Choosing Between Gel Nails and Acrylic Nails



Acrylic nails have been a staple in the beauty industry for years, and this staying power has contributed to their ongoing popularity. Donne Geer, co-founder of Hey, Nice Nails! explains the application process this way, “Acrylics are applied using a liquid monomer and a powder polymer to create a hard protective layer over your natural nails. Acrylics only harden when exposed to air.” When the acrylic hardens, it provides a perfect canvas for applying nail color.

Gel Nail Basics

Jamie White, beauty and product expert at Spaciety notes that “gel nail application provides the strength of acrylic nails with the appearance of natural nails.” Unlike acrylic nails, gel nails only harden when exposed to UV light. Geer explains that “Gel polishes are similar to nail polish – you have a base coat, polish color and top coat. Each coat has to be cured in the UV light for two to three minutes.” Both types of nails undergo chemical process to bond to the natural nail, however, there are some differences between the two.

Gel Nails or Acrylic Nails…Which is Better?

Gel and acrylic nails have similar results. They can lengthen short nails, strengthen nails, and make your fingers look longer and more slender. There are some pros and cons that might help you decide which nail application to choose.

Pros of Acrylic Nails

  • If you break an acrylic nail you can almost always fix it yourself at home.
  • The removal process is simple and straightforward when performed by a professional. The nails can be soaked rather than filed off.
  • Acrylics are very strong. When done correctly and with proper nail care, they can last a long time and are very robust.
  • Acrylic nail application tends to cost less than gel nail application.

Cons of Acrylic Nails

  • They can damage your nail bed, and according to White, this damage can create a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria.
  • Acrylics may look less natural than gel nails, especially if applied incorrectly.
  • The application process involves strong chemicals and fumes – pregnant women are advised not to use acrylic nails during pregnancy.

Pros of Gel Nails

  • Gel nails may look more natural and glossy than other types of cosmetic nails.
  • The curing time is faster than acrylics.
  • Gel nail mixtures lack the fumes associated with acrylic nails – they’re considered a safer, more eco-friendly option.

Cons of Gel Nails

  • They don’t last as long and are less durable than acrylic, even though they tend to cost more.
  • Most gel nails require a UV light for curing, so they’re harder to do at home.
  • If a gel nail breaks, you may be in for some trouble. It can sometimes be more of a shatter effect than a clean break, so self-fixing a break is not usually an option. You’ll need to make an appointment right away with your manicurist.
  • Gel nails often need to be filed off, although there are some soak-off versions.

While both types of nails can be applied at home, application might be best left to a professional. Acrylic nail fumes may overwhelm you at your house, and without a UV light, you won’t be able to get gel nails to harden.

As far as finishing touches, you can paint, you can do French tips, or create other designs on either type of nail. Some people think that airbrushing looks better on gel nails because they have a more glossy finish.

Making the Choice

Donne Geer says that hands-down “Soak off gels are the way to go. There’s no damage to the nail and it doesn’t require any filing.” That said, there are many variables to consider when it comes to choosing artificial nails, so you may want to confer with a nail technician in your area to discuss options. Ask your friends who they use or call the Better Business Bureau before going to a shop.

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