Acrylic and Gel are the two of the most common and popular forms of manicures available.
Now both acrylic and gel may seem similar but there are some key differences between the two. These differences are what make gel suited for some people and acrylic ideal for others.
So in this article, I am gonna go through the differences and the pros and cons of both acrylic and gel to help you decide which is the right one for you.
Comparing Gel Nails to Acrylic Nails – Pros & Cons
|Effect on Nails
|Gel nails tend to be less harsh on your natural nails since they tend to use fewer bad chemicals.
|Acrylic nails tend to use harsher chemicals like acid primers & potentially MMA Monomers.
|How it Feels
|Gel Nails tend to be lighter and feel more natural.
|Acrylic Nails can feel bulkier.
|Gel Nails use UV lamps to cure which can increase the risk of skin cancer if no protection is used (wear sunscreen or manicure gloves).
|Acrylic nails use a lot of various chemicals, especially monomers which can lead to issues if inhaled in large amounts (wear masks during application).
|Ease of Applications & Removal
|Gel nails will require practice to learn & a lot of work to remove
|Acrylic Nails also have a learning curve and would require a lot of effort to remove
|Gel nails are a bit more costly than acrylic.
|Acrylic nails tend to be more affordable.
Gel X is another type of gel except it is a soft gel, you can click here to read How Gel X nails compare to Acrylic Nails
Difference Between Gel and Acrylic Nails
The easiest way to spot the difference between acrylic and gel is the application process, gel nails require a UV Nail Lamp to cure whilst acrylic nails dry naturally.
Acrylic Nails are made by combining a liquid monomer with a powder polymer to make a thick bead-like gel that is then used to build out your nails.
Gel Extensions are made using a thick gel that is then used to build out your nails and then cured using a UV Nail Lamp.
Now there are different kinds of gel nails but in this article, I will just be focusing on Gel Extensions. I am also gonna primarily focus on hard gels which are the most common type of gel extension used in nail salons
To learn more about hard gels, click here to read my article on Hard Gel Extensions.
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Which Lasts Longer – Gel or Acrylic
Acrylic Nails are more durable and long-lasting when compared to gel nails. Once cared for correctly acrylic nails are capable of lasting for 6-8 weeks, but they will need a fill-in every 2-3 weeks.
Gel Nails on the other hand can last for around 3-4 weeks. And can potentially go longer depending on how you care for them and the type and brand of gel used.
Now gel nails that are made of Hard Gel have a huge advantage in that they are stain-resistant.
This makes gel nails ideal if you are dealing with a lot of chemicals like dyes that tend to stain a lot such as a hairdresser who works with hair coloring.
Acrylic Nails on the other hand are best suited for individuals who want their manicures to last for a long time and not have to worry about lifting, chipping, or peeling.
Which is Least Damaging For Your Nails – Gel or Acrylic
Acrylic Nails are more likely to cause damage to your natural nails. This is because they:
- Require more filing and the use of acetone to be removed.
- And in some cases, they tend to use harsher chemicals when applied.
It’s important to note that both acrylic nails and gel nails are not inherently damaging to your nail. Once your manicure was applied and removed correctly your natural nails shouldn’t be significantly affected.
Having a good manicure can actually help to protect your natural nails.
You see your nails are not damaged by the product themselves but instead when you;
- Use very harsh chemicals such as an acid-based primer to prep your nails for application.
- Over file your natural nails before application
- Improperly remove your manicure usually by forcing them off.
Which Looks & Feels Better Gel or Acrylic
Gel nails tend to look and feel better. This is because gel nails are more flexible and lighter so they feel more natural and they also have a nice glossy sheen.
Another great advantage with gel nails is that you can control when they are cured which makes them better at creating nail art. This allows you to take your time to design your nails to look exactly how you want.
Now acrylic nails, on the other hand, tend to look more simple and they tend to be more rigid, heavier, and bulkier.
But you can also get a glossy sheen on your acrylic with a good top coat.
Related Article – Why do Acrylic Nails Hurt & Easy Tips to Relieve the Pain
Which Is Safer – Gel or Acrylic
Both Gel Nails and Acrylic Nails come with their own health and safety risks. But with the right measures in place, they can both be perfectly safe.
Related Article – 5 Healthiest & Safest Manicures that Won’t Damage Your Nails
Safety Risks of Gel Nails
The main potential health risk that gel nails come with is that they expose your hands and finger to strong UV light.
And too much exposure to UV light has been linked to a lot of skin ailments such as skin cancer. Citation.
So if you are trying to limit the exposure you have to UV light due to health reasons. Then I recommend either using protective measures or avoiding gel nails altogether.
To protect your fingers and hands from UV exposure you can apply sunscreen on your hands and fingers or wear manicure gloves.
Manicure gloves shield your hands and finger from the UV light and only allows the gel to be exposed.
Also, check out my article where I share 6 Ways to Protect Hands from UV Lamps- Safer Gel Manicures
Safety Risks of Acrylic Nails
The main health risk that comes with acrylic nails is the use of Methyl Methacrylate which has been banned in many countries like Canada and in some States. Citation.
You see there are two kinds of acrylic liquid either Ethyl Methacrylate or Methyl Methacrylate
Methyl Methacrylate acrylic products tend to be cheaper which is why some nail salons go for it.
So you need to be on the lookout for acrylic products that use Methyl Methacrylate, read your labels, and stick with nail salons that are reputable.
Acrylic Nails have three other safety risks:
1- Creates strong odors during the application process – Strong odors and fumes are created when applying acrylic nails.
There isn’t evidence that the fumes are harmful but I still recommend taking precautions.
And because of this, it is important that you have good ventilation and that you wear a mask during the application process.
2– Infections are more common – Now because acrylic nails tend to last longer you are more prone to developing infections.
To avoid infections keep your nails dry, clean, and well moisturized preferably using a cuticle oil that is antimicrobial.
3– More prone to causing allergic reactions – Acrylic nails are more likely to cause an allergic reaction when compared to gel nails. Gel Nails are hypoallergenic.
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Which is Easier to Apply – Gel or Acrylic
Gel Nails tend to be easier to master for beginners, this is because gel nails:
- Comes ready-made which means you won’t have to worry about getting the right liquid-to-powder ratio like with acrylic application.
- Only cures when you are ready – which means you can take your time and work with it to get your nails just right.
But for experienced nail techs, this will vary with each individual. Since it depends on which system they were trained for and have more experience using.
Now once you master getting the right liquid to powder ratio for acrylic nails they tend to be easier to mold. This is because they are thicker than gel which allows you to work better with the acrylic mixture.
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Which is Easier to Remove – Gel or Acrylic
Both Gel Nails and Acrylic Nails can be difficult to remove.
Gel Nails can only be filed off you can’t use any acetone. This is because gel nails are made of tightly woven molecules that make them non-porous which means the acetone can’t penetrate the gel.
Acrylic Nails are usually removed by filing off the top layer and then soaked in acetone.
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Which is Cheaper – Gel Nails or Acrylic
Acrylic Nails are more affordable and will last for a longer time which makes them better value than gel nails.
The price for both gel nails and acrylic nails will vary greatly but gel nails tend to be 60-70% more than acrylic nails.
Related Article – How Much Does Gel Nails Cost & How Much to Remove Them
Which is More Common – Gel or Acrylic
Almost all nail salons offer acrylic nails. But not all nail salons have gel nails available.
This is because Acrylic nails have been around for a lot longer than gel nails so most nail techs are trained to deal with acrylic nails.
Other Articles Related to Gel Polishes
Other Resources & Articles on Acrylic Application
Citation & References