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Gel Nails vs Acrylic Nails

Gel Nails vs Acrylic Nails

What Makes Them Different & Why Not Both?

Nails play a huge role in a woman’s sense of elegance. All women want to feel like glamorous movies stars from time to time, and a beautiful set of nails is a great start to making this happen.

Artificial nail enhancements have come a long way, from the classic acrylic nails, to the more modern gels. Both have strengths and both have weaknesses. We’ll be weighing in to see how they’re different, and at the end of the article we’ll show you our little secret: How you can combine the two types to get the best of both worlds. nail-polishWhy choose between the two when you can combine them into the most beautiful nails imaginable?…………..

Let’s begin understanding the differences between the two types of nails:

The Chemical Differences

All nails actually derive from acrylics, with gels being no exception. The difference is, gels are a member of an acrylic family which has a different configuration of methacrylate and acrylates (used as gel) which forms polymers (binding acting molecules-glue type).

Acrylic nails are mixed along with powders to form a strong adhesive bond. They require a great deal of mixture between the two in order to get the most effective texture.

Gel nails are self-reliant, with no reliance on any powder polymers to mix in with them.

The Two Types of Gel

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 be cured faster under a UV lamp and doesn’t require mixing with powder.

Strength & Durability

Acrylics are harder than gels, yet, perhaps unintuitively, are 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 brilliantly with gel nails, curing them into a tight, adhesive bond.

The Health Hazards: Removal, Infections, & Odor

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 acetone in about 15-20 minutes, or they can be filed down.

Acrylics have a strong odorous, chemical smell, which most find unpleasant. The Fumes have been known to cause headaches. It’s advised you only apply acrylics in a well-ventilated room.

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 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 nels are not recommended for people with brittle, fragile nails.

One removal of gel application can reduce the layer of natural nail bed up to 50% which is a staggering number. The remaining layer needs to be using a nail scraper/pusher. Careful care must be taken in accordance and highly noted that one should seek out a professional for this type of process. Nail infections can occur if the skin accidentally ruptures the skin of surrounding skin of the nail bed.
Cost & Maintenance

Acrylic requires filing every 1-2 weeks, so even though they cost less, in the long run you’re likely to end up paying as much, quite possibly even more. A full set of acrylics should cost you around $30.00, with another $10-30 tacked on for more advanced patterns and designs. Acrylic nails require a fix up roughly every 2 weeks.


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 tradeoff.

Personally, I prefer the long-term benefits of gel nails, however, if nails aren’t all that important to you, you may find yourself drawn towards the cheaper cost of acrylics.
Which is Right for You?

It 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. Most should be more than happy to give it free of charge, as a show of goodwill towards their client.

Author Info

Kara Bell

Just an average girl who loves nails. I help nail salon owners create great experiences for their customers. I also have a weird addiction to bananas, but it's probably best we not get into that.

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