I’ve always been an acrylic kind of girl, but to be honest, until recently I didn’t know much about gel alternatives. Gel nails had been a tempting, more luxurious option at the salon, but fear of the unknown kept me from trying them.
To dispel my fear, I did some research on the heated debate between acrylic vs. gel nails. Here’s what I found:
Gel Nails – The Basics
Gel nail treatments use a premixed solution which is directly applied to the nail. Nail extensions can also be used, much like acrylic.
The process begins similarly to acrylic, too, as your nail technician will start by finely buffing your nails so the gel can better adhere to the surface. Several coats are applied, and after each coat the gel must be cured under a UV lamp. Curing strengthens the molecular bonds within the gel, resulting in a tough, shiny surface.
Gel polish is applied after the base coat and before the final topcoat of clear gel. That means you can apply color, even non-gel polish, to the top of your gel nails without having to remove the previous color. Just remember to use non-acetone polish remover to take regular polish off gel nails.
They last about as long as acrylic nails (about 2 weeks), because both methods grow out along with the nail and need to be filled in.
- Gel nails are more flexible, so users find them more comfortable
- The thin coats of gel look more natural than thicker acrylic.
- Since the color is not simply applied to the exterior of the cured gel, color lasts much longer and resists chipping, smudging and scratching.
- Gel treatments are more expensive than acrylic.
- They are less durable and more prone to damage and shattering than acrylic nails.
Acrylic Nails – The Basics
Unlike the pre-made solution for gel nails, acrylic nails require the nail technician to mix a liquid monomer and polymer powder right before application. After filing your nails, a bead of this “powder gel” is then brushed on and molded to your desired shape.
No UV light is required for acrylic nails, though they do need some time to dry. Color is applied over the dry, hardened acrylic surface.
- Tough, durable acrylic nails are good for those who work with their hands.
- Acrylic is easier to fix on your own, and requires no UV light for home application.
- Acrylic manicures and extensions are cheaper than gel treatments.
- Acrylic is known to cause more damage to your natural nails than gel.
- A single application of acrylic is thicker and less natural-looking than several coats of gel.
After doing the research, I learned that gel nails are more similar to acrylic than I thought. They both provide smoother, stronger, longer nails, and they both require the same amount of maintenance.
We can all appreciate the lasting color of gel nails, or the resilient strength of acrylic, but in the end it comes down to preference. Which nail enhancer do you prefer?