Acrylic vs. Gel Nails: Understanding the Key Differences

When it comes to nail enhancements, acrylic and gel nails are two of the most popular options that offer a beautiful, long-lasting manicure. Both acrylic and gel nails are artificial nail extensions that are applied over natural nails to create a polished and manicured look. However, there are some key differences between the two in terms of their composition, application process, durability, and maintenance.

Let's dive into the details to understand the difference between acrylic and gel nails:


Acrylic nails are made from a combination of a liquid monomer and a powdered polymer. When the two components are mixed, they create a thick, malleable substance that can be shaped and sculpted onto the natural nails. Acrylic nails harden as the liquid monomer evaporates, creating a strong and durable extension.

On the other hand, gel nails are made from a gel-like substance that is applied in layers and then cured under a UV or LED lamp. The gel is typically a pre-mixed substance that comes in a jar or a bottle, and it is usually available in different viscosities to create various effects, such as natural, French tip, or sculptured nails. Gel nails harden through the curing process, which is initiated by the UV or LED light, resulting in a glossy and durable finish.

Application Process:

The application process for acrylic nails involves mixing the liquid monomer and powdered polymer to create a workable bead of acrylic, which is then applied to the natural nails and shaped using a brush. The acrylic is air-dried, and the process may require multiple layers to achieve the desired thickness and shape. Once the acrylic nails are set, they can be further filed, buffed, and polished to create a smooth and even surface.

Gel nails, on the other hand, are applied in layers of gel, which are cured under a UV or LED lamp after each layer is applied. The gel is typically brushed onto the natural nails in a liquid form and then shaped using a brush or a tool. Once the desired shape is achieved, the nails are cured under the lamp to harden the gel. Gel nails require less filing and shaping compared to acrylic nails, as the gel is self-leveling and does not require air-drying.


Both acrylic and gel nails are known for their durability and long-lasting nature. Acrylic nails are generally considered to be stronger and more durable than gel nails. They are less prone to chipping and breaking, making them suitable for those who have weak or brittle nails. Acrylic nails can also be easily filled or repaired if damaged, which makes them a popular choice for those who require regular maintenance.

Gel nails, on the other hand, are known for their flexibility and natural-looking finish. Gel nails are more flexible than acrylic nails, which can make them less prone to cracking or breaking. However, they may not be as durable as acrylic nails and may require more frequent maintenance. Gel nails are generally recommended for those who prefer a natural-looking finish and do not require excessive length or thickness.


Both acrylic and gel nails require regular maintenance to keep them looking their best. Acrylic nails may require infills or fills every 2-3 weeks, depending on the rate of natural nail growth. Fills involve filing down the existing acrylic and applying new acrylic to the regrowth area to maintain the shape and length of the nails. Acrylic nails may also require occasional repairs if they chip or break.

Gel nails also require maintenance, typically in the form of gel refills every 2-3 weeks. Gel refills involve filing down the existing gel and applying new gel to the regrowth area, followed by curing under the UV or LED lamp. Gel nails may also require occasional repairs if they chip or break.


In terms of removal, both acrylic and gel nails require proper removal techniques to avoid damaging the natural nails. Acrylic nails can be soaked off in acetone or removed by gently filing them down, while gel nails require soaking in acetone or using a gel nail remover specifically formulated for gel nails. For hard gels, The removal process requires the hard gel to be filed off as it cannot be soaked off. It's important to follow the recommended removal process and avoid picking or peeling off the nails, as this can cause damage to the natural nails.


The cost of acrylic and gel nails can vary depending on the location, salon, and the level of expertise of the nail technician. Generally, acrylic nails tend to be more affordable than gel nails, as the materials used in acrylic nails are less expensive. However, the cost may also depend on the complexity of the design, length, and thickness of the nails, as well as any additional nail art or embellishments.

When deciding between acrylic and gel nails, it's important to consider your personal preferences, lifestyle, and budget. If you prefer a natural-looking finish and are willing to go for more frequent maintenance, gel nails may be a suitable option. On the other hand, if you prioritize durability and are comfortable with regular maintenance, acrylic nails may be a better choice. It's always recommended to consult with a professional nail technician to determine which option is best for you and to ensure proper application and maintenance for healthy and beautiful nails.

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