Acrylic Vs. Gel Nails 

Acrylic Vs Gel Nails Pros & Cons

While there are a lot of different options out there for beautiful, long-lasting nails, the top two always seem to be acrylic or gel. They might appear quite similar at first — you’ll get a manicure that both looks good and stands up to your regular wear and tear with either option. However, when you really compare acrylic nails and gel nails, you’ll start to see some differences that might affect which one you want for your next manicure!

Keep reading for information about acrylic nails, gel nails, how decide which to get, and if one is really better than the other!

Acrylic Nails - Sturdy, Durable, and Intricate

Acrylic Nails - Picture of a nail mannequin

What are acrylic nails and why should I get them?

Acrylic nails are created by mixing a polymer acrylic powder with a monomer acrylic liquid, through a process called polymerization. These combine to form the dough-like texture that is then placed on the nail or extension and shaped. Before application, the natural nail is filed down to be rough for better adhesion. Acrylics are best for creating complex or textured designs, and since they provide a lot of protection, they can help shield damaged nails from getting worse. 

How do acrylics dry?

Acrylics start to cure when they come into contact with air, and usually completely dry in about 10-15 minutes. A UV light is not needed for acrylics, and is actually not recommended — it doesn’t speed up the curing process like it does for gel nails. 

After that first layer cures, more coats can be placed on top, including colors or designs. Acrylics are great for creating texture and 3D designs since the amount of acrylic mixture can be controlled and manipulated into different shapes. 

How long does an acrylic manicure last and how do I remove them? 

Acrylics nails tend to last for about 2-3 weeks. At that point, you can either go in for a fill or remove them completely. During a fill, any excess polish is removed and the natural regrowth is filled in with new acrylic. 

The removal of acrylics should be left to the pros. Acrylic nails can be soaked in acetone first and then filed away with an electric nail drill. Trying to remove acrylics at home can definitely damage the natural nails! 

Will acrylics hurt my nails?

Keep in mind that acrylic nails do the run the risk of looking a little bulky or unnatural, especially if they weren’t shaped properly. However, they are quite durable and in addition to looking great, they can provide a strong protective layer over natural nails. Some people find that their nails actually grow faster with acrylics! It’s really down to how your nail tech applies and removes them. Going in for frequent fills will also help keep your natural nails in good condition, as complete removal has the potential for more damage.

Gel Nails - Glossy, Flexible, and Versatile

What are gel nails and why should I get them?

Gel polish also contains acrylic monomers like acrylic nails do, but they cure in UV light instead. A gel manicure will typically consist of a base coat, a color polish (including designs) and then a top coat. Gel polish looks like traditional nail polish, but hardens much more and is stronger than a regular manicure. However, they are still more flexible than acrylic, making them a less intimidating option and are generally not as harsh on the nails. Gel is also quicker and easier to remove than acrylic.

How do gel nails dry?

As mentioned, gel polish needs to cure under a UV lamp, typically between each coat. The UV light releases certain particles in the gel that begin the polymerization reaction, which then begins to harden the polish.

Acrylics and gel nails both undergo polymerization reactions, they just use different methods. In other words, they both result in hard, durable manicures either through a powder-liquid mixture or with UV light.

How long does a gel manicure last and how do I remove them?

How long do gel nails take? Answers from PLA

A gel manicure will typically last between 2-3 weeks. Removing gel polish is a bit less of a time-consuming process the acrylics. The polish is soaked in acetone first for about 10 minutes and can then be removed with a gel polish scraper or a drill. Although they are easier to remove than acrylics, it’s still best to leave this to the professionals so you don’t accidentally damage your natural nails. 

Will gel polish hurt my nails?

When done correctly by a professional, you shouldn’t worry too much about gel polish damaging your natural nails. Gel polishes by themselves are not likely to hurt your nails, but be sure to take a break from gel polish if your nails are getting brittle or peeling. 

If you consistently get gel manicures, you might want to take precaution against the UV light exposure. You can use sunscreen on your hands before the manicure or even fingerless gloves to protect your skin from UV damage.

Which Is Better?

Honestly, it would be hard to definitively say if gel is better than acrylic, or vice versa, as they both have their pros and cons. It all really depends on what kind of manicure you are interested in. You’ll have to consider all the details — the designs, artwork, finish, flexibility, strength, and time. 

In general, acrylic is better for intricate or textured designs and is stronger than gel, but takes longer to apply and can be more damaging to the natural nails. On the other hand, gel is shinier and cures quicker than acrylic, but is more flexible so it doesn’t always provide the same amount of protection.

Check Out More From Our Nail Tech Supply Store 

Whether you choose acrylic or gel for your next set, you are sure to finish up with a beautiful, long-lasting manicure! Be sure to check out the PLA Gel Nail Polish and the PLA 2-in-1 Acrylic and Dip Powder plus our other blogs for nail inspiration!