Acrylic Nails are great, not only do they allow you to have long elegant nails but they are also super durable being able to last for weeks without chipping or peeling.
But Acrylic Nails do have a lot of drawbacks such as:
- Tedious to Apply (Especially getting the correct liquid to powder ratio)
- Uses a lot of harsh chemicals (Such as monomers, nail primers, and dehydrators)
- Not suited for individuals who have very thin weak nails – (Both when applying and removing acrylic nails have a tendency to damage your nail plates)
These drawbacks are why some individuals myself included are slowly moving away from using acrylics. And thankfully there are other great substitutes that in my opinion are even better.
So in this article, I am gonna explore the best alternatives that you can use instead of acrylic nails.
The Best Alternatives & Substitutes to Acrylic Nails are:
- Gel Nail Extensions (A safer & more durable alternative to acrylic nails that looks just as good)
- Press on Nails (Easy to apply & remove yet looks amazing)
- Dip Powder (Very durable & easy to DIY)
- Gel Nail Polish
- Nail Stickers (Allows you to easily have amazing nail art)
1- Gel Nail Extensions
Gel Extensions are a great alternative to acrylic nails and in a lot of ways, they are much better.
This is because gel extensions for most individuals are easier to apply and tend to be more durable and long-lasting.
And for me, Gel Extensions tend to look and feel better than acrylic nails because they are lighter and have a more natural appearance.
Related Article – How Acrylic Ruin Your Nails & Tips to Prevent Damages
Difference Between Gel Extensions & Acrylic Nails
The main difference between Acrylic and Gel Extension is that they use very different ingredients and are cured differently.
Acrylic Application uses a polymer powder and is cured or hardened using a liquid monomer. Whilst Gel Extensions use a thick UV gel that needs either a UV or a Led lamp to cure.
But Gel Extensions and Acrylic Nails are applied similarly; in that, they are built out from your natural nails and are extended using either tips or forms.
Also, check out Acrylic Nails- How Long to Wear & When to take a Break
Pros of Gel Extensions
1- Safer For Your Nails
Gel Extensions are lighter and healthier for your natural nails which makes them perfect if you have weak and brittle nails. Gel extensions are safer because they:
1- Don’t use so many harsh chemicals like Acrylic Application – Acrylic nails tend to use chemicals such as methyl methacrylate and toluene both of which can seriously damage your natural nail plates.
On the other hand, Gel Extensions don’t use so many chemicals which makes them a lot better.
2- The tips for gel extension are lighter than acrylic nails – which means that they put less pressure on the nail bed and they feel lighter and more natural.
3- The application process creates no harsh fumes and toxic odor – making it safer for you and your nail tech, unlike acrylic application which is notorious for producing pungent fumes.
You can click here to read the 5 Best Alternatives to Gel Nails
I highly recommend you read my article The Dangers & Effects of Acrylic Nails – Can it Cause Cancer
2- Quicker to Apply
In comparison to acrylic nails, Gel Extensions are easier and quicker to apply which cuts the amount of time you have to spend in the salon or if you are applying it yourself makes your work a lot easier.
You see the builder gels that are used for gel extension come ready to use, unlike acrylics which you have to ensure that you mix the powder with the liquid using the correct ratio. This ready-made gel makes applying your nail extensions quicker and easier.
Plus with acrylics, you always need to be cognizant of the time when applying before the powder and monomer start to harden. Whilst with gel you are in control since you can take your time and get it just right before you cure it in the lamp.
You can see how Gel Extensions are applied in the video below
If you want a quicker and easier method to apply gel nails you can use:
3- Very Durable
Gel extensions are extremely durable and long-lasting meaning that they won’t lift and fade easily.
Now they are two kinds of gels used for gel extension;
- Soft gel – also known as soak-off gel.
- Hard gel also known as builder gels
Hard Gel is extremely durable being able to last for around 4 weeks. Whilst Soft Gel is not as durable but it can easily last roughly 3 weeks.
4- Easier To Remove
When you use Soft Gel for your gel extension it is much easier to remove since you can just soak your nails in regular acetone to take them off, you don’t need to use an electric file to buff your nails.
But if you opt for Hard Gels you will have to use an electric nail file to buff out the top layer of the gel to remove them. It is highly recommended if you have a hard gel extension that you go back to your nail tech to have them removed.
Now Hard Gels also tend to be heavier and bulkier on your nails whilst soft gels tend to feel lighter and more natural.
Related Article – Hard Gel Extensions: How to Apply, Benefits & Risks
5- Flexible & Feels Natural
Gel Extensions are lighter which allows them to feel more natural. They are also more flexible being able to bend without breaking which increases their durability.
Unlike acrylic nails which are heavy and inflexible.
Drawbacks of Gel Extensions
1- Costs More
Gel Extensions tend to cost more than acrylics this is because the builder gels are more expensive. But I think they are worth paying a few extra dollars for.
2- Requires the Use of a UV or LED Lamp
Gel Extensions use UV gels which require either a UV lamp or a Led lamp for it to cure and harden.
Recommended Gel Extension
For most individuals, I usually recommend using soft gel tips or soak-off gel instead of a hard gel. The soft gel tips look just as good as hard gels but they just feel more natural and tend to be better for your nails since they are easier to remove.
I only recommend hard gels for clients who do a lot of work with their hands and require extreme durability.
2- Press on Nails
Press On Nails are designed false nails that can be applied directly onto your nails using nail glue or adhesive.
These nails can easily be pasted onto your natural nails and within minutes you can have an amazingly designed manicure.
Also to read more you can click here Press on Nails Vs Acrylic: Differences & Which is Better
Pros of Press on Nails
- Very Quick & Easy to Apply – You can apply them within 10 minutes or less, which means you can apply them right at home.
- Doesn’t use too many harsh chemicals – To apply Press on Nails you just need nail glue but some brands come with their own built in adhesive.
- Very Affordable – Press on Nails are very budget friendly they are much cheaper than acrylics or gel extensions.
- Perfect if you are allergic to acrylic nails – most brands of Press on Nails don’t contain any acrylic-based ingredients.
- Very Easy to Remove – To remove press on nails all you need to do is soak them in acetone for 1 minute and then peel them off.
- Can Be reused – you can click here to learn how to reuse Press on Nails.
Cons of Press on Nails
The main issue with Press on Nails is that they are not as durable as acrylic or gel extensions which means that they won’t last as long.
And if you don’t put them on correctly, like if you don’t clean your nails before applying them, your press on nails can pop off prematurely.
Now if applied correctly Press on Nails can easily last you for around 2 weeks. I have an entire article where I share tips on How to Make Press on Nails Last Longer, you can click here to read it.
But you should only wear Press on Nails for 2-3 days to prevent an infection from occurring. You can take them off then disinfect your nails and the press-on and reapply.
You can check out the video below to see how to use and apply Press on Nails.
Where to Get Press on Nails
Now if you want custom-made Press on Nails that are designed and sized to suit you, you can check out Etsy they have some great vendors that make some amazing press on nails.
Also, most pharmacies and a lot of other retailers usually have press on nails in stock too.
3- Dip Powder
Dip Powder also commonly referred to as SNS is a manicure system that you can use as an alternative to acrylic nails or gel extensions.
The Dip Powder Systems works by dipping or brushing your nails in a very fine colored powder and then applying a clear sealant on top to seal it off.
They are usually used to make simple manicures but with the use of nail tips they can be used to create nail extensions, dip powder cannot be used with nail forms.
Pros of Dip Powder
1- Quick & Easy to Apply
Dip Powder is very quick and easy to apply which means you can actually do it yourself right at home. And also means that if you opt for using dip powder at a salon you are gonna save a lot of time in comparison to acrylic application.
Now each brand of dip powder will be slightly different but the principle would remain the same. You can see how to apply dip powder in the video below.
2-Doesn’t Use Harsh Chemicals Like Acrylics
In comparison to Acrylic Nails, Dip Powder is better for your nail health since it doesn’t use harsh chemicals like acrylic nails.
Plus some brands of dip powder add calcium and other vitamins to the powder to help promote stronger nail growth.
Most Dip Powder systems are completely odorless and won’t give off any pungent fumes like acrylic application.
4- Very Durable
Dip Powder creates extremely long-lasting and durable manicures that won’t chip or peel easily. And depending on the brand can last 3-4 weeks.
5- Doesn’t Require a UV lamp
Dip Powder doesn’t require the use of a UV or Led Lamp to cure and harden instead it relies on a sealant.
Drawbacks of Dip Powder
1- Cost More
Dip Powder generally costs more than both acrylic and gel nails.
2- Tough to Remove
To remove Dip Powder you would need to soak them in pure acetone for at least 15-20 minutes which can seriously dry out your cuticle and your nail plate.
But Dip Powder is easier to remove in comparison to acrylic nails and requires the same amount of work as gel extensions.
Now I have some great tips on how you can safely remove Dip Powder, you can click here to learn
3- Heavier than Gel Nails
Sometimes when using Dip Powder you would need to apply multiple layers of powder which can make your manicure look thick and bulky and even feel heavy, especially when compared to gel nails.
But this will vary with the brand of Dip Powder that you use, with some premium brands usually requiring less powder to achieve full opacity which allows your nails to feel light and natural.
4- Application Can Potentially be Unhygienic
Some salons might be using the same jar to dip everyone’s nails inside. This practice can potentially lead to infections, so ensure that your salon uses separate containers for each client or they use a brush application.
Recommended Brand of Dip Powder
For a high-quality dip powder to use at home I recommend Kiara Sky Dipping Powder. Now they are a bit expensive but I think they are worth it.
This is because Kiara Sky Dipping Powder creates very durable manicures and most importantly they use very safe high-quality ingredients and don’t need a lot of powder to achieve opacity.
You can click here to see the price on Amazon for a complete kit of Kiara Sky Dipping Powder which includes everything you need to apply your dipping powder.
4- Gel Nail Polishes
Gel Nail Polishes are also a great substitute for acrylics they are just as durable and look just as good. But they are cheaper, easier to apply and gentler on your nails.
Now by using nail tips you can easily use gel polishes to add an extension on your nails but it won’t be as durable as acrylic nails or by using a builder gel.
Gel Polishes are just like regular nail polishes except they are more durable and are cured using either a UV or Led Lamp. They can last roughly 3 weeks without peeling and chipping.
Recommended Gel Polishes
Beetle Gel Polishes are a great budget-friendly brand of gel polishes, you can click here to see the current price for a set on Amazon.
Now you will need a UV lamp, you can click here to see the price for an affordable yet effective UV Lamp on Amazon.
5- Nail Stickers
Nail Stickers also known as nail wraps or polish strips are specially designed stickers that are pasted on your nails.
Nail Stickers are ideal if you want amazing nail art without having to spend too much money to go to a salon since you can apply them right at home. This is because they are very affordable and are super easy to apply.
The main drawback with nail stickers is that they are not very durable and won’t last as long as acrylics or other nail products.
Now if you want to learn more about nail stickers you can click here to read my complete guide on nail stickers where I review some of the best brands.
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