By CATHI AYCOCK

The big three in long-wearing manicure options are acrylic nails, gel manicure and now, dip nails.

I tested the dip nail manicure and share the beauty investigation with you.

I’ve had acrylic nails where the nail tech applies a noxious substance on my nails that hardened my nails but also ruined my nail beds. So while my nail polish never chipped, the acrylic was stinky, damaged my nails and looked thick and fake. The filing with a dentist-y drill that could be a lethal weapon in the wrong hands made my nails paper thin and weak so I returned to traditional manicures, which lasted about two days before the polish began to chip.

Next, I rejoiced when gel nails came on the manicure market. My nails were painted with a goopy polish-like substance and then baked in a tiny UV light nail polish oven. The polish stayed shiny and chip free for two weeks. But when the polish began to lift I could not resist peeling the color off in one satisfying sheet of color. With each pull, I took off the top layer of nail. Again, nail damage and possibly (the whole nail polish oven thing) sun spots on my hands.

For my nail dip nail color I chose a pale pink with a tiny bit of sparkle. Dipping into the powdery pink stuff felt like playing in glitter but produced a shiny polish-like nail.

Now, I  am dipping my toe (or my fingertips) in the newest manicure method, dip nails.

A cross between acrylic and gel, the dip method involves painting nails with a special primer coat, then another coat of what the nail technician called the base coat, then the finger is dipped in a jar of colored powder. Each finger goes through the process twice and then, after I wash my hands with only water (soap is a no no at this point) the nails are painted with a top coat that transforms the grainy looking nails into diamond shiny nails.

Unlike the gel polish, with a curing in the special UV oven to harden the polish, the dip method takes about two minutes to harden and dry with no special light.

On the plus side, the dip manicure process took about the same amount of time as a gel manicure, and slightly less time than acrylic. There was no smell and though the tech did rough up my nail bed, it was light and never made me flinch from pain. (The tech can use a nail file or drill, speak up if you prefer the file.) And I didn’t have to bake my hands under damaging lights. Also a plus, the number of nail colors you can choose from with a dip manicure.

Perhaps the biggest plus? I cannot peel the polish off thereby ruining my nails. In fact, the powder is more durable than traditional acrylics, and provides more strength than gels.

On the minus side? While the dip wasn’t thick on my nails the way acrylic was, it seemed slightly heavier than gel. If your nails are weak, the added heft will prevent them from breaking.

For me, the dip manicure offers long wear, lots of colors and no nail peeling damage or UV worries.