Acrylic vs Gel Nails: What’s the difference?

Besides the long curly hair and the glowing red lips, the next thing that captures the attention of admirers is the fingers. When it comes to getting your nails done the trend has changed. Now, rather than just one type of nail, there is a large variety to choose from. It is good though, and we are excited about the fact that we can now choose from a variety of nail options.  

Have you ever come across a confused child listening to an advanced discussion from adults and moping cluelessly? That’s the exact kind of feeling you get when you get into a nail salon to do your nails without any clue about the different kinds of nails. Having a good knowledge of the different types of nails will help you to decide which is best for you. This article will tell you all you need to know about acrylic vs gel nails.    

What are acrylic nails

Acrylic nails, also known as artificial nails, are made from a mixture of polymer powder and monomer liquid and are useful for nail extension and hardening. If you are one of the people that find it difficult to grow long natural nails or experience chipping and broken nails, the acrylic nail can help you fix that problem.

Acrylic is more difficult to do at home. You may require the attention of a professional.  However, a good alternative would be purchasing reusable press-on nails from Clutch Nails that are similar to acrylic nails.

The following are easy steps to fix your acrylic nails.

  • Step 1: File the top of your nails
  • Step 2: Glue your nail extension halfway up the nail (not to set up at the cuticle)
  • Step 3: Mix the acrylic powder(polymer) and the liquid monomer liquid and apply to your nails starting from the base coat to the top coat
  • Step 4: After applying the acrylic nails, allow to air-dry before proceeding to buff the nails
  • Step 5: Finish up with a top coat and a polish of your choice

The popularity of acrylic is popularized by celebrities like Kylie Jenner who have made it a part of their fashion accessories. A lot of people love acrylic nails because they can last up to thirty days before a replacement will be required—of course, it will need to be filled every two weeks.


There are many good sides to using the acrylic nails.

  • Acrylic has a long-lasting effect. They can stay for up to 30 days before a replacement is required
  • They are suitable with nail extension
  • Acrylic nails help to improve the strength of the nails and give a fierce look.


  • Fixing the acrylic nail requires the services of a professional
  • The process of doing acrylic nails is time-consuming
  • Acrylic nails are difficult to remove
  • The removal process requires soaking the nails in liquid acetone for some time and buffing off the acrylic, which can dry up your nail bed causing them to be brittle
  • The buffing process of the acrylic nails can weaken the natural nails
  • The mixture has a strong smell which can be unpleasant to most people
  • Acrylic requires maintenance more frequently to help it last long

Before you decide to go for acrylic nails, it is good to weigh the odds. If you already have brittle nails, simply buy a set of quality press-on c nails. much similar to nails from Clutch Nails. They can be a good substitute when you are giving your nails a break.

What are gel nails

Gel nails are made of gel. Gel nails are not gel extensions, rather, a way to keep your fingers well polished and looking fresh for up to two weeks. The process of doing a gel nail polish is simple and resembles every inch like applying your normal nail polish. The only difference is the fact that you have to wait for the nails to cure using a UV light.

Applying a gel nail is very easy and does not involve complex steps.

  • Step 1: Wash the hands properly with soap and water and get rid of any oil or cream on the fingers. Wipe the hands with a paper towel and allow it to dry
  • Step 2: Apply your gel nail
  • Step 3: Cure your gel under a UV light for a glossy finish

If you have a busy schedule, sitting down with your nails under a UV lamp can be a traumatic experience. You may choose to go with one of the collections of glossy nails from Clutch Nails for a similar appeal. Like acrylic, gel nails have their pros and cons.


  • Gel nails are very easy to apply and do not involve any complex process and mixtures
  • The smell is not as strong as that of the acrylic
  • It cures very fast under a UV light and appears glossy with a natural look
  • Gel nails do not damage the nails as much as the acrylic and they are also chip-free


  • Gel nails are not very easy to remove when you’re tired of wearing them
  • The removal process involves soaking the fingers in acetone liquid and buffing off the nails which can weaken and dry up your natural nails causing then to brittle
  • Cures under a UV light which has some negative implications on your skin health
  • The carrying period of gel nails are very short

What is the major difference between acrylic and gel nails?

Brittney Boyce, a renowned nail art artist, simplified the difference between the acrylic and the gel to make it easier to understand. In her opinion, she pointed out four things to take note of when discussing the differences between acrylic and gel nails.

  • The mixing process
  • The mode of application
  • The thickness of the nails
  • The method of removal of the nails

When it comes to hardness, acrylic nails are tougher and less flexible than gel nails. For those who are new to the nail business, mixing the polymer dip powder and monomer liquid to get the right past can be a struggle. However, for experts who have worked with deep powder before or are conversant with nails, the process is not as complex. The truth is, even deep dip powder is also a form of acrylic.

According to Boyce, the greatest challenge with the acrylic is it’s damaging effect to the nails as a result of the tedious removal process. Conversely, gel nails are more flexible and not as hard as the acrylic. They almost feel like your own nails except for their glossy appearance, which can be toned down with nail lacquer.

Interestingly, the Clutch Nail range of press-on nail extensions appear as glossy as gel nails and can easily be fixed and removed with minimal soaking. Thus, they have less damaging effects on the fingers. Boyce points out that, the major difference between the chemical content of gel nails and the acrylic is that gel is already mixed and requires only curing with a UV light, while for the acrylic, the mixing is done right there in the salon.

According to Shirley Cheng, another New York-based nail artist, gel nails tend to be more expensive as they don’t have the strong smell of the acrylic, feels natural, and are more flexible than the acrylic.

Between acrylic and gel nails, which is more durable?

A lot of nail professionals go with gel nails when it comes to durability because of its flexibility and natural appearance. However, this does not undermine the fact that acrylic is also super durable. The only problem is that for the acrylic to last long on the nails, they need regular maintenance as the natural nail grows.

Again, Cheng compares both nails to plastic(gel) and glass(acrylic).  In her view, even though a glass cup might look tougher, it can shatter more easily when they drop while plastic will remain perfectly fine even after a fall.

Nonetheless, according to Cheng, a professional nail artist should be able to understand and customize nails according to your lifestyle, whether it’s acrylic or gel. She is also of the view that, while acrylic appears very tough, the use of Methyl Methacrylate (originally designed for teeth and bone repair) as acrylic by nail artists should be avoided since they require a lot of filing and damaging of the natural nails for them to stick properly.  

Acrylic vs gel nails, which is less damaging to the natural nails?

The amount of damage that can occur on your nails will depend on the skill level of your nail technician. The nail technician must examine your natural nails and determine what is best for you. Manicurist (manicure artiste) Naomi Gonzalez-Longstaff explains that it is important to examine the nature of the clients' nails to suggest what is best for them. A client with a soft and splitting nail requires a nail that will strengthen the natural nails. Therefore, acrylic will be best for the client. On the other hand, a client whose nails are hard and brittle needs a gel manicure or gel polish to make the nails more flexible.


Once a nail technician understands what your nails need, nail design, nail enhancement, etc., every nail treatment will have the same result of producing overly healthy and beautiful nails with minimal damage to the natural nails. Really, this should be your goal. Always place the health of your nails over beauty.


Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published