Have you ever been stumped over which nail service to book: acrylic or gel? It doesn't help that the beauty industry often throws around the wrong names and terminology. In this article we break it down as simply as possible. Keep reading to find out the difference between acrylic vs gel nails, and which type of nails are a better choice for you!
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Comparing Acrylic VS Gel Nails
When comparing gel nails and acrylic nails, the end result can appear very similar. Here are some of the main differences between these two types of nail enhancements.
Application & Removal
The application method for gel nails vs acrylic nails is very different. By observing your technician at the nail salon, you can easily tell what kind of artificial nail you are getting.
First off, acrylic nails are made by mixing a powder (polymer) and liquid (monomer) using an acrylic brush. This forms a bead of acrylic which the nail tech will apply to the natural nail, and pat it into shape with their brush. The acrylic mixture will begin to harden as it's exposed to the air.
There are several ways to add color and designs to acrylic nails:
TIP: Don't be fooled into thinking you are getting gel nails if your nail technician starts off with an acrylic application and ends with curing your nails in a gel lamp. The reason why she is doing this is because she used a gel nail polish or gel top coat over your acrylic nails. Another reason an UV or LED lamp is used is because the heat that it emits helps the acrylic nails to harden faster.
Gel nails are made using a pre-mixed formula that is stored in polish bottles or tub containers. The viscosity of nail gels can range from runny (like syrup) to very stiff (won't spill out of the container). The process for gel nails include using the brush that's included with the bottled gel product, or a separate gel brush to 'scoop' the nail gel out of its container and onto the nail. All gel nails are cured in a UV or LED lamp to harden.
There are 2 main types of gel nails:
Hardness & Particle Size
It may be hard to tell as a client, but gel nails are generally easier to file and shape because it is slightly softer. It also creates a much finer dust that lingers in the air.
Acrylic nails tend to be more difficult to file, and the dust particles are larger and heavier.
Gel nails are more flexible, whereas acrylic nails are more rigid. Flexibility allows the nail enhancement to move with the natural nails and helps with preventing cracks and breakage caused by pressure (accidentally hitting or bending your nails).
When done properly, both acrylic and gel products can create very durable nail enhancements, so it really comes down to your natural nail type, daily work and activities, and how well you take care of your nails.
For example, acrylic nails can last longer than gel nails and hold their shape better for someone who uses their hands a lot (bangs their nails against hard surfaces).
On the other hand, gel nails are less likely to crack and break because they are more flexible than acrylic nails. This would be a good option for someone with weak or brittle nails.
Traditional acrylic is often known for the strong odor that comes from the liquid (monomer) portion. If the nail salon isn't well ventilated, some people may start showing symptoms of overexposure. This can include headaches, watery eyes, and runny nose.
All types of artificial nails can potentially cause allergic reactions and irritations. Allergies can appear on any part of the body, and tend to get worse over time. Whereas irritations are often more localized to where the nail treatment had been applied and is from overexposure.
Non-traditional or low to no odor acrylic systems do exist, but they aren't as popular because they take longer to harden.
Most gel products are low to no odor.
TIP: If you are ever feeling unwell during a nail service, let your nail technician know immediately, and seek medical help.
Pros and Cons of Gel Nails
Pros and Cons of Acrylic Nails
Are Gel Or Acrylic Nails Better?
Choosing between gel and acrylic nails really comes down to the health of your nails, your lifestyle, and what you’d like to achieve (length and shape). Both types of nail enhancements have their equal share of pros and cons. If you’re still uncertain which nail service to go with, a professional nail tech will be able to do a detailed consultation and offer you an option that’s the most suitable for you.