Gel Nails Vs. Acrylic Nails- What Is The Best Choice?


Gel Nails Vs. Acrylic Nails- What Is The Best Choice?

Women always have this question: do I get gel nails or acrylic nails? Well here is a good acrylic nail tip set to help you decide. Aside from the pros and cons, you will learn “how do acrylic nails work,” as well as “how much do acrylic nails cost?”

The Differences

Laura Williams, who holds a masters in education, gives her take on the differences between gel nails and acrylic nails on

About Acrylic Nails

Acrylic nails have been a staple in the beauty industry for years, and this staying power has contributed to their ongoing popularity. Donne Geer, co-founder of Hey, Nice Nails! explains the application process this way:

"Acrylics are applied using a liquid monomer and a powder polymer to create a hard protective layer over your natural nails. Acrylics only harden when exposed to air." When the acrylic hardens, it provides a perfect canvas for applying nail color.

Gel Nail Basics

Jamie White, beauty and product expert at Spaciety notes that "gel nail application provides the strength of acrylic nails with the appearance of natural nails." Unlike acrylic nails, gel nails only harden when exposed to UV light.

Geer explains that "Gel polishes are similar to nail polish - you have a base coat, polish color and top coat. Each coat has to be cured in the UV light for two to three minutes." Both types of nails undergo chemical process to bond to the natural nail, however, there are some differences between the two.

Gel Nails or Acrylic Nails…Which is Better?

Gel and acrylic nails have similar results. They can lengthen short nails, strengthen nails, and make your fingers look longer and more slender. There are some pros and cons that might help you decide which nail application to choose.

Pros of Acrylic Nails

Cons of Acrylic Nails

  • They can damage your nail bed, and according to White, this damage can create a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria.
  • You usually need to get them removed at the salon. But here are some tips to bypass that by removing them at home.
  • Acrylics may look less natural than gel nails, especially if applied incorrectly.
  • The application process involves strong chemicals and fumes - pregnant women are advised not to use acrylic nails during pregnancy.

Pros of Gel Nails

  • Gel nails may look more natural and glossy than other types of cosmetic nails.
  • The curing time is faster than acrylics.
  • Gel nail mixtures lack the fumes associated with acrylic nails - they're considered a safer, more eco-friendly option.

Cons of Gel Nails

  • They don't last as long and are less durable than acrylic, even though they tend to cost more.
  • Most gel nails require a UV light for curing, so they're harder to do at home.
  • If a gel nail breaks, you may be in for some trouble. It can sometimes be more of a shatter effect than a clean break, so self-fixing a break is not usually an option. You'll need to make an appointment right away with your manicurist.
  • Gel nails often need to be filed off, although there are some soak-off versions.

While both types of nails can be applied at home, application might be best left to a professional. Acrylic nail fumes may overwhelm you at your house, and without a UV light, you won't be able to get gel nails to harden.

As far as finishing touches, you can paint, you can do French tips, or create other designs on either type of nail. Some people think that airbrushing looks better on gel nails because they have a more glossy finish.

Making the Choice

Donne Geer says that hands-down "Soak off gels are the way to go. There's no damage to the nail and it doesn't require any filing."

That said, there are many variables to consider when it comes to choosing artificial nails, so you may want to confer with a nail technician in your area to discuss options. Ask your friends who they use or call the Better Business Bureau before going to a shop.


Kara offers some insight about her acrylic nails on the website XOVain in the next few paragraphs. She will give you more information on acrylic tips.

Find a nail lady you love and be faithful to her.

I’ve had three nail technicians since starting my acrylic career: Kathy, Anna and Rachel. Each one is special to me, though geography does come between us. Find someone you connect with, who knows your style and isn’t afraid to help you bust out of your comfort zone every so often. Once, Anna had me wearing hot-pink and leopard-print claws with rhinestones. It was so not my style, but I loved it. I tip my technicians in cash and try to tip 30-40% each time. Rachel sings as she does my nails! Bring her some nail inspiration and she can most likely recreate anything! Here are 5 Ideas For Cute Acrylic Nails.

Keep your nails clean.

I have a nail brush and use it regularly to scrub gunk out from under my tips, especially when they get super-long. Wash your hands all the time! Keeping your acrylics clean helps decrease the risk of infection.

Get regular fills.

A friend of mine who shall remain nameless once went a month without a fill and ended up getting a pretty nasty infection when a nail broke. If you don’t get fills often, the nail is more likely to separate from your natural nail bed and expose it to nasty gunk. I go every two to three weeks without fail.

How much are acrylic nails? Well, budget for it.

Having acrylics isn’t cheap. I thought it would be relatively inexpensive when I started, but it’s not. However, I made the choice to work it into my personal-care expenses; it’s worth it for me because my nails always look professional and cared for. A fill with gel polish at my salon is $35, plus tip. A new set, which you get after about four months, costs about $50. I could go somewhere cheaper, but salon cleanliness and technique is important to me.

Getting a new set is a pain

I have really weak natural nails, and having acrylics isn’t helping that. As a matter of fact, I actually had them taken off for a few days in September and my real nails were so brittle that they split down the center. I put my tips back on immediately. I missed them too much anyway. When I get a new set—around the four-month mark—I soak my nails in acetone for a few minutes, then we gently file the old set down, and repeat the process a few times. This is a lot more gentle than having the old set removed with a clipper and an acrylic nail shoved under my existing nails to pry them off. I HATE that process and refuse to have it done.

You will adjust to life with acrylics, I promise.

I actually can’t text without mine. I use the sides of my nails to type on my iPhone. Sure, certain things become impossible, like picking a penny off the floor or peeling a sticker. But you’ll definitely get addicted to how good they look all the time.

Acrylic nails are traditionally stiff, without any give

Nails are meant to have flexibility. Stern adds, “If the nail hits a hard object, it can more easily separate from the nail bed (onycholysis).”

Artificial nails may heighten risk of infection

“Bacteria that is not completely removed from a nail plate prior to the application of an enhancement can lead to Pseudomonas (bacteria that produces a green pigment, hence the term ‘greenies’) to grow in the space between the nail plate and the enhancement,” says Stern. “Also, damaged nails that have areas of separation can predispose a salon-goer to this issue.”

Are there healthier or safer alternatives to acrylic nails?

Doctors believe there really are no healthy alternatives to adding a false “coat of armor” to your nails. Instead, she suggests taking a break from polish and acrylics in order to achieve strong, youthful nails.

When shopping for nail polishes that aren’t loaded with harmful chemicals, Washick recommends those that are free of resins and formaldehyde. “You’ll usually be able to spot them because the product will boast something along the lines of “3-Free” or “5-Free.” That means that those polishes are free from known harmful chemicals,” she says.


Finally, Caitlin Thornton at XOJane offers five tips you might have not known about acrylic nails that DEFINITELY worth considering.


Christina at xoVain just wrote about all of the things you’ll need to re-learn when you get acrylic nails, like typing and texting, opening cans (use a knife!), and applying lip balms and moisturizers and things. (For which you should simply use all of the makeup brushes.)

However, there are a few things that are simply fucking impossible. Or that frustrate me so much, I whine like a toddler until one of my roommates or the guy I’m banging does it for me.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Clasping necklaces
  • Buttoning adorable skirts and shirts
  • Untying gnarly knots
  • Pulling your debit card out of stupid L.A. parking meters


For someone who was likened to a '70s Barbie at the pool last week (and you must know what JOY and BLISS that brought me), I don’t consider myself the most dainty lady. I go to punk shows. My painting style is a bit manic, because seriously, fuck that canvas.

I may or may not have pulled up a misogynistic douche by his nostrils and punched him in the face in Santa Monica a few weeks ago.

(Note that I said "may have." The truth remains a mystery!)

The breakage below the fake tip happened when I was angrily throwing paint at a canvas in my backyard. I felt the painful tug of the acrylic pulling on my real nail for the next couple of days, but thought I could wait for it to grow before getting it replaced. 'Cause you know. That seemed like it would hurt.

Then I tried to open a car door. As I’m obnoxiously both pigeon-toed and accident-prone, there are several things that terrify me, post-stupid injuries.

This includes the trunk of my car, wooden staircases, anyone under the age of 17 in a mosh pit — 'cause those kids DGAF. And now, car door handles.

So I’ve broken a [real] nail before. And holy mother of dog, THERE IS SO MUCH BLOOD. Like, squirting out, kung-fu-movie style.

I washed my hands with soap and water immediately, whilst screaming, applied Neosporin to the whole nail, and wrapped it with Band-Aids. Once it stopped gushing blood, I spent a few days going on and off with wrapping it and letting it breathe, keeping it clean and applying Neosporin to it as often as I could.

I had to wait for the nail to heal and grow out about a centimeter before I could get another acrylic put on. Because I am a masochist.


Acrylic nails are blunter than real nails. So if you’re into digging your claws into your partner’s back during sexual activities and such, they're probably not for you.

Scratching still feels ahhhh so very good, though. Dogs seem to get all, “OH, YES! YES! GOD YES,” as I scratch their adorable little heads with acrylics.

Now that I’ve taken them off and have nubs (more on that in a minute), our house rat-dog, Arya, does not seem as interested in me. That bitch.


If you wear soft contact lenses, get ready to tear them!

Taking out and putting in my contacts was one thing I had to relearn with acrylics. Still, the rate of replacing my lenses definitely shoots up when I have them.

Should you plan on having an adult sleepover, a road trip, or a slumber party with face masks, video games, and snacks — as slumber parties are still the shit, dammit — always bring at least one extra set of contacts with you.


I initially had so many more images for this post, like the DIY acrylic-removal process (fucking acetone), and me attempting to pull a card out of a meter and clasp a necklace — as again, attempting such feats with acrylics makes me feel like a helpless toddler.

After four months with acrylics, I decided to remove them to give my real nails a breather.

Then I attempted to grab a glass, misjudged my grip, AND SPILLED MY DRINK ONTO MY KEYBOARD.

(Side note: NEVER tip your laptop upside down if you get even the tiniest amount of liquid on it. This causes the liquid to seep deeper into your computer’s system. And then you have to hold back tears at the Apple store when the Genius tells you that you destroyed your computer and it’d probably be more economical to get a new one.)

So I lost a couple days of work. Whatever. [Sobs]

The only photo that survived the Great Laptop Ruining of 2015. I clipped my faux-nails, filed them down, soaked them in acetone, and removed any remaining acrylic with a cuticle clipper.

Other things that suddenly become difficult after a few months of having nails:

  • Texting and typing — I seriously think I was better typing with fakes, as I accidentally called my new dude love interest a “whatchamacallit” yesterday after my phone autocorrected me
  • Getting animals to love you
  • Feeling like a sexy '70s Barbie

I’m getting my nails back ASAP.

Until then, I’m maintaining my nails with occasionally soft-filing them into a short, round shape, regularly smearing them with almond oil, and painting them with Sally Hansen Green Tea Nail Strengthener.

In Conclusion

Having read the evidence, you now the pros and cons of acrylics nails. You also know that acrylic nails can cost a pretty penny, and when someone asks “how much does it cost to get acrylic nails?,” you can say “not exactly all that cheap, plus here’s what I read about them.”

h/t: XOVain, Love to Know, The Huffington Post, XOJane



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