Consumer alert: Is nail dipping dangerous?

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It's one of the newest trends to hit Mid- South nail salons.

The perfect color for your nails without a drop of polish!

Leighann Bickerstaff is one of the customers at Ann's Nails in Cordova who's getting her nails "dipped" instead of polished.

"It doesn't take that long and it lasts for a long time and it's really good," exclaimed Bickerstaff.

"I was getting Shellac and I like this better, it feels like it's better for your nails and they have a wide range of colors and it lasts for a long time," she said.

The process includes the application of bond, a gel base, followed by a sheer, then colored powder.

Certain steps are repeated and then it's finished with a gel top coat.

Thi Nguyen of Ann's Nails said the dip with a manicure at Ann's costs $45 which is a bit more than gel, (and traditional polish) but ladies get longer wear and there's no UV light.

Also, unlike acrylics, users said there's no odor.

"It's a little stronger than gel and a little less thick than acrylic," Nguyen said.

Bickerstaff told WREG, "The Shellac, the grow out seems to be a little harsher and this just looks more natural."

Natural and healthy is how the product is promoted, but some says it's anything but.

Jennifer Purnell owns September Nail Salon in Germantown.

They don't offer the nail dipping.

She said customers should understand what they're getting.

"Sometimes I feel like folks feel like that acrylic dipping system is not acrylic, that it is actually considered a nail enhancement."

The process also includes the use of a drill, to buff the nail before application, and some salons use it in the removal process.

Purnell said of drilling, "It can actually remove a couple of layers of the nail, because it's really hard if you're using an electronic device to kind of figure out, where does the acrylic or gel stop and where does the natural nail start."

Some doctors link excessive drilling to infections, even nerve damage.

Ann's uses products from the manufacturer SNS, which doesn't recommend a drill for removal.

Nguyen said customers can skip that step at the beginning.

She told WREG, "You don't have to get the drill, we can buff around your cuticles to get it done."

Bickerstaff said she's never had a problem.

"If I had felt discomfort, I would definitely tell them, but they seem to know what they're doing."

That's the other problem, not every salon does.

While nail dipping is new to Memphis, the technique isn't.

WREG found publications noting nail dipping dates back to the 1990s.

A Consumer Reports article from 2010  warned about the dangers of salons confusing their customers between gel, powder and acrylic.

Nguyen said they often hear from women who've had bad experiences at other salons.

"We had one customer that came in and said they used a UV light for it."

Which isn't necessary.

Also, while there are several manufacturers for the dip system, WREG visited some salons where it wasn't clear where the product came from.

WREG found Ann's Nails after searching on the SNS website.

The manufacturer provided a list of salons using its products.

Experts said in general, it's important to watch out for unlabeled materials at nail salons.

The News Channel 3 Investigators also discovered the dip system can be ordered online at places like Amazon and Ebay.

One other concern in online reviews was the fact customers dip their fingertips in a jar behind dozens of others.

Some salons use separate containers while others have opted to "sprinkle" or "pour" the powder instead of having customers dip.

Bottom line, customers who opt for this technique should ask about the product and process ahead of time.

That way, they're pleased with the results like Bickerstaff.

"I have really brittle nails that break on the sides and this is amazing!"

Customers worried about safety and sanitation at any salon, should check their scores upon arrival.

Tennessee residents can also contact the Division of Consumer Affairs at (800)342-8385 for more details about a salon.

Here's a review of the nail dipping technique from Nails Magazine.

It notes the system has made a major comeback in recent years.

While many salon owners love it, a few others said they refuse to offer it due to concerns with the product, removal and sanitation.