Acrylic vs Gel Nails: What’s the Difference?

Acrylic vs Gel Nails: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to getting a long-lasting manicure, two popular options are acrylic and gel nail services. But what’s the difference between these salon enhancements? Acrylic and gel manicures allow you to extend your nails and sport creative designs. But they achieve these looks differently. Understanding how acrylics and gels vary in application, removal, cost, and maintenance can help you pick the best option for your nails. Let’s dive into the key distinctions between acrylic vs gel nails. We’ll also cover care tips and reusable press on nails as a damage-free alternative for length and style.

Acrylic Nails

Acrylic nails involve applying a liquid polymer and powder mixture to nail tips to extend and build out the nail. The acrylic combination hardens into a durable, sculptable material.

To apply acrylics, nail tips are first glued onto your natural nails. Then the liquid and powder acrylic is brushed on and shaped into your desired length and style. Acrylics are commonly used to achieve long, pointed nails.

The main advantage of acrylics is they allow maximum length and thickness. But they require heavy filing and dehydrating primers to apply. And acrylics are thick, which can feel heavy on nails.

Gel Nails

Gel polish, hardened by UV or LED light, provides a lighter, more durable alternative to acrylics.

To apply gel nails, a base coat is first brushed on followed by colored gel polish layers. Each layer is cured under the light. The finished gel manicure is strong and glossy.

The main perk of gels is their damage-free application. No filing or dehydration is needed. Gels are also thinner and lighter than acrylics. But gels don’t allow as much length as acrylics.

Acrylic vs Gel nails: Key Differences

Now let’s compare some key differences between acrylics and gels:

  • Length – Acrylics allow maximum extension while gels add less length.
  • Application – Gels just need polished on and cured, unlike the mixing and sculpting of acrylics.
  • Appearance – Acrylics have a thicker, opaque look. Gels look natural with high shine.
  • Weight – Heavy acrylics put more stress on nails versus lighter gels.
  • Cost – All the steps of acrylic application make it pricier than a gel mani.
  • Removal – Acrylics require drilling while gels can be soaked off with less filing.
  • Damage Risk – Aggressive acrylic application risks more natural nail damage.

While both options add length and art, gels tend to be gentler on natural nails overall. But proper techniques for application and removal reduce the risks of both services.

Maintenance Tips

To keep acrylics or gels looking fresh in between salon visits:

  • Use cuticle oil daily to hydrate nails and avoid cracking
  • File down lifted edges to avoid snagging and breaking
  • Get fill appointments every 2-3 weeks to prevent growth gaps
  • Avoid picking at enhancements to prevent chipping or popping off
  • Prevent water damage by wearing gloves for cleaning and dish washing

DIY Removal Caution It’s safest to have acrylics and gels removed by a professional. But if you must remove them at home:

  • File nails down gradually versus ripping off
  • For gels, use pure acetone and avoid scraping
  • Never use metal tools or over-file natural nails
  • Go slowly to avoid pain, tearing, and damage

See a doctor for any troubling signs like redness, swelling, or discharge after DIY removal.

Expert Recommendations

Dermatologists recommend taking occasional breaks from salon manicures to let nails recover strength. Or swap enhancements with periods of simply moisturizing natural nails.

For salon-free nail art and length, reusable press on nails are a safer choice. These stick-on extensions allow lots of styles minus the damage of acrylics or gels.

Popular Nail Trends and Shapes

Salon enhancements let you try virtually any nail shape and design:

Trendy styles like chrome, glass fleck, or velvet nails Dramatic stiletto, ballerina, or coffin-shaped tips
Artsy designs like flower nail art or abstract marbling Textured matte and glitter ombre combos

Discuss any desired shapes and trends with your manicurist. And opt for shorter, rounded styles if you have any concerns about natural nail health.

Picking the Best Option for You

When comparing acrylic vs gel nails, consider factors like cost, maintenance, and potential damage. Gels tend to be gentler on nails while still allowing color and moderate length.

But properly applied and removed acrylics can also look fabulous. Chat with your manicurist about your lifestyle and goals for the healthiest enhancement services.

And explore reusable press on nails for temporary style without salon visits or nail damage. With the right information, you can get gorgeous nails while still prioritizing their health and strength.


Acrylic and gel manicures both extend nails but have key differences in their application and wear. Acrylics allow maximum length but require heavy filing and primer. Gels are thinner and require less natural nail prep but don’t build as long. Their damage risks, cost, and maintenance vary as well. Understanding the differences lets you choose what works best for your nails’ health and beauty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *