Gel vs Acrylic Nails – What is Better?

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For some women, a basic manicure will do the trick. But there are those that want something more out of their nails. And when you go beyond the basic manicure, the door opens, and there are so many options.

Truth be told, it might get confusing. You might be confused in terms of what do you want. For many women, the basic question when thinking about artificial manicure is gel or acrylic nails. But which one is better? And is there are a third option?

Both gel and acrylic nails are basically fake nails placed over your natural ones. Both can match the shape of your nail, or extend it. Therefore, when you want longer nails, you are basically asking for acrylic or gel extensions.

They are different products, made from different ingredients, and applied using different techniques. And both of them have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what each brings to the table and the differences between them.

Acrylic nails

Acrylic nails

Acrylic nails are made by a combination of powder polymer and liquid monomer. That might sound a bit too chemistry for you, but basically they create a hard protective layer over your natural nails.

The product hardens as it is exposed to the air. Remember, acrylic is transparent, and after you put the nails on, a nail polish is added.


  • Very hard and very robust
  • Acrylic nails last for a long time
  • They are easy to remove
  • Provide a great canvas for you to apply nail polish and color
  • You can easily fix it at home if you break your acrylic nail


  • Acrylic nails look less natural than gel nails
  • If applied incorrectly, acrylic nails look awful
  • The application process involves chemicals and fumes
  • Acrylic nails can damage your nail bed

Gel nails

Gel nails

Gel is brushed onto your nails through a three steps process. The first step is a base coat, the second is nail polish color, and the last one is top coat.

Each coat has to be hardened using an UV light for two to three minutes. Some nail salons go a step further, adding a fourth step. That looks like this: base coat, clear gel, top coat, and then regular nail polish color.


  • Last up to 14 days, or sometimes even more
  • They give you a natural, glossy, and freshly-manicured look
  • Easy to remove
  • Curing time is faster
  • More flexible when compared to acrylic nails
  • Get nail mixtures lack the fumes associated with acrylic nails


  • More expensive compared to other artificial nails
  • Removal can result in damage to the nails if gel is used too frequently
  • You cannot fix them at home, you need to go to the salon

Gel vs Acrylic Nails – What is the difference?

As mentioned previously, gel and acrylic nails deliver similar results. Both these nails lengthen your short natural nails, add strength, and make your fingers look longer.

With that in mind, what is the difference between the two? And which one is better? Let’s look at several questions and break down the difference.

1. How do they look and feel

  • As mentioned previously, acrylic nails do not look as natural as gel nails. If applied incorrectly, they look quite awful. Some women reported experiencing sore nail beds as the acrylic cures
  • Gel nails look much more natural and glossy when compared to other artificial nails. Being that gel is a thick nail-polish type product, you get nails that are strong, but not thick

2. What is the price of the nail?

  • Getting acrylic nails is usually cheaper than gel application. You can get a full set of nails for between $30 and $60. If you need monthly fill-ins, they are usually half the cost of a new set
  • Gel nails can cost between $25 and $60. Generally speaking, in the same salon, gel nails are more expensive. Another thing to consider, you need to pay that price every time you have the gel reapplied, which is not the case with acrylic nails

3. Do they damage your nails?

  • Acrylic nails are strong and robust, but they are not flexible. That means they can cause some damage to your natural nail beds
  • Gel nails, on the other hand, have some flexibility. They are stronger when compared to natural nails but they are not as rigid as acrylic nails

4. How long do they last?

  • If acrylic nails are done properly, they last a long time. You need fill-ins at least once a month
  • Gel nails last between 14 and 20 days. Wait longer, and you will see your nude nails at the moon, meaning you need more nail polish color

5. How are they applied?

  • Acrylic nails and gel nails are both artificial nails. The difference is acrylic nails are ready-made, meaning they are attached to the natural nails
  • Gel nails, on the other hand, are not ready made. Gel is applied during the manicure process

6. Is there a strong odor?

  • Being that the application process for acrylic nails includes chemicals and fumes, you might experience some strong odor during application. Pregnant women are advised to stay away from acrylic nails
  • Gel nails lack the fumes associated with acrylic nails. They are odorless, and generally considered a safer and more eco-friendly option

7. Can you easily repair them?

  • The best part about acrylic nails is you can easily repair them at home. The fix will last until your next nail appointment
  • Gel nails, on the other hand, are not as easy to repair. If a gel nail breaks, you have to visit a salon right away. Self-fixing is not an option

8. How are they removed?

  • For acrylic nails, it is a simple and straightforward removal process. The nails are soaked in most cases, not filed off
  • Gel nails need to be filed off, although some salons go for soak off versions

9. How are they cured?

  • Acrylic nails are air cured. That means it takes 24 hours to fully cure, even though the nails and polish are dry
  • Gel nails are cured using a UV light, meaning it can be done within minutes. But the process cannot be done at home, unless you have a UV lamp

Gel vs Acrylic Nails – What is Better?

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