Do I Need Nail Primer For Acrylic Nails? Tips For DIY Acrylic Nail

Acrylic nails are quite demanding – there are a lot of essential supplies required for the process. That’s why one might feel tempted to exclude whatever is not considered “necessary” from their shopping list to save money, time, and effort.

So, what about primer? Do I need nail primers for acrylic nails? If you are wondering about this, read the article to get the answer.

What Is a Nail Primer?

Nail primer is used to apply on natural, unpolished nails before artificial enhancements such as acrylics. This manicure product serves both as a cleaning agent and adhesive.

As a cleaning agent, a primer can remove grease and moisture from the surface of your fingernails. This creates a more favorable foundation for your acrylics to adhere to, which helps your manicure last longer.

As an adhesive, this product promotes better adhesion of the acrylics to the nail plate. It also prevents bubbles in your nail polish finish and creates a perfect nail plate for the nail polish to stick to.

Nail primers typically contain harsh chemicals in the formula to be used prior to applying acrylics to prevent premature lifting, chipping, and peeling.

Most products (both acid and acid-free primers) that you come across in the market contain erosive properties to create scratches on the nail plates so that the acrylics can better adhere to.

 However, these erosive properties are hazardous to the nails and skin. In the event of a spill or leakage, nail primers can cause chemical burns to the skin.

Nail primer
Nail primer

The Similarities And Differences Between Acid And Acid-Free Primer?

There are two main types of nail primer in the industry: acid and acid-free primer. In the acid-based category, there are mild acid primers, which are milder formulations than acid primers but serve the same purpose.

Acid and acid-free primers are designed to help the enhancement adhere to the nail plate. They are typically used as a prepping coat before gel polish or artificial nails are applied.

The key distinction between these two primer types is the chemical bonds they create to facilitate adhesion between the nail and the enhancement.

The difference in chemical bonds can lead to different adhesive strengths between acid and acid-free primers.

Acid Primers

Acid-based primers have been the most common choice for acrylic tips for years. They are typically 30-100% methacrylic acid (MA).

This type of primer creates many microscopic holes on the surface of the nail plate so that the acrylics can cling onto it better.

The molecules in the acid primer often have two “arms”. One adheres to the nail surface by creating a temporary hydrogen bond, while the other sticks to the fake nails with a covalent bond.

Acid nail primers contain a great number of potent chemicals. For this reason, it is preferred for treating problematic nail plates.

Nail artists usually use this primer for oily nails or nails of those on medication or suffering from hormonal issues to prepare the nails better for adhesion. Acidic primers lend a chalky finish to the nails when they dry.

Traditional acid-based formulas contain many toxic chemicals and can be incredibly harmful. Thus, they should be applied with care to avoid chemical burns and irritation.

Fortunately, noticeable improvements have been made to the formulas to make it less harmful to the nails and skin. The most recently developed acid-based primers are treated cleverly using a minimal amount of harsh ingredients to minimize burning.

However, even when using these products, less is always more! If you’re using the primer at home, shoot for only one coat, and apply just a small amount each time.

It’s always easier to add more if the primer has yet to fully cover the nail plate than to remove the excessive primer from your nails!

Over-applying the acid-based primer will cause thin nail plates without enhancing adhesion.

Acid-Free Primers

Acid-free primers are gentler, and thus, they can be brushed on more generously since there is less risk of chemical burns or discoloration.

However, over-applying an acid-free primer can cause it to not dry easily, become sticky, which can reduce its adhesive strength.

This type of primer is as effective as MA-based primers, which explains why it is increasing in popularity in nail salons.

Acid-primers resemble a double-sided sticky tape, with one side bonds to the natural nail plate whereas the other bonds to the polish or artificial nails to promote adhesion.

These primers are safer than their acid-based counterparts since they contain no acid at all. This means there is less risk of chemical burns when the bottle is leaked, spilled and the primer comes into direct contact with the skin. For this reason, acid-free primers increasingly gain more popularity than acid-based ones.

These primers contain an element that initiates a temporary change in the pH of the natural nail when applied. This change makes the nail more alkaline, enabling the product to adhere better.

The nail eventually returns to its natural pH level after around 20 minutes, and the adhesive strength of the primer diminishes so if your L&P application takes longer than this, prime one hand at a time.

Nevertheless, after about 20 minutes, the pH of the nail begins to return to normal. This causes the primer on nails to lose its effectiveness, which means that the acrylics won’t stick to the primer. For this reason, estimate the time it would take for you to do the manicure.

If you need more than 20 minutes for both hands, we recommend priming one hand and proceeding with the application before you move on to the other hand.

Many people gravitate towards acid-free primers as they are non-corrosive, not as harmful as acid-based versions, and do not cause the yellowing of the nail enhancement.

Yet, the question is: Is nail primer essential for your acrylic nails?

Do I Need a Nail Primer For Acrylic Nails?

We highly recommend applying a primer before any acrylic nail application. Of course, you can go without a primer, but there is a higher chance of the acrylics not adhering as long as expected to the nail plates.

Applying nail primer is a crucial step to creating a long-lasting manicure, especially if you frequently suffer from chips, peeling, and lifting.

By preparing the nail plate – degreasing and dehydrating – and offering temporary bonds, nail primers leave you with more hardwearing, durable acrylic nails.

Nail Primers Leave You With More Hardwearing, Durable Acrylic Nails
Nail Primers Leave You With More Hardwearing, Durable Acrylic Nails

While there are reported cases of people still having successful acrylic applications without a primer, others are less fortunate and instantly encounter problems with adhesion and premature lifting.

There are a few factors in play here – the products used, the conditions of the nail plates, the person’s lifestyle when wearing acrylics, and how well the nail is dehydrated before the application.

We recommend not taking risks and skipping the primer with your acrylic nails for a successful, long-lasting manicure.

How Do You Apply A Primer For Acrylic Nails?

First, you have to do some basic steps of preparing your nails before applying a primer: clean the nails and soften and exfoliate cuticles.

Then, it pays to cover your fingers with an adhesive protector to prevent the primer from contacting your skin.

Clean the nails
Prep Your Nails Properly Before Applying The Primer

Primers are usually produced and sold as liquids, and they come with a handy brush for easy application, similar to nail polish.

The key is to use primer sparingly, as too much can reduce the effectiveness of the product and chemical damages and the thinning of nail plates in the case of acid-based primers.

Then, go ahead and apply small dots of primer in the middle of the nail plate, and it will spread on its own.

Alternatively, you can distribute it more evenly using the brush that comes with the primer. Whatever you choose, make sure that the nails are completely covered with the primer.

Apply Small Dots Of Primer In The Middle Of The Nail Plate
Apply Small Dots Of Primer In The Middle Of The Nail Plate

Nail primers only take a few minutes to air dry, so there is no need to cure your nails under a lamp.

As an acid-free primer won’t evaporate, you do not have to wait for it to dry fully. Instead, it’s acceptable to move to the next step even when it’s slightly wet. 40-60 seconds would be enough!

However, it is important to allow time for an acid-based primer to evaporate fully.

Can You Apply Acrylic Nails Without A Primer?

It is possible to skip using a primer in your acrylic nail set.

Nevertheless, you still need to use nail polish remover to eliminate all the oil and file your nails properly. This creates a better platform for your acrylics to adhere to.

You should expect some lifting, though! While this solution seems effective for some people, preparing your nail plates with a high-quality primer is more advisable to guarantee the best possible outcome.

Tips To Use Nail Primer

  • Some polymers might not work well with some monomers. To ensure you get the best results, it is highly recommended to use products of the same brands to guarantee their compatibility.
  • Choose products from reputable brands that have garnered a lot of positive reviews.
  • It’s best to apply the amount of primer recommended by the brand and follow the manual instructions.
  • To improve adhesion, you should prepare the nail plate properly before applying. Clean your nail plate thoroughly, push back the cuticle, remove shine with a file or 240 grit buffer.
  • Nail primers must be used with caution as they can be very corrosive to the skin. Like most professional nail products, you should never let the product touch the skin to avoid lifting, painful burns, and scars.


Now you must have answered the question: Do I need nail primers for acrylic nails?

Nail primers are not essential when doing your acrylic nails, but they have some amazing benefits, which in many cases make them worth using.

Most professional nail artists skip a primer in the process, which explains why this product is a worthy investment. So, get yourself some primer ahead of your application.


Think of Well-Kept Beauty as your personal beauty professional – advising you on whether to switch up your beauty routine, re-up on a must-have product you are running low on, and even pinging you the best deals on the market. Now, let's take your beauty routine to the next level and keep your products doing what they promised!

Recent Posts