Ultimate Guide to Dip Powder on Natural Nails

Check out my ultimate guide to dip powder on natural nails. Here are the steps I follow to achieve beautiful dip powder nails at home! Please note that timing of the process can vary based on each individual brand’s products and timing.



  1. Wash your hands with soap and warm water to prevent the growth of bacteria.
  2. After your hands are thoroughly dry, carefully push back your cuticles with the cuticle pusher.
  3. Use an electric file to remove traces of cuticles on your nails using the cuticle bit. While this step is optional, I’ve found that using this bit does a great job of preventing lifting.
  4. Trim and/or file nails to the desired length and shape. Use the 240 grit file when filing your natural nails.
  5. Use an electric file with 180 grit sanding band (approximately 3000-5000 RPM) or 180 grit file to gently remove the surface shine off the nail.
  6. Use a lint free wipe or paper towel (if you don’t have lint free wipes) and Nail Cleanser to cleanse the nail of any debris.

Primer & Bond Aid

Primer/Bond Aid isn’t technically required. However, it is designed to prepare the nail for dipping. It helps dehydrate the nail and maximize adhesion.

  1. Apply Primer & Bond Aid to the nail.

Build an Apex

You can skip this step if your nails are super short and you don’t mind a flatter appearance.

Build a mini apex using either clear dip powder or colored dip powder (see graphic below). This is geared towards shorter nails. I prefer using clear dip powder when building an apex on both shorter and longer nails due to the fact that clear dip is the strongest. The absence of pigment is what makes it strong.

  1. Apply a thin coat of Dip Base Coat in a stripe from the middle of your nail to the free edge and either slowly dip into the powder or pour it on (see below step 1).
  2. After it’s dried, use your eyeshadow brush/Kabuki brush to brush off excess powder. Follow up with the stiff nail brush to get the rest of the powder left from the eyeshadow/Kabuki brush.
  3. Apply another thin coat of base coat but this time to 3/4 of the nail (see below step 2). Brush off excess powder.
  4. If your nails are on the longer side, I recommend building a full apex with clear dip powder. I love this YT video from Kiara Sky. Click here to view the video.

Continue with Dip Powder Application

This part can vary based on whether you have short or long nails, whether you’ve built your apex with color or clear, and on how thick you like your nails.

For example, if you’ve built an apex with clear on longer nails you may need 3+ full layers of colored dip powder. If you have built an apex with colored powder on short nails, you may only need 2 more dips of color.

  1. Apply a thin coat of Dip Base Coat to the nail and either dip into the jar or pour the powder on. Try to make your layer of base coat as even and thin as possible. Manage the amount of product on the brush so you don’t flood your cuticles.
  2. Dip into the powder or pour over so that your Dip Base Coat is completely saturated with the powder. If you are using a chunky glitter, you may need to lay your nail down into the glitter and gently press it down with a plastic bag. Some people prefer sprinkling on their first layer of glitter.
  3. Before your dip powder has had a chance to dry, run a toothpick (orange wood stick, etc) along your cuticle. With more practice, you can eventually omit this step.
  4. Brush off excess powder using the eyeshadow or Kabuki brush. Follow up with the stiff nail brush to get the rest of the powder left from the eyeshadow/Kabuki brush.
  5. Repeat until you are satisfied with the opacity and thickness.

Encapsulate in Clear Dip Powder

Encapsulate in clear dip powder to protect your color while filing. You can get by without it. But you run the risk of filing off your color or having more bumps (especially with chunky glitter).

You might be able to get away with not encapsulating in clear if you had a perfect application of your color and plan on minimal filing. I always encapsulate in clear though. Be sure you use a very high quality clear dip powder (Kiara Sky, Sparkle & Co., Risen Legacy, Skyline Soapworks, etc), otherwise it could come out cloudy.

  1. Apply a thin coat of Dip Base Coat and either dip into the clear or pour it over. You can use this Kiara Sky Recycling System to help prevent you from contaminating your jar of clear powder.
  2. Once dry, brush off excess powder using the eyeshadow/Kabuki brush. Follow up with a stiff nail brush to remove the remaining powder. Using the stiff nail brush will help ensure your clear dip comes out crystal clear.

Activate Round 1

Activator is what cures the dip powder. If you miss spots when applying Activator, you may file off chunks of your dip powder that aren’t properly cured. Marla Kris swears by 2 round of activator in this step, just to be on the safe side.

  1. Apply a generous amount of activator to the entire nail including the sides and tip.
  2. Allow Activator to dry completely. Dry times depend on the manufacturer. Risen Legacy has a 4+ minute dry time.

File & Buff

  1. Turn on the dust collector (optional).
  2. Use a file (100 or 180 grit) to file the free edge to compensate for any additional dip powder that may be adding bulk.
  3. Use an electric file (large barrel fine bit) or file (100 or 180 grit) to file across the entire surface of your nail until there are no shiny (unfiled) areas left. You want to blend everything together. Don’t over file your apex though.
  4. Use a buffing block to smooth everything out.
  5. Dust off any excess filings.
  6. Wipe the nail with a lint free wipe moistened with Nail Cleanser (optional).
  7. Turn off the dust collector (optional).

Activator Round #2

  1. Apply a generous coat of Activator making sure you cap the edges.
  2. Allow to dry for approximately 2 minutes. Dry time can vary on manufacturer.
  3. Use a lint free wipe to get off any excess Activator.

Dip Top Coat

This can be a tricky step. Some Dip Top Coats are prone to being contaminated by Activator. My favorite Dip Top Coat right now is from Risen Legacy. It’s so easy to work with and has incredible shine!

  1. Quickly apply an extremely thin coat of Dip Top Coat being sure to cap the edges.
  2. Wipe the brush on a clean piece of paper towel or lint free wipe to help prevent Activator contamination.
  3. Allow the first coat to dry. Many Dip Top Coats appear “streaky” when ready for the final coat. Timing between brands can vary from 30ish seconds to over 4 minutes (Risen Legacy, but it’s worth the wait!).
  4. Apply a thin second coat of Dip Top Coat being sure to cap the edges.
  5. Allow to dry completely. 5 minutes is usually long enough for most brands.

Cuticle Oil

  1. Apply cuticle oil to care for your cuticles.
  2. Reapply cuticle oil at least twice a day.

Most products linked in the post are from Risen Legacy. Use promo code youcandonails10 to save 10% at Risen Legacy (www.risenlegacy.com)! I don’t earn anything when you use the code.

If you like this article be sure to check out “Must Have Accessories for Incredible Dipped Nails at Home“!

NOTE: I am not a licensed nail technician. This is my general routine when doing my own nail at home.

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