SNS Nails: What They Are And My Experience With It


As a hands editor (yes, it’s a real job) I’m well-versed in popular nail techniques and current nail trends. You might think that someone who follows what’s trending in the nail world for a living would have fashion-forward, outrageous nails. However, my nail needs are very simple. All I want is for my digits to always be perfectly polished, chip free, and in a neutral tone – that preferably lasts as long as possible. But the struggle for chip-free nails is real. So, on the hunt for the perfect manicure, I decided to try out SNS nails.

In case you haven’t heard of SNS (a.k.a Signature Nail Systems), it’s a dipping system that is a long-lasting alternative to shellac.

SNS is a nail dipping system and stands for Signature Nail Systems. According to Jai Harvey-Yin, director of Absolute Spa and international nail expert, “Dipping systems are another form of nail enhancement, and are a blend of adhesive resin (which some call incorrectly “gel”) and a modified form of acrylic powder.” It’s a long-lasting alternative to other nail enhancements such as Shellac. “The nails are prepared in the usual way, then dehydrated and cleaned, then a coat of resin is applied, then dipped quickly into the powder, then repeated several times to create the shape desired,” explains Jai. SNS is often preferable because it is seen as the healthier nail enhancement option, but this is simply because it’s such a quick process. “The benefit of this system is it generally is very quick and requires very little filing and therefore it is healthier for the natural nail with reduced friction,” she says.

I was still dealing with nail damage from shellac back then and wasn’t quite ready to jump on the bandwagon just yet. But now, I’ve tried SNS nails first hand and I’m ready to share my experience. So, let’s get into it, shall we?

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The appointment

This is by far the biggest difference in choosing between an SNS manicure or a Shellac manicure – SNS manicures take forever. Where Shellac may take 30 to 45 minutes, SNS can take anywhere between one to two hours. One SNS manicure that I had took two and a half hours (including the removal process of old SNS). So bring a friend, or at least some headphones and a good podcast.

The appointment is completely pain free and it feels far more delicate than Shellac. Although nail experts have confessed that in terms of nail damage, they’re both fairly similar. If you have old SNS on when you go to get a fresh mani, it is dissolved off rather than scraped off like Shellac. The process involves a polish that is painted onto your nails, then your nails are dipped into a pot of SNS dipping powder. These steps are repeated multiple times until the nail technician decides that there are enough layers, and will then smooth over your nails and add a top coat.

With SNS, there is no setting or curing process under LED or UV lights. So, if you don’t like the idea of putting your hands under a lamp to bond the nail, SNS is great alternative.

Left: Beginning of week one. Right: End of week one.

The first week

For the first week my nails were absolute perfection. Even with Shellac, I lived in fear of chipping my nails. As you know, once you get that first chip, it very quickly goes downhill from there. SNS also feels lighter than Shellac, so I just felt like I had perfect, natural nails for a week. By the end of the first week my nails were still perfectly in tack.

Left: Beginning of week two. Right: End of week two.

The second week

By the second week, my perfect nails were still going strong. Since I was waiting for that first chip, I was very aware of what my nails were doing at all times. I noticed that I used my nails to type and now understand why polish never lasts more than a day on me. But by the end of the second week, my nails were still chip-free.

Left: Beginning of week three. Right: End of week three.

The third week

Oh dear, this is where my nails started to crack. Going into week three, I noticed one tiny chip on the tip of one of my nails. Since I chose a neutral nail colour, it was barely noticeable to anyone else. But by the end of week three, that tiny chip had turned into a HUGE chip. I also noticed that my other nails were starting to chip too. Three weeks was definitely my limit for SNS nails and by the end of the week, I was well overdue for my next nail appointment.

The removal process

The removal process of SNS nails is fairly easy. It’s removed by soaking the nails in acetone, which then breaks down the dipping powder and it all dissolves quite quickly. It’s important that you go back to a professional nail technician to have your SNS nails removed, otherwise you can peel off layers of your natural nail.

The verdict

SNS nails lasted a lot longer on me than Shellac did. I found that my nails looked more natural and they didn’t feel heavy at all. If I wasn’t incredibly impatient, I would commit to getting SNS manicures every few weeks. But I honestly can’t stand sitting in the nail salon for more than 30 minutes. However, for special occasions I’d definitely choose SNS because it lasts longer.

One final piece of advice: Jai suggests that if you like having long nails, SNS is probably not for you.  “I believe you need to steer clear if they are wanting long enhancements,” recommends Jai. Tips are best with other systems, where as dipping is fab for natural nail coating.” she says.

Have you tried SNS nails before? Do you get your nails done in-salon or do you prefer DIY methods?

Share your thoughts

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