heart. 

The cartoon trend is everywhere these days — even in nails! Mimicking pop art with a fun 3D effect, this animated style proves that short SNS nail designs need not be boring. 

Elegant SNS Nails

Elegance shouldn’t be limited to dark, deep shades. A minimalist design with a neutral base and carefully placed pops of color create a vibrant yet polished look. 

Black nails evoke an air of mystery all on their own, but the right touches can put them over the top. In this design, geometric lines contrast with black matte for a striking ultra-modern finish.

FAQs About SNS Nails

Are SNS Nails Better Than Acrylics?

Ultimately, the answer to this will depend on your goals. 

If you’re going for long, thick, visually arresting nails that last six weeks or more, acrylic nails are for you. But if you want an understated, low-maintenance look, go for SNS nails instead. 

Are SNS Nails Better Than Gel Manicures?

In general, SNS nails tend to come out on top of gel manicures since they last longer, keep natural nails healthy, and don’t require UV light. 

But for those who are partial to frequent color change-ups or averse to acetone soaks, gel manicures may be the better option.

Is SNS Bad for Your Nails?

Like other manicures, SNS can potentially damage your nails. The most obvious culprit of this is improper application and removal.  The acetone soak can also dehydrate the nails.

Also, keep in mind that SNS creates a firm, rigid finish. Picking at or scraping it can cause you to inadvertently peel off the layers of the natural nail. 

As such, it’s best to leave the removal of SNS nails up to a professional. 

What Are SNS Nails With Tips?

SNS nails with tips are simply tips or nail extensions made with nail tips or purely dip powder. See a gorgeous example of this here:

Get a Fab New Mani with Dazzling SNS Nail Designs

Beautiful, healthy, and long-lasting, SNS nails make an excellent option for your next manicure! 

Now that you’ve gotten the lowdown on SNS nails, you can weigh the pros and cons and decide whether to try it out for yourself. 

If you’re determined to ditch your old polish and go for SNS nails, why not get creative with it? 

Take time to go through the SNS dip nail ideas we’ve selected above and choose a design that flaunts your unique sense of style! 

Discover more nail tips and trends!

See these articles for inspiration:

Authors

  • Nicole Serrano

    Nicole has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Comparative Literature and four years of experience as a freelance writer and editor. Since her college days, she’s been obsessed with all things makeup, fashion, and hair care with a particular fondness for ’70s and ’90s trends.

  • Jasmine Moore

    Jasmine Moore, a licensed nail technician with 3 years of expertise, offers specialized services in Acrylic, Gel X, and Dip Powder applications. Trained by Lena Fam and a graduate of NexGen Nails and Beauty School, Jasmine's accolades include nominations for "Best New Nail Tech" (2021) and "Best Nail Artist" (2023). As the founder of Jazzy Belle Beauty she stays updated on the latest nail trends.

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