A very effective alternative to dip powder base coat is the top coat version or nail glue. It’s because all these three have a very common bonding agent called ethyl cyanoacrylate that makes adhesion work between the layers. The top coat and nail glues are usually recommended when dip base coats aren’t available or accessible.
But what if someone’s allergic to cyanoacrylate and suffers from dip flu? That’s when they need to look for safer options. Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are some good substitutes that are cyanoacrylate-free and some bad substitutes.
So in case you want a good dip powder base coat substitute, then this article has a list that could be useful. You’ll also find a couple of bad options, how to use dip powder without dip base and some suggestions here.
Substitute for Dip Powder Base Coat
1. Dip Powder Top Coat
Dip powder top and base coats are usually prepared with a combination of adhesives and UV-reactive liquids. The most common chemical found in both is cyanoacrylate, which is the glue that helps powder stick to the nails. This similarity of chemicals makes dip top coat an ideal alternative to the dip base coat. There are even many products that come in form of 2-in-1 which means you can use the same liquid in two ways.
The application method is similar as well. It starts with a layer of top liquid followed by dip powder, activator and lastly top coat again. The activator helps set and harden the layers.
Note that the top coat might be slightly thicker than the base one. So, this may affect the texture and color of the dip powder. However, to avoid the issue, try applying a very thin coat on the nails. As long as it’s used properly, the dipped layers may last up to 2 or 3 weeks without chipping.
2. Nail Glue
Nail glue has the same main ingredient i.e. cyanoacrylate- which is used in dip powder base coat so it can be a good alternative. However, using such a liquid can be trickier since it dries pretty fast and is too thin to let powders stick properly and evenly. Hence, a compatible nail glue matters in this case.
Products like brush-on nail glues have worked for many people. The process simply involves a thick layer of brush-on nail glue, dip powder, then an activator and finally a UV top coat. You may have to keep on experimenting with the layering techniques until the final result looks perfect.
One issue with nail glues is that they have harsh plasticizers and thickeners that can be risky for natural nails. In that case, it’s better to apply a protective coat like clear nail polish or primer before the glue to keep the nail from harmful chemicals.
3. Gel Base Coat
Gel base coats mostly contain photo-initiators and acrylates that act as adhesives for gel lacquers. Although they aren’t made with cyanoacrylate like the dip top/base coats, the primary chemicals can work to make dip powders adhere. However, as the bonding works differently because of having different contents, gel base liquids may bond weaker than the dip base ones. As a result, the powdered layers can lift or peel faster. But they tend to provide stronger bond than clear gel polish.
When it comes to gel base coats, the process will be different since they need to be cured. Start with a slightly thick layer of gel base coat, then pour the powder over it and finally cure the layers under UV/LED lamp for around 60 seconds. Repeat the process 2-3 times or until you’re satisfied with the final results. Finish it off with a gel top coat and cure it again to lock the dipped layers.
Tip: A thin coat of base gel right before the final top coat can help your dipped mani last a lot longer time!
However gel base coats may not work with all dip powders. So make sure to do proper research on the products like dippable gel base that are powder compatible.
4. Clear Gel Polish
Clear gel products have adhesive ingredients like methacrylate or urethane acrylate oligomers that help them stick to the nail. It can also work to make dip powder stick to the nail since it sometimes acts as gel base coat. So, the process will be similar i.e. layering the nail with clear gel polish, then dip powder, then curing, then repeating the steps and finally a gel top coat that needs curing again.
However, dipped manis with clear gel polish as base coat won’t last long since it doesn’t have strong adhesives that can firmly adhere the powder to the nail. It may go up to 2 or 3 days without peeling if you’re lucky. Such a method is suitable for those who like changing nail polish frequently.
Bad Substitutes for Dip Powder Base Coat
1. Super Glue
Standard super glue contains nearly 100% cyanoacrylate to make it effective for dips but this is very harmful to the nail plate. Not just the concentration of cyanoacrylate but other harsh chemicals in the liquid can cause the nail to become weak and brittle as well as to break. Hence, super glues aren’t recommended at all. Although nail glue is a kind of super glue, the formulation is mild and less risky than the latter.
2. Regular Base Coat or Clear Nail Polish
Regular base coats and clear nail polishes have some adhesive chemicals that let them adhere to the natural nail plate. But they are way too weak to create a firm bond between dip powder and natural nails which results in chipping in no time. Even if the powder manages to stick to the surface, the layer will peel or fall off within a day.
3. Peel-Off Base Coat
Peel-off base coats can indeed be used with dip powder but they aren’t the right alternative to dip base coats. The reason is that they don’t have strong bond abilities to enable the powder to stick well to the nails. Moreover, the liquids dry so fast that it doesn’t give powder enough time to sit properly on nails and eventually all the dust falls off.
Such a base coat is used only when paired with dip base coats. This means, involving a layer of peely at first, then dip base coat, followed by dip powder, activator and top coat.
How To Do Dip Nails Without Base Coat?
Dip nails can be done without base coat by using a bonding agent, a dip top coat or gel base coat, dip powder, activator or curing lamp and a top coat.
The process of dip mani without dip base coat is-
Prep the nails by filing and buffing so that the surface becomes smoother. Shape them if needed. Then clean the nails properly.
Apply a primer and swipe it down the middle of the nail so that it doesn’t touch the skin or cuticle since this can cause damage. Use the right amount as overpriming can lead to burning sensation. Give it 30 seconds to 2 minutes to dry.
Dip top coat/Gel base coat/Nail Glue
Now, apply a layer of dip top coat, gel base coat or nail glue over the primed surface.
Either dip your nails into the powder or pour it over the nails. Do it instantly while the previous layer is still sticky so that the powder sits properly but evenly. Repeat the steps 3 and 4 until the final look seems right.
Activator or Curing
Use an activator for the dip top coat or curing lamp for the gel polish so that the layers harden and set well on the nails.
Give your nails the final touch by applying a top coat to cover and lock the dip mani in. In case of nail glue, use UV top coat and then cure it.
- OPI Powder Perfection Top Coat – It contains cyanoacrylate to help dip powder adhere to the nail.
- SNS Dipping Powder Gel Base – It comes with stronger adhesive power allowing dip powder to adhere well to the nail.
- Gelish Foundation Base Gel – It has good adhesion properties to make the powder stick to the nail as long as it’s applied properly.
- KISS PowerFlex Brush On Nail Glue – The adhesion property is good enough to stick the powder to the nail.
What Happens If You Use Wrong Base Coat For Dip Powder?
Base coat doesn’t only help dip powder adhere to the nail but also acts as a protective layer to keep the nail plate from harmful chemicals enhancements. If wrong base coat is applied, the adhesion between powder and nail won’t work. Moreover, it can cause staining, allergic reactions that can result in tissue weakening and damage to the nails.
Not all base coats will be compatible with dip powder. Although dip top coat can be used as a base layer, some liquids like gel base coat and gel clear polish can also substitute dip base to some extent. But if you use regular base coat or clear polish as base, it won’t adhere dip to the nail. Consequently, the layer will chip instantly.
Avoiding base coat and using a wrong coat under the dip powder can make the pigments of dip powder get into the nail plate and discolor the surface. It can become yellow or discolored because of the chemical reaction between the color and other contents used in powder.
Many can experience allergic reactions like skin irritation or redness if wrong base coat is used because of the harsh chemicals. It’s important to check the ingredients to know if there’s any allergic content before using the product.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use Dip Powder On Natural Nails?
Yes. Dip powder can be used on natural nails but a good base coat is required to create adhesion between them. While dip base coat is typically used for that, liquids like dip top coat or gel base coat can be considered good substitutes.
What Are Dip Top Coats?
Dip top coats are glue-like liquids that serve as a finishing touch to secure all the layers of powder, base coats and activator. They help give a solid and shiny finish. Dip top coats are made similar to dip base coat so it can be used as an alternative to the latter.
Is It Possible To Make DIY Base Coat For Dip Powders At Home?
No. it’s not possible to make DIY base coat for dip powders at home since the formulation is complex and requires chemicals that aren’t easily available.
Can You Substitute Petroleum Jelly For Dip Powder Base Coat?
No. Petroleum Jelly can’t be used as an alternative to dip powder base coat since the jelly doesn’t have any adhesive chemical to make it work. It’s mainly used on bare nail plate and cuticle only to keep it moisturized. However, you have to clean it before dip manis.
Can Hair Spray Be an Alternative to Dip Powder Base Coat?
No. Hair spray doesn’t have bonding agent through which dip powder can adhere to the nail.
What Can I Use Instead Of Gel Base Coat?
Instead of a gel base coat, you can use alternatives such as white polish, a nail dehydrator, nail primer, or even polish remover to prepare your nails for polish application. Additionally, you can try using a topcoat as a base coat, as these products are very similar and can work with acrylic and gel.
What Can I Use Instead Of Top Coat?
There are several alternatives you can use to seal your nail polish and prolong its durability instead of top coat. Some of these alternatives include top coat spray, cuticle oil, clear nail polish, hair spray, and petroleum jelly.
However, it’s important to note that while these alternatives can help seal the nail polish, they may not provide the same level of performance as a proper top coat. For instance, using a thin layer of clear nail polish can help seal the polish and provide a glossy finish, but it may not offer the same longevity and protection as a dedicated top coat.
Base coats aren’t created equally. Some are designed specifically for gel, some for dip and some have special compositions that can be used with different nail products. You just need to know which liquids can work with dip powder as base.
While dip top coat can be an ideal alternative, nail glue, gel base coats or clear polish can also adhere powder fairly well to the nail. On the other hand, regulars won’t be as effective as base coats since they lack adhesives and super glues will be effective but not recommended since they have harmful chemicals to cause damage.
However as long as you don’t have dip flu problems, it’s better to go with dip top coat or nail glue to substitute dip powder base coat. But in case you have allergies, try gel base coats or gel clear polish.
Dylan Mustapich is a NYC-based lead esthetician who has been featured in New Beauty, Teen Vogue, Wired, and The Huffington Post. With a lifelong love of all things skin, he is incredibly knowledgeable about skincare ingredients, routine refinement, and personalized skincare, and follows emerging technology closely.