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Difference Between Gel and Acrylic Nails

Gel or Acrylic Nails: Which One's Right For You?

Manicures can be relaxing and amazing, but sometimes our nails need a little something . . . extra. Aside from gorgeous designs (Disney, Star Wars, or rainbow nail art designs, anyone?), you might opt for artificial nails โ€” but which ones would be best for you: acrylic or gel? We've got you covered with figuring out which one will work for you.

Gel Nails

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The process for gel nails often begins with cleaning and buffing the nail. Some people opt to get an artificial tip added to the top of the nail for lengthening, at which point a primer is applied to set the tip in place. If no tip is used, the primer is set on top of the natural nail.

The color or polish is applied (usually two to three coats), followed by the the application of the top coat to seal and finish the process.


After each of the three steps, the nails are put under a UV or LED lamp for two to three minutes in order for the gel to cure, or harden. Nail techs will then swab each fingertip with alcohol to remove any polish on the skin.

Acrylic Nails

The nails are first cleaned and buffed for acrylic nails, as well. Artificial nail extensions are then put over the nail using a powder (polymer) and liquid (monomer) mixture.

The nail technician uses a brush to dip into the liquid then the powder, creating a small ball that is put on the nail. This ball is then spread onto the artificial tip and the nail. The liquid and powder combination dries quickly, so the nail technician needs to work swiftly and carefully to get the best, natural-looking finish.

Differences to Consider

Gel nails dry more quickly than acrylic nails and leave you with a glossier, more smudge-proof, and more-natural finish. They are also more expensive than acrylic nails. The drying does require UV or LED lamps, so wearing fingerless gloves with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor of 50 can help deter the damaging effects from the UVA rays emitted from the lamps.

While acrylic nails don't require utilizing UV or LED lamps, they do have a strong odor due to the chemicals used in the process. It's easier to fix a broken acrylic nail at home versus a gel one, but gel nails aren't as damaging to your nails when they're removed properly. Because acrylic nails are stronger, thicker, and more rigid than gel nails, they aren't as flexible, but they do tend to last longer.

Whether you choose acrylic or gel nails, we're sure your nails will look fab!

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