Gel vs Acrylic Nails – Which One Is Right For You

Gel vs Acrylic Nails - Which One Is Right For You
Gel vs Acrylic Nails – Which One Is Right For You

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

SystemLess Harsh
To Nails
Looks NicerSaferEasier to Apply & RemoveLasts LongerWhich is Cheaper
Gel Nailsxxxx
Acrylic Nailsxxx

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

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 Nails

Now there are different kinds of gel nails but in this article, I will just be comparing acrylic against the 2 most common types of gel:

  1. Gel Extensions which are made using a thick gel that is then used to build out your nails and then cured using a UV Nail Lamp.
  2. Gel Polishes which are more similar to nail polish except it only hardens and cures using a UV Nail lamp.

Now, this article will be divided into 2 parts.

In the first part, I will compare acrylic nails and gel extension which I will refer to as gel nails. I am also gonna primarily focus on hard gels which is the most common type of gel extension used in nail salons

And the second part I will compare acrylic against gel polish.

Which is Least Damaging For Your Nails – Gel or Acrylic

Acrylic Nails are more likely to cause damages 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;

  1. Use very harsh chemicals such as an acid-based primer to prep your nails for application.
  2. Overfile your natural nails before application
  3. 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 lighter so they feel more natural and they have a natural 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 heavier and bulkier. But with a good top coat, acrylic nails can look just as good gel nails.

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.

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.

Now it’s important to note that there isn’t a single scientific study or research that links the occasional use of nail lamps with any skin condition.

But 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.

You can click here to see the price for a great manicure glove on Amazon.

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 and powder either Ethyl Methacrylate or Methyl Methacrylate

Now Ethyl Methacrylate is the safe one. Whilst Methyl Methacrylate is the dangerous one since it has been known to cause severe skin irritation, light-headedness, and breathing problems. Citation.

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 has 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.

You can click here to read my recommended cuticle oils.

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.

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.

But 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 is 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

Gel Polish Vs Acrylic Nails

Gel Polish and Acrylic Nails are very different they both have different purposes.

Acrylic Nails are used primarily to make nail extensions whilst gel polishes are used as a more durable alternative to regular nail polishes.

Manicures that are made from gel polishes tend to last for 2-3 weeks whilst acrylic manicures can last for 6-8 weeks.

Acrylic and Gel Polish are commonly used together.

Citation & References

UV Radiation and Your Skin

Acrylic Nails – Mayo Clinic

Gels vs. Acrylics: What’s the Difference Between Fake Nails

Acrylic, Gel or Dip Nails: Understanding the Pros + Cons for Your Health

Nail Care Products – FDA

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