Gel Nails vs Acrylics: Battle of the Manicures

Gel or Acrylic? I’m Here To Help You Decide

There’s something special, possibly even a slightly smug feeling if your nails are naturally healthy. Regular manicures and rich moisturizer to keep them in tip top shape. The rest of us hope that by the weekend and that hot date, our extravagant, saved-up-for mani is still good to go. There’s something special, possibly even a slightly smug feeling if your nails are naturally healthy. Regular manicures and rich moisturizer to keep them in tip-top shape. The rest of us hope that by the weekend and that hot date, our extravagant, saved-up-for mani is still good to go.

In these moments, I dreamed of shiny, strong – unchippable – nails that could keep up with my lifestyle as a 30 something year woman living in New York. The answer? Faking it.

Artificial nail enhancements have come a long way, from the thin acrylic nail designs to modern UV gel nails. Both come with their own strengths and weaknesses. I’ll be weighing in to see how they’re different, and at the end of the article I’ll show you my little secret: How you can combine the two types to get the best of both worlds.

What are acrylic nails?

Acrylic nails often get a lot of bad press. If they’re applied properly with good quality products, they will make your nails look strong, healthy and the height of sophistication. One of the main things to bear in mind that acrylic nails should look natural rather than fake (unless you’re going super glam!). Next, it’s a common belief that acrylics can harm your nails. This isn’t true, as long as you remove them with care.

What are gel nails?

Gel nails can be achieved in two ways:

  • Hard Gel – Becomes hardened enough to form a nail extension- also known as buff-off nails, where the nail must be sanded down and can’t be soaked off.
  • Soft Gel – Requires another gel polish as an overcoat, serving as a re-enforced layer. Soft gel will cure faster under a UV lamp and doesn’t require mixing with powder.

Soft gel nails can be expected to last at least a couple of weeks, hard gel nails even longer. They key to long-lasting gel nails is using an effective UV lamp.

Best Products For The Ultimate Acrylic & Gel Nail Manicure

Now that we’ve cleared up the confusion behind acrylic and gel nails, it’s time for me to introduce you to some of my own personal holy grails when it comes to creating the perfect durable manicure.

1. Clear Full Cover Artificial Nails by ECBASKET

So what do the best acrylic nails look like? If you’re looking for something easy and affordable, I swear by these Clear Full Cover Artifical Nails by ECBASKET.

What’s so great about them is that these clear nails will give you a blank slate. You can paint them and decorate them with any nail art you wish. The quality is superb, and they’re the perfect length and thickness. All you need to add is good quality glue. These nails will look ultra stylish and last you for a long time.

ECBASKET 500Pcs Coffin Nails Clear Nail Tips Full Cover Artificial Nails 10 Sizes

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Last update was on: April 6, 2020 10:12 am
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2. Abody Nail Dryer

There are many good nail dryers to choose from, and a nail lamp is crucial for both acrylic and gel nails, but my go-to choice is this chic Abody nail dryer.

Not only does this dry classic UV nail gel, but it also dries nail builder gel for gel manicures, as well as rhinestone gem glue. It’s such a versatile product at an amazing price that you’ll definitely end up using for a long time.

Abody Nail Lamp 48W UV LED Nail Dryer, Gel Nail Lamp with 5 Timer Setting, Automatic Sensor, LCD Display, Memory...

Last update was on: April 6, 2020 4:07 am
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$26.98 $32.38

3. UV Gel Nail Polish Manicure Set

One of my go-to products for a gel manicure is the Gellen UV Gel Nail Polish Manicure Set.

The pretty pink and champagne colors are irresistible. This set would make a great gift for any girl who loves to do her nails. The set will come with 6 x beautiful gel inspired polishes. Gellen recommend applying up to 3 x coats to achieve the best results.

Gel Nail Polish for Nails, Soak Off UV Pink Gel Kit Required Gel Base Top Coat LED Nail Lamp

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Last update was on: April 5, 2020 6:04 pm
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4. Viva Naturals Organic Rosehip Oil 100%

One of the best products you can buy to take care of your nails is Viva Naturals Organic Rosehip Oil 100%. This product is essential for your daily nail care routine, regardless of whether you opt for gel or acrylic nails.

Organic Rosehip Seed Oil for Face - 100% Pure Cold Pressed Facial Oil, Reduces the Appearance of Scars, Natural Non-Greasy Moisturizing Serum for Dry and Sensitive Skin, 1 oz


This is a true miracle product. Not only is it the best thing for your nail health, but it works wonders for your skin and hair too. It can even reduce the appearance of scars and tone your skin. Also, it has a beautiful fragrance, so every time you apply it to your skin you will be indulging yourself. 100% natural and organic, this a must have for your beauty and your well-being.

Organic Rosehip Seed Oil for Face - 100% Pure Cold Pressed Facial Oil, Reduces the Appearance of Scars, Natural Non-Greasy...

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Last update was on: June 11, 2020 7:11 pm
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$10.95 $15.24

Gel and acrylic – what’s the difference?

Let’s get a little deeper into the science behind gel and acrylic nails. Now we know how they look and what the best producta are to make them into an amazing manicure, but what are the pros and cons of each?

Both gel and acrylic have the same basic chemistry, but have differing configurations of the ingredients, creating a different final result. Powders are then added to form a bond with strong adhesive qualities.

Different types of acrylic nails are mixed along with powders to form a strong adhesive bond. Gel nails are self-reliant, with no need for any powder polymers to mix in with them. The other key difference is that with acrylic nails you have to work quickly as they start to harden on contact with air. Gel nails need to be cured under a UV light.

Are gel nails better than acrylic?

Acrylic nails are harder than gels, yet, perhaps counter-intuitively, less durable. If applied correctly, acrylics can be very robust. The right amount of pressure could break or chip a piece of nail away.

Gels are typically far more flexible, being able to withstand significantly more force than acrylics. UV applications work great with gel nails, curing them into a tight, adhesive bond.

How do I maintain my gel and acrylic nails?

Gel does generally cost more than do acrylics, usually around 15-20% more. However, they require less maintenance — you can go about 3 weeks before needing work done on your gel-based nails. That’s a 50% increase in durability for a 15-20% increase in cost – a great trade-off.

Personally, I prefer the long-term benefits of gel nails, however, if nails aren’t all you live for, you may find yourself drawn towards the cheaper cost of acrylics.

Whichever product you choose, it’s imperative that you care for your nails and hands. It’s easy to make it a part of your daily routine. My secret is using natural essential oils to nourish and strengthen nails and cuticles.

Are gel and acrylic nails safe?

Acrylic nails can cause mild infections if not applied properly, leading to damage of the natural nail bed. Filing away too much cuticle is a no-no, as cuticle is what protects your nail bed from infection-causing bacteria. Try not to file away the hardened paste; some experts advise leaving a very thin layer of acrylics, which acts as a barrier, in order to prevent this! Acrylics have a fairly easy removal process. They can be soaked off by using a good quality nail polish remover in about 15-20 minutes, or they can be filed down.

Like Acrylics, soft gel nails can also be soaked off easily. The always-reliable acetone can be used for this. Hard gel nails require the filing down of the extension; acetone alone won’t be strong enough to remove them. Gel nails can take a thin layer from the natural nail bed as well due to the acetone not being completely removed. Gel nails are not recommended for people with brittle, fragile nails.

Still can’t decide?

Choosing between gels and acrylics all depends on the work you do.

Do you use your hands a lot? Do you have brittle, thin nails? If so, your best bet is gel nails. Gel nails will be more equipped to withstand your active life!

The strength of acrylic nails is their slightly cheaper price. If nails aren’t that important to you, and you’re only looking for a short-term manicure, you might prefer their cheaper price over gel nails’ longer lifespan.

If you’re still uncertain, try asking a nail technician at your local salon for their professional advice. For inspiration on acrylic and gel nail designs, check out my top recommendations for gel nail products here and follow the latest trends in fashion giants like Elle Magazine.

Kara x

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