Dipping 101

Don't Panic.

New to dipping your own nails? It can certainly be confusing or even overwhelming at first. What do I need to buy? How do I use the stuff? Why didn't I get the results I expected? We've created this page to answer those questions and more. Whether you're brand new to nail dips, an old pro or somewhere in-between, we hope you will find something helpful here.

If you're totally new to dipping, don't worry. We've all been there. It's not nearly as complicated as it looks.

What Do I Need To Get Started?

Here is a list of the critical components. You'll definitely need these.

  • Dipsy Dip Set of 5 Liquids - this kit includes all five of our liquids, each of which plays an important role in dipping your nails. The set includes:
    • Primer - Crucial to cleaning and dehydrating your nail surface in preparation for dipping.
    • Base Coat - This is the "glue" that will hold the powder onto your nail once you dip.
    • Activator - Activator is the magic ingredient that changes the dipped nail from a powdered look to a painted look.
    • Top Coat - Top coat is another glue-like liquid that gives you a durable, shiny finish.
    • Brush Saver - Base and Top Coats are essentially glue. The brushes will harden over time. Brush Saver is crucial in extending the life of those brushes.
  • Dipping Powder - Available in many solid colors and glitter colors, the dipping powder is what gives your nails the color you desire.
  • Nail File - Whether you use an emery board or a glass nail file, you'll want something to shape your nail.
  • Brush - You'll need a nylon-bristled brush to remove the excess powder between dipping your nails and applying activator. We offer a Mini Kabuki Brush and a Flower Nail Brush, both of which do the job well.
  • Buffer - A buffer is an important tool for dipping. It helps give you a smooth, shiny, salon-quality surface. We highly recommend our Not Your Ordinary Nail Buffer.
  • Acetone - When the time comes, you'll need acetone to remove your nail dips. Due to shipping restrictions, we do not offer acetone. However we recommend this one, available from Walmart for $3.47.

Of course, there are some additional tools that you should have in your dipping toolbox. Here are two that we suggest:

  • Cuticle Oil - It's primary use - moisturizing your cuticles - is an important one, especially to counteract the dryness from soaking your hands in acetone. However, cuticle oil can also help prevent Base and Top Coat bottles from gluing shut (wipe a little on the lip and threads) and help remove the same two liquids if you accidentally get some on your skin. We offer two types - a pen for precise placement and a dropper for more general use. Both are available here.
  • Manicure Soaking Bowl - To remove your dips, you'll need to soak your fingers in acetone for 10 minutes or so. You can use pretty much any old bowl, but our soaking bowls feature a convenient hand rest that minimizes acetone waste and reduces hand fatigue.

Please note: Our dipping system does not require an ultraviolet or LED light to cure!

What's This Going To Cost Me?

All told, you'll end up with somewhere between $50 and $70 - not much more than a single manicure at the salon. And you'll be able to give yourself quite a few (10-20) manicures before you need to restock anything. Once you've purchased your initial products and you want to try a new color, you only need to buy the dipping powder (between $8.50 and $13.50).

Of course, we frequently run sales and promotions, so if you've got a keen eye for bargains, watch for those and you may be able to save quite a bit.

Ok, I've Got All The Stuff. Now What?!?

Very briefly:

  • Clean nails and apply Primer
  • Apply base coat to one nail
  • Dip nail into powder, then remove all excess/loose powder
  • Apply base coat and dip the rest of your nails, one at a time.
  • Repeat base and dip steps, one nail at a time, until you reach your desired thickness / color saturation. (We recommend three times.)
  • Apply Activator to all nails
  • File, buff and shape your nail
  • Remove all dust and residue (alcohol wipe works great)
  • Apply second coat of Activator to all nails
  • Apply Top Coat to all nails

That looks a lot more complicated than it really is. Trust us.

Now, let's look at each step in more detail.

Dipping Tutorial

Now, let's look at each step in more detail.

  • Cleaning and Applying Primer:
    • Some people need to rough up their nail surface a bit before priming to enable the liquids to adhere.
    • Do not apply Primer to fake nails or fake tips, as it may cause yellowing and cracking of the plastic.
  • Applying Base Coat:
    • Apply Base Coat in very thin, even layers. You essentially want to put it on as thin as possible while maintaining even coverage.
    • Be very careful not to get Base Coat on your cuticles. If Base overlaps onto cuticles, you will get lifting as your nails grow out, and your manicure will not last very long.
    • There are a few methods to ensure you do not get Base Coat on your cuticles. One is to leave a hairline between your cuticle and where you start your Base. Another is to use a cuticle stick or toothpick to create a hairline space between the cuticle and Base after you've applied it (but while it is still wet). A third option is to apply your first layer of Base 1/4" to 3/8" from the cuticle, then move closer to the cuticle with each coat. This has the added benefit of giving your nail a more natural curve.
    • Be careful not to get Base Coat on the lip or thread of the bottle. Our Base and Top Coat bottles have a gasket in the throat of the bottle. Use the bottom of the gasket to wipe off excess liquid. You may find it helps to tilt the bottle a little as you remove the brush.
    • Watch this video for more tips on working with the Base and Top Coat bottles.
  • Dipping:
    • Dip your nail at a 45 degree angle for best results.
    • If you can not fit your entire nail into the dipping powder (or if you share dipping powder with someone), use a small spoon to sprinkle the powder over your nail.
    • Placing a clean piece of paper under your powder while you dip can help reduce waste. Simply dump any spilled powder back into the jar when done.
    • Tap the nail gently over the jar to remove any loose powder. Once the base coat is completely dry, use a brush to remove any additional excess powder.
    • Each layer of Base Coat and Dipping Powder thickens you finished nail and results in deeper color. We recommend starting with three coats for your first manicure, then adjusting up or down to suit your taste.
  • Applying Activator:
    • Make sure Base Coat is totally dry and ALL loose powder has been removed from the nail before applying and re-applying Activator, otherwise the excess powder will contaminate your Activator, ruining it.
  • Filing and buffing:
    • It's easy to gloss over this step, however that is a mistake. Smoothing out and shaping your finished nail is critical to achieving a professional-looking smooth finish. Don't be afraid to take a little extra time here.
    • Once done filing and buffing, carefully wipe off all dust and residue. Failing to do this can cause a cloudy, uneven finish. Use an alcohol wipe or a paper towel dipped in alcohol to get all the powder dust off.
  • Applying Top Coat:
    • Be sure to apply Top Coat to the front edge of the nail. This will help create a seal that will prevent chipping and lifting.
    • Be careful not to get Top Coat on the lip or thread of the bottle. Our Base and Top Coat bottles have a gasket in the throat of the bottle. Use the bottom of the gasket to wipe off excess liquid. You may find it helps to tilt the bottle a little as you remove the brush.
    • Watch this video for more tips on working with the Base and Top Coat bottles.

I Dipped My Nails, But Something Isn't Quite Right

Don't despair. You probably didn't do a great job the first time you used liquid nail polish. It shouldn't be a big surprise if your first or second time using a new method isn't perfect. Even seasoned dippers have the occasional bad manicure.

Check out our dip troubleshooting page for help diagnosing the problem.