Difference between Gel and Acrylic nails

Nail fashion is the new trend among both men and women. And when a trend goes viral, it keeps getting new arrivals. For example, if a certain crop top gets viral, fashionistas try to create a new design focusing on it. No one wants to get stuck with the same thing over and over again and thus newer designs are created. The newer ones get better one after another depending on the customers’ critiques.

And in the nail fashion world, having numerous designs and options is nothing surprising. However, the way it keeps increasing is making the customer confusion as to which one is better or what they offer. Going into a nail salon knowing your priorities is a great thing. But newcomers or those who want to try anew often get confused between the options. Nail wraps, dip powder nails, acrylic nails, gel nails, etc are widely known nail style materials and designs. And among them, gel and acrylic nails are known as the best ones. But what are the differences between gel and acrylic nails and exactly which is better? Let’s unfold this in a detailed description.

Gel Nails

The gel can be used for both extensions or for natural nails. Soft and hard gels are the two varieties it has. Hard gels are used for nail extensions. These gels are made of polymer that is UV cured. Gel nail polish used UV light for curing which requires a few minutes. After the gel is based, your nail will get filed, trimmed to your desired length, and then a coat of your choice. 

Gel nails are widely used and preferred due to their natural feel and look similar to your own nails. These nails feel like your natural ones and are more flexible than acrylic nails. They are shinier than acrylic nails and stay longer as well due to their UV curing as long as they are well taken care of. They are durable yet can be removed easily with the bare minimum of nail damage. Acetone easily wears off the gel and helps you remove it without even going to your nail stylist.

Let’s see how gel nails are prepped:

  • At first, like all other nail preparation, your nails will be cleaned and trimmed if needed. 
  • Punching back the excess cuticle using any cuticle nail pusher, you will have a base coat of gel on your nails. Depending on your choice, it may get extensions or not.
  • Then your nails will have to be under UC light for a few minutes for curing.
  • After that, another coat of gel will be applied and cured under UV. This process will go on until it is on your desired base color and nail thickness.
  • After every coat, you will have to pause for UV curing, which is why it is time-consuming.
  • And the top coat will keep your nails protected and strong like your natural ones.
  • After the nail is processed with the gel, your desired design and color of nail polish will be applied.
  • And that’s how gel nails are done.

Acrylic nails

Acrylic nails require patience and practice. And its elements are quite more dramatic than other styles. It is a mixture of liquid monomer and powder polymer. Basically, you dip of brush on that liquid and then dip it into the powder to get a small bead-like dough. Then it is put on the nail and brushed to the tip. It dries up quickly when exposed to air. Don’t worry about immediate hardening because you will get enough time to brush it as you want. Acrylic nails do not hinder your natural nail growth beneath them. 

Acrylic nails are strong and durable that look harder than natural nails. It is slightly heavier and looks a little unnatural than gel nails. The removal process is a bit hard. Because even though you can remove them by soaking your nail in acetone for a long time, it affects your natural nails. Your nails will be damaged during this process and professionals advise you to go to your nail stylist. They will remove it trying to keep the damage bare minimum.

The procedure to put acrylic nails:

  • Just like before, the stylist or you will clean, trim, and push back the cuticles of your nails.
  • You can either use the acrylic application on the extended nail tip or your natural nails. 
  • Dip the brush on the liquid monomer and then the powder polymer respectively will create a thick consistency.
  • Then brush the thick powder from the base of your nail to the tip forming a shape. It will be shaped as a form when you brush it as you want. 
  • When it hardens, trim or file it till you get your desired length and shape. And then get a nail design or art and it will be done after a top coating. The top coating will leave a shiny surface and protect the application from wearing off quickly.
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Gel nails vs Acrylic nails

Between acrylic nails and gel nails, it’s not up to us to choose one for you. Because they have different options, styles, and procedures that may or may not sit with you. However, should we summarize their overall, you will be able to choose one easily.


Gel nails are of UV-cured polymer that comes with a thick consistency like lotion or cream. On the other hand, acrylic ones require two parts including a powder and a liquid. The liquid is of monomer whereas the powder is a polymer. And the mixture of these two creates a dough-like consistency to be the base application for your nails.


You may want to know if these applications smell or not and if yes, then are they fragrant or a headache? The gel is an odorless application that neither smells good nor bad. On the other hand, acrylic ones have a strong chemical odor that you will notice during the process. And it will fade day by day after drying.


Gel nails last a long time if you take care of them. But acrylic lasts more compared to gel nails. They are sturdy and stay a long time. While gel nails are more flexible and feel lightweight than acrylic ones.

Removal process

Both these nails are removable with acetone. While gel nails come off easily using acetone, acrylic ones need time and soaking. Soaking in acetone for a long time will cause great damage to your natural nails. That’s why going to a nail stylist suffices better for acrylic nails.

Which one is better- Gel or acrylic nails?

If you compare them side by side, it will be easy to know which one is better for you. 

Gel nails

  • Offers natural looks and feel
  • Flexible and lightweight to nails
  • Damages the natural nails less than acrylics
  • Less prone to chipping and damaging
  • Needs curing under UV light for every single coat
  • Expensive than acrylics
  • Does not last as long as the acrylic nails

Acrylic nails

  • Offers various shapes and lengths
  • Long-lasting and has better durability
  • Feels heavier and appears unnatural
  • Damages the natural nails more
  • Needs regular maintenance

Does Gel or acrylic nail last longer?

In terms of longevity, the Acrylic nail is the best, though regular touch-ups and maintenance on both types will leave you with almost the same longevity. Acrylic nails are hard and durable which is why they last longer than flexible gel nails. However, in terms of chipping, gel nails have fewer accidents than acrylic ones.

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Being a healthcare instructor, Elthea's experience and prevision have made an important role that she shared with us and you as well.