Acrylic vs Gel Nails: Which is Best for You?

Gel and acrylic nails are two of the most talked-about manicure options in the nail industry today. What’s the difference between the two, and how can you tell which is best for you and your lifestyle? Here’s a guide to help you decide between acrylic and gel nails for your next manicure!

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What are Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic nails are made of a combination of synthetic nail tips, powder (polymer), and a liquid (monomer) laid over the natural nail. First, a primer or glue is applied to the natural nail to help the synthetic nail tip and acrylic solution stick. A synthetic nail tip is applied to the natural nail, then the solution is placed over both and blended to make the entire nail look like one natural nail. Once the solution is applied, it can be molded into a variety of shapes and lengths.

After the solution is applied and set, the nails are painted with nail polish and typically an acrylic-friendly top coat. Then, the nails are placed under a fan to dry.

Pros of Acrylic Nails

Acrylic nails are fairly affordable, with the average set running between $30 and $50. They’re also very durable and hard, and they can last for a long time if taken care of properly. One of the biggest benefits of acrylic nails is that they can easily be refilled for $20 or so.

Cons of Acrylic Nails

Acrylic nails tend to look much less natural than gel nails or plain natural nails. One of the biggest drawbacks is that since acrylic nails are so thick and inflexible, they can actually hurt the wearer’s cuticle and nail bed if too much pressure is applied. Additionally, acrylic nail application can damage the natural nails, since the nail surface needs to be filed and roughed up for the acrylic to stick. Acrylic nail application often involves using harsh, pungent chemicals, and the removal process can be tedious as well.

Getting the Best Results with Acrylic Nails

It’s important that acrylic nail wearers let their nails breathe in-between wears. If not, the natural nails might become unhealthy, and the risk of potential infection increases. Acrylic nails are ideal for those who already have strong and well-kept nails. They’re much more likely to crack or break if applied on top of natural nails that are weak or brittle.

What are Gel Nails?

Gel nails have a glossier appearance than typical acrylic nails. The nails are created using a pre-mixed powder and liquid solution. The gel can either be applied to natural nails or blended with synthetic tips. Typically, the process involves applying a base coat, two or three layers of gel nail polish coat, and a gel-friendly top coat. Each coat is cured under an LED or UV light for between thirty seconds and two minutes. Once all the layers are applied and cured, the gel nail application process is complete.

Note: There are some gel polishes that don’t require curing with light. These polishes usually cure and dry with either a gel activator or just a fan.

Benefits of Gel Nails

One of the biggest benefits of gel nails is their lasting power. Although gel nails are fairly flexible, they’re very durable and can last up to two weeks with proper care. Since gel nails are so flexible, there’s little risk of them injuring or damaging the wearer’s cuticles or nail beds.

Another major benefit is that gel nails tend to look very natural and can sometimes actually pass for natural nails. Additionally, gel nails can typically be removed simply by filing, and no harsh chemicals are needed.

Cons of Gel Nails

Gel nails can’t be filled in like acrylic nails, and a new set must be applied every time. That means more cost over time, which is why some prefer other nail application methods. Even so, the salon-finish look of gel nails is definitely worth it!

Getting the Best Results with Gel Nails

Gel nails typically last longer and cause less damage to the nail bed when applied with a non-acid base or primer. It’s also important to minimize gel nails’ exposure to water, as water can cause the nail polish to chip or break.

Should I Choose Acrylic or Gel Nails?

Choosing between acrylic and gel nails all depends on your budget, your lifestyle, and your preferences:

  • If your nails are already strong and you don’t do a lot of work with your hands, acrylic nails might be best for you.
  • If your natural nails are a little weak or if you need to be able to use your hands a lot on a day-to-day basis, gel nails might be the better option.
  • If you don’t want to have to do heavy buffing and filing, gel nails are the better option.
  • If you like a glossier finish, you’ll prefer gel nails over acrylic nails.

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