Acrylic nails vs. gel nails: which is right for you?

Beautiful woman’s hands with spring-summer floral nail design. Trendy green color manicure close-up

Are you thinking about getting a manicure but aren’t sure which type of nail enhancement to choose? The decision can be daunting since there are so many great options out there, one of the most popular being acrylic or gel nails. Both offer distinct advantages and drawbacks, so taking the time to understand both will help you make an informed decision.

In this blog post, we’ll explore exactly what goes into each kind of nail enhancement and highlight the pros and cons associated with them. Read on if you want to find out more.

What are Acrylic nails?

Hand with long artificial manicured nails colored with pink nail polish. Fashion and stylish manicure.

Acrylic nails are artificial nail extensions that can be applied to natural nails to give them a longer-lasting look. They’re made of two parts, a monomer, and polymer, which combine when liquid acrylic – a powdered polymer blended with a monomer liquid – is applied to the nails. A powder is spread over the drying monomer, resulting in a hard acrylic application.

Acrylic nails are popular due to their durability and resistance to chips and tears, often lasting up to six weeks before they need re-applying or additional maintenance. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, providing wearers with plenty of options when choosing nail designs.

Due to their widespread popularity, both salons and individuals provide acrylic nail application services.

What are Gel nails?

Gel nails are an increasingly popular manicure option used to enhance the look and feel of regular nails. Gel nails offer a natural look that is strong, glossy, and long-lasting. In contrast to regular nail polish which can begin to chip after only a day or two, gel nails can last for up to a couple of weeks without chipping or smudging.

This type of manicure requires being applied in layers under a UV lamp so that each layer hardens with the help of light and becomes even more durable than the previous layer. Not only does this technique provide an incredibly polished look, but it also helps strengthen your real nails for added protection and improved health overall.

For those looking for extra oomph, gel nails come in various shades and styles such as French tips, glittery hues, baby boomer gradients, and classic reds…the possibilities are endless!

Difference between gel nails and acrylic nails?

The following are the difference between gel and acrylic nails:

The difference in Appearance & Durability:

The biggest difference between acrylics and gel nails is their appearance and durability. Acrylic nails are made of a liquid monomer and a powder polymer that are mixed together to form a hard coating on the natural nail. They provide an excellent long-lasting finish, with some people being able to go up to 6 weeks without having to get them filled again.

Gel nails on the other hand provide a more natural, glossy appearance and feel. They are thinner than acrylics and offer greater flexibility to the nail. Unfortunately, they don’t last as long as acrylics, with most people needing to go back in for refills approximately every 2-3 weeks.

The difference in the application process:

Acrylic nails are applied to the natural nail with a manicure technique that requires the use of primer or glue-like substance. An artificial acrylic nail is then placed on top of the existing nail and allowed to cure for a longer period of time than gel nails. When applying primer, care must be taken to ensure it is used in the correct amount to avoid etching or damaging the nail bed. Additionally, skin contact should be avoided as it can cause an allergic reaction.

Gel nails are typically cured using UV light, though some gels require a gel activator for curing and do not need UV light (known as no-light gels). Whether used with or without a base or primer, it is important to ensure that the gel nails are applied correctly and with care to avoid damage to the nail bed. A non-acid primer can be used by the nail technician as an adhesive for CND GEL applications to help bond the product to the nail.

The difference in the removal process:

Removal of acrylic nails is relatively simple. Soaking them in acetone will dissolve the acrylic and the nail technician can use a metal pusher to remove the softened product from your nails. This process takes around 15-20 minutes, depending on how long you have had your previous set of nails.

On the other hand, Gel polish removal can be more complicated as it doesn’t come off with just soaking in acetone. To remove gel nails safely, you need to buff the glossy surface of your nails before placing cotton balls soaked in acetone on each nail for about 10 minutes. After that, scrape off the remaining gel using a cuticle pusher or an orange stick. The entire process from start to finish should take about 30 minutes.

In conclusion, acrylics are easier to remove than gel nails, although both processes require quite a bit of time and effort. Do not attempt to remove them on your own as it can be damaging to your nails! It’s advisable to visit a nail salon that has the right tools and techniques in place to get the job done properly.

The difference in the cost:

Acrylic nails and gel nails are both popular types of artificial nail enhancements that can improve the appearance of your hands. It is important to note that prices vary greatly depending on the salon and the type of acrylic or gel product used.

Generally speaking, acrylic nails are usually cheaper than gel nails. Acrylics usually cost around $30-$50 while gels can range from $40-$70. However, this price difference may be offset by the fact that gels tend to last longer than acrylics because they don’t require frequent refills and reshaping as acrylics do.

The difference in the ease of maintenance:

When it comes to ease of maintenance, acrylics, and gel nails offer different advantages. Acrylics are more durable than gel nails and require less maintenance in most cases. They can last up to two weeks without chipping or peeling, and they don’t require the same amount of buffing as gels. This makes them easier to keep up with.

Gel nails, on the other hand, require more frequent maintenance as they tend to chip and peel more easily. They also require buffing every two weeks in order to maintain their shine and color, which can be time-consuming. However, gels are more flexible than acrylics and can provide a softer look that is preferred by some individuals.

Ultimately, the choice between acrylics and gels comes down to individual preferences and lifestyle. Both offer long-lasting results with minimal maintenance, but each has its own unique benefits.

The difference in damage to natural nails:

Acrylic nails are harder than gel nails and can last up to six weeks with proper care. However, they may cause damage to natural nails due to the use of harsh chemicals in their application process, as well as the risk of fungal and bacterial infections which can brittle nails.

Gel nails tend to last up to two weeks without chipping or peeling, but they can cause damage as well due to the file needed to prep the natural nail before application. In addition, some gel polish hardens the nail because it may contain harsh chemicals that can irritate skin or lead to allergic reactions.

Overall, gel nails are generally considered the least damaging of the two types of nails as they require less filing and no harsh chemicals in their application. However, both acrylic and gel nails can cause damage to natural nails if not cared for properly.


Acrylic nails and gel nails are both great options for getting long-lasting, beautiful nails. The best way to decide which is right for you is to experiment with different types and find the one that works better for your lifestyle and preferences.

Do you have any tips for choosing between gel nails vs acrylics? Let us know in the comments below.

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