Gel vs. Acrylic Nails: What’s the Difference?

When you visit the nail salon, you might already have an idea of the color or design you want—but do you know which type of manicure would work best for your lifestyle? Your salon should offer various options, including the two most popular choices: gel and acrylic. Each style has its own set of pros and cons, but it all depends on what you want out of your fresh mani. But what’s the difference between gel and acrylic nails? Are they similar in any way? Is one better than the other? You have the questions, and we have the expert answers.

Below, we’ll break down everything you need to know about gel and acrylic manicures—that way, the next time you’re due for a nail treatment, you can feel confident choosing the best option for you.

Gel Nails Q&A

What are gel nails?

A gel manicure uses a gel-based polish that must undergo a curing process using a LED or a UV lamp. This varnish is also divided into three categories: regular, soft, and hard. The standard or regular gel has a similar consistency to basic nail lacquer and can be removed by soaking in acetone. Soft gel is resin-like and can also be removed with acetone. Hard gel is a tougher polish that is removed with an electric file. Overall, each category varies in longevity, vibrancy, removal process, and price.

How long do gel nails last?

Generally, these durable manicures can cost you anywhere from $35 to over $100. So, wanting your set to last is a justified priority. In comparison, regular and soft gel polishes last two to three weeks (four with soft gels, if you’re lucky), while hard gels last from three to four weeks. If you want a mani to last through your next vacation, a regular or soft gel set works perfectly. However, if you need something a little more durable to withstand a month filled with activities, go with a hard gel.

Do gel nails damage your real nails?

Gel does not damage your real nails. It helps strengthen them and promotes growth if done by a professional. If your nail plate is not appropriately prepared, and if the polish isn’t applied or removed correctly, there could possibly be damage. Make sure to see a reputable technician and take care of your tips after you’ve left the salon; that way, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Acrylic Nails Q&A

What are acrylic nails?

An acrylic set is created by combining powder and liquid acrylic (or monomer and polymer). When mixed, they form a ball that can be formed into any shape. Upon hitting the nail plate, the substance will harden and fasten to the nail. After that, the tech will buff and polish until your tips are precisely how you want them. Once the set starts to wear down, your manicure can be soaked off using an acetone remover.

How long do acrylic nails last?

This type of manicure can also cost anywhere between $35 and $100; sometimes the price can be upward of the $120 mark with additional add-ons. The price, although high, matches the durability of the acrylic. Nail technicians recommend returning for a fill-in every two to three weeks, but it depends on the speed of nail growth. You should also consider doing a new full set every two to three months for necessary nail maintenance.

Do acrylic nails damage your real nails?

Acrylics do not damage your nails. Again, nail prep is a crucial part of keeping your real nails healthy. Pair healthy nails with professional application and removal, and your nails will thrive. Maintain your tips by taking care of your skin and nails at home and returning to your favorite salon for any necessary upkeep.

Do You Have A Passion For Nails?

There’s more to nails than meets the eye. Do you know the difference between an almond and stiletto shape? Brush up on your nail terminology by reading our blog, Acetone and Acrylics: How Well Do You Know Your Nail Terminology?

Interested in a career as a nail technician? Explore all that our program offers—schedule a virtual tour today, or contact us with any questions.

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