what can i use instead of nail primer

You already know how essential primer is to prep your nails, but it is common for people to ask, “What can I use instead of nail primer?”

Nail primers can be expensive, especially when you pick a top brand. So, it is natural to ask what other options are available.

All manicurists agree that proper priming of the nail plate can help prevent a breakdown in service. However, if the primer is misused, it can lead to issues with the skin and nails.

The excessive use of an acid-based primer can cause chemical nail damage and eventually lead the nail plate to grow thinner. 

Similarly, using too much primer can reduce adhesion strength. The enhancements may peel off if the priming process is neglected or not carried out correctly.

You can avoid nail primer for regular nails, but it is a different story for acrylic nails. And, this leads you to, “What can I use instead of primer for acrylic nails?”

Tip: Newer generations of acrylics do not require a primer, and many gels, polishes, silk wraps, and fiberglass require a base coat, not a primer. 

What can I Use Instead of Nail Primer for Proper Application?

what can use instead nail primer

If you do not have nail primer, you can use rubbing alcohol instead. Here are a few pointers to help you apply it correctly. 

Step #1: Apply the First Coat

Begin by applying a finer coat of alcohol to the nails. Now, leave it there and wait for it to dry off completely before you try anything else.

Step #2: Use Acetone

Once the alcohol dries up completely, you should apply a coat of acetone to the nail.

Remember, you should use acetone only when your nail bed has no moisture whatsoever. 

Preparing Your Own Primer

As you may have gathered that expensive nail primers are also nothing more than acetone with odor removed.

It makes sense to try your own to get similar benefits. In order to make the nail primer, you will need two things: half a bottle of each acetone and alcohol.

After that, a good, thorough mixing and an airtight container are all that you require. You can store it safely in empty nail polish containers.

Why Does DIY Nail Primer Work Well?

why does diy nail primer works

The existence of germs is ubiquitous despite being invisible to the naked eye. Similarly, your fingernails are not an exception.

Numerous products have trace levels of isopropyl alcohol, which is an ingredient in your DIY primer as well.

Wiping your nail bed with alcohol kills any bacteria lurking there. It makes fresh nail polish easier to apply and lasts longer.

In addition, alcohol and acetone can be used to clean the nails of any lingering oil or moisture.

Use rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover to prevent your nails from absorbing water.

Isopropyl alcohol is most effective when it is not watered down. 

Few Considerations for Your DIY Nail Primer

few considerations for nail primer

So many people get good results from DIY primers, but they have their limitations.

For instance:

  • Your DIY primer is not even close to store-bought dehydrators and nail primers.
  • You risk having your gel polish and acrylics come off because of poor adhesion.

If you notice any problem in this regard, you may want to stop using your primer and switch to some branded one for better results.

Tip: Use rubbing alcohol to dry out your nails if you do not have any branded dehydrator available. 

Do You Always Need to Use Nail Primer?

do always need use primer

Well, not really. If you use full-cover nails designed to stock on your natural nails, you can skip using primer. 

Mostly, you can manage things well simply by using a cheap purifier. But, you cannot take such liberty with acrylic nails.

For acrylic nails, you must clean the surface properly and ensure it is dry enough.

A branded primer usually helps, but you can also use mid-strength acetone to dehydrate the nail plate.

Do not rely on nail polish remover only, especially when you want to go with acrylic nails.

While it can remove oil from your nails, it does not offer any help with adhesion.

Nail primers help manicures last longer. Even after three weeks, there would be no sign of lifting, chipping, or peeling.

And what is more? This method of maintaining your nails is efficient and results in a uniform appearance.

You also save money by not having to replace your acrylic as often. 

What Should You Know about Primers for Acrylic Nails?

to know about nail primer

Regardless of the field in which it is employed, a primer serves as a base layer to improve adhesion between two surfaces.

Primers are utilized extensively in the coatings industry, from the automotive and building industries to the woodworking and cosmetics sectors.

Primers for nails are created so that the enhancement sticks to the nail better. But you should know which one works best for your nails.

Which Primer Works for Your Nails?

You can find two types of primers, acid-based and acid-free. One type of primer functions like “double-sided sticky tape,”.

The other type, based on acid, creates microscopic holes in the surface of the nail plate, allowing the substance to “weave” and stick into the nail.

Damage and weakening of the nail plate might develop if an acid-based primer is repeatedly applied to the same location. 

More about Acid-Free Primer

the acid free primer

An acid-free primer’s active ingredient temporarily lowers the natural nail’s pH to get it closer to the product’s neutral pH. 

The pH shift improves the product’s adhesion.

You can use it in place of or in addition to acid primer. Also, it does not dry out and sticks to acrylic and gel properly.

If your manicure treatment takes more than 20 minutes, prime only one hand at a time.

It is important because the pH of the nail will return to normal and the adhesive power of the primer will weaken. 

More about Acid Primer

Originally manufactured with methacrylic acid, an acid-based primer has been modernized to make it safer for use.  

It works great to remove oils from your nail plate and dries up quickly, usually to a chalky finish.

It is important to use only the smallest quantity of primer for skin irritation. Be sure to keep it at least an inch away from the skin at all times.

Tip: Use 99% alcohol to gently wipe your nails down, from the cuticles to the tips to skip the primer.

Why Do Some People Do Not Want to Use Nail Primer?

why some dont want nailprimer

There are indeed many benefits of using nail primer.

The most obvious benefit of using a nail primer or dehydrator is improved adhesion of your acrylics, gel paints, and even conventional nail polish.

Therefore, your acrylic nails stick better. Obviously, manicures that do not chip, peel, or break over time are more appealing and last longer on the nails.

But, why do people ask for alternatives when they can use nail primers?

Well, they may have genuine concerns regarding its use. 

Primers can Hurt Your Nails

While it depends on the type you use, nail primers can damage the nails. It is usually true for acid-based primers that use methacrylic acid.

The acid works by causing microscopic pores to develop on the nail bed. This helps the acrylics or gel polish stick better.

But, excessive or prolonged use of these primers can cause issues. 

Primers Make It Hard to Remove Acrylic Nails

Applying a nail primer prior to using acrylics or gel polish will greatly improve the durability of the applied coating.

make hard to remove acrylic nails

But unfortunately, they are so effective that they complicate the elimination process.

Because of this, you will need to remove the polish with an increased quantity of acetone, which will cause additional harm to your nails.

If you want to change your nails extremely frequently, say once a week or so, you may be better off not using any nail primer.

Instead, sticking with a basic nail dehydrator would do the job.   

Primer Does Nothing to Prevent Staining

Unlike certain base coats, nail dehydrators and primers will not shield your nails from the colors in your nail polish.

In fact, you may experience the opposite because primer forces lacquer to stick more strongly to nails, increasing discoloration risk.

And that often makes people look for other ways to dehydrate their nails.

Tip: Try acid primers when you have particularly troublesome nail plates, or hormonal issues, or take certain medications for better results. 


Nail primers offer many interesting benefits, and are extremely useful when wearing acrylic nails but, sometimes, you just do not want to use it for whatever reason, and ask, “what can I use instead of nail primer?”

In most cases, you can stick to alcohol and acetone.

Otherwise, you can also find a good quality primer and learn how to use it properly to avoid any damage to your nails.

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