What are SNS nails exactly? An explainer.

SNS nails aren’t new. They are, however, the cat’s pyjamas and we need to talk about them.

Different to their shellac nails, acrylic nails and gel nails ancestors, SNS nails basically take all the best bits from other types of manicures and look really bloody good while doing it.

We love to see it.

Watch: Life with and without nails (nail fans will understand). Post continues below.

Video by MMC

To answer all your SNS questions, let’s unpack: What are SNS nails, how to remove SNS nails, how much does SNS cost and is SNS good for your nails.

Ready? Here we go.

What is SNS?

"'SNS' (a.k.a Signature Nail Systems) is a nail dipping system that uses a brush-on gel base on the nail, which is then dipped in a powder. The powder comes in natural pink and white for a french manicure look, as well as a range of colours,” nail technician and educator Julie Morrow told Mamamia.

Sounds a little science-y, but the powder, which also lends strength to the nails, consists of organically processed chemicals including benzoyl peroxide, titatum dioxide, acrylic ester polymer.


Monika Carvalho, owner of The Nail Lab, told Mamamia, “A base coat is applied, followed by the nail being ‘dipped’ into a coloured powder. This process is repeated one or to more times.”

How are SNS nails different to shellac and acrylic nails?

SNS nails look virtually the same as shellac and acrylic nails, but the difference is in the technique used to create the finished product.

Because the powder is coloured, no painting is required, and there is zero dry time.

Morrow says SNS is a very popular choice for both consumers and nail technicians, for multiple reasons. Here are the main ones:

1. SNS nails look natural.

There are multiple aesthetic benefits of getting SNS. First and foremost, the results look really natural, and it's thinner than other options like shellac and acrylic nails.

2. SNS nails are strong but feel light.

It’s more durable yet more flexible than traditional acrylics, and the powder provides more strength than many gels.

“SNS also feels ‘lighter’ on the nail. It is a quick and easy application, an advantage for both nail technicians and clients, and there is less filing, which means less dust and less drilling than many other products,” Morrow explained.

Here are some banger examples of SNS nails:


Is SNS good for your nails?

Unlike shellac, SNS doesn't require UV lights to bond it to the nail.

One study by the Division of Dermatology at Georgia Regents University, published in JAMA Dermatology, found that while the amount of UV radiation produced by a nail-drying lamp during a single visit to a nail salon is not a serious concern, as few as eight visits may produce enough exposure to cause skin damage (depending on the lamp used).

As cosmetic doctor Dr Yalda Jamali from All Saint Clinic told Mamamia in a recent interview, "UV nail lamps that are frequently used at salons or at home unfortunately emit UVA radiation. Any exposure to UV will increase our risk of cancer and signs of premature ageing." 

"However, the risk is low as the UV radiation that is emitted is low and usually for very short periods. Important to note that 'LED' nail lamps also emit UVA radiation."


Dr Jamali explained that there currently isn't a specific guidance or rule with UV lamps and advice will vary based on the intensity of the lamp device used and the duration. 

"However, use and exposure to all UVA should be limited and precautions taken."

If this is an issue that concerns you, SNS will give you the nails you want without the need for a lamp.

That said, Carvalho advises people fully understand SNS before getting it done.

“There is no ‘curing’ or ‘setting’ under a LED or UV light, but what is concerning for us in the nail industry at the moment is the misinformation surrounding SNS and it’s perceived benefits," said Carvalho.

It is being marketed as a product that is very different from acrylic and very healthy for your nails, In fact the main ‘adhesive’ ingredient is also the main ingredient in super glue and the coloured powder used is essentially acrylic powder (polymer)," she said.

How to remove SNS nails.

As SNS forms a 'fake nail' like cover on top of your nails, they will start to lose their strength when it's time to get them redone (around the two to three-week mark). 

Similarly to eyelash extensions, you need to resist the temptation to pick or pull off your SNS nails, as doing this will damage your natural nails underneath. Hard, we know.


"The product itself does not cause damage to the nail. As with any nail enhancement, the damage is done in the removal," Morrow said.

"If the product is are peeled off, it removes layers of the natural nail, causing it to weaken and peel or break. When removed correctly and carefully by a professional the nail should remain intact."

The right way to remove SNS nails is to go back to your nail technician. They will safely remove the SNS by filing it off using an electric filing tool. Removing the SNS in this way won't damage your natural nails.

"Professional removal is advised with a reapplication required every two to three weeks depending on the client’s nail growth and also wear and tear,” Carvalho said.

Once the SNS has been removed, your technician can either do a new set of SNS nails for you, or tidy up your natural nails.

How much do SNS nails cost?

Good question! Important questions. The price of SNS nails will vary depending on which salon you go to and the area you live in.

However, generally you can expect to pay anywhere between $45 and $75 for a full set of SNS nails.

Have you tried SNS on your nails? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Feature image: Instagram; @harrietwestmoreland; @thuybnguyen