The Difference Between Gel and Acrylic Nails

Beautifully maintained fingernails have been a long-standing trend for women in many cultures around the world. Over time, the intricate art of nail design and technology has become a career that many artistic individuals choose to pursue. With the amount of passionate and unique people entering the industry, new trends and styles are cropping up all the time. The acrylic nail trend has been around for years as the most popular choice in artificial nails. One new technique has challenged the popularity of acrylic nails: gel. What's the difference between acrylic and gel nails?

  • What they are made of.
  • They way they are cured.
  • The time they last.

Long french tip acrylic nails on woman's hand covering a red rose


Acrylic nails are created with liquid monomer and power polymer. Acrylic is unique in that it doesn't have to have a catalyst to harden other than air, and once dried it is clear. This creates a blank canvas for nail technicians to make tiny art! Acrylic nails can be the same length or longer than your natural nails.

According to Atelier Emmanuel, acrylics have pros and cons. One con is that they can damage your nail bed if improperly applied and maintained, and a large pro being that removal is easy and the nails last a long time compared to other methods.


Gel nails are added to your natural nails by first applying a base coat, then a colored polish, and finally a top coat. Additional color coats may be added if the color is not completely opaque. Between each coat a UV light is used to cure the nails. The UV light is necessary in the process because it is what hardens the polish.

Gel nails also have pros and cons to them. Gels are faster to have put on, but they, too, can result in nail damage if you're not careful.

WOman's hand in UV light nail polish curing manicure

Choosing Your Manicure

Gel and acrylic nails are both common manicuring techniques. While there are cons to each, that shouldn't drive you away from getting them! It's important to talk to your manicurist about cost, maintenance, and removal. You should also discuss what products are going to be used in the process so that you are aware of potential allergies and reactions.

A professional and knowledgeable manicurist or nail technician should be able to tell you the difference between gels and acrylics, and they should be able to help you make your choice! Always look for a licensed nail technician. Proper training is required to professionally operate and make money as a nail technician or manicurist. Don't be afraid to ask questions! Your handshake is your first impression so make sure your manicure says the right thing!

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