Want to nail your look? It’s all about the details. Focusing on your hair, makeup, and nails can take your style to the next level, and many look to colorful and unique nail designs to communicate personality and fun. 

A classic French manicure can communicate style and elegance, while a fun pattern can get you ready for the summertime or make a statement. Whatever you choose, your nail style can become a part of your personality and overall look. 

Those who want long-lasting and durable manicured nails will often opt for gels or acrylics. Acrylic or gel nail extensions can both create custom shapes like almond, oval, or coffin, and last for multiple weeks without the risk of chipping. 

Both application methods come with their own pros and cons, so how should you decide which is right for you? We’ve broken down some considerations.

comparing gel and acrylic application process

What’s the Difference Between Gel and Acrylic Nails?

The main difference between gel and acrylic nails is the application process — acrylics are made from liquid and powder, while gel is simply made from gel. Both methods are long-term and more durable than a traditional polish manicure, though the method for hardening the nails differs. 

For gel manicures, the product is painted onto the nail from a pot of gel then cured under a UV light to create a chemical reaction that hardens the nail. Acrylics, on the other hand, combine liquid and powder into a sort of dough, which is then painted onto the nail and air-dried. 

Remember this rule of thumb (no pun intended): If you ask for a gel manicure at your appointment, powder should never be involved; if you ask for acrylics, powder and liquid will be mixed to form a dough. Never let the esthetician dip your nail directly into a pot of powder, as that may signal that they’re using the powder on multiple customers and creating an unsanitary environment. 

what's the difference between gels and acrylics

Is Acrylic or Gel More Affordable?

Acrylics are generally cheaper than gel nails. Gel nails are more durable than acrylic nails and can last three to four weeks without maintenance, while acrylics may need to be filled in, repaired or shaped after application. 

A set of acrylic nails costs an estimated $35 to $60, depending on the color you choose and whether or not you opt for a design. A set of gel nails, on the other hand, could cost anywhere from $45 to $100 for a single session. 

What Lasts Longer, Gel or Acrylic?

Gel nails will typically last three to four weeks, while acrylic nails will last about two weeks. Gel is more flexible than acrylic nails, so they are more adaptable and durable. 

How long your nails will last depends on your day-to-day activities. People who use their hands more often or have jobs that may scuff or chip their nails may have to get their manicure repaired more often than those who don’t.

Your nail’s natural growth rate will also impact how long your manicure lasts, as you may want to get your nails filled in as the gap between the cuticle and the manicure grows. 

If your nails break over the course of the day, you can try an at-home hack to fix it. But overall, you should expect to get back to the nail salon every three weeks or so.

how to care for nail extension after removal

What’s Less Damaging For Nails?

Both gels and acrylics will most likely cause some damage to the nail but should be safe as long as they’re correctly applied and removed by a certified Pro. 

The overall damage to the nail doesn’t increase or decrease depending on the application method, so both gels and acrylics should be equally safe. The overall health of your nails and your lifestyle may impact the damage done by fake nails. For example, those with soft nails may want to opt for acrylics since they’re more sturdy than gel. 

Safe removal is also crucial to nail health. Removing acrylic nails usually involves soaking them in acetone, while removing gel nails may be a bit more involved because you’ll need to file the nails. You want to make sure you don’t rush the process or force the nails off, which can damage the nail beds. Though removing them at home is an option, a Pro will do the best job.

Avoiding salon malpractice

You’ll also want to make sure to watch out for malpractice at the salon. Over-filing can not only be painful, but it can also make your nail beds weaker and more prone to infections. Make sure your nail technician doesn’t over-file the nails during the application process.

Also make sure your technician isn’t using Methyl methacrylate monomer (MMA), a bonding agent that is prohibited in some localities because of the health risks. MMA can make the nail beds weaker, more fragile and more prone to infection. 

At the end of the day, the best way to stay safe when applying gel or acrylic nails is to talk to a trained Pro. They will be able to safely apply and remove the nails, giving you the fashionable look you want without risk of severe nail damage. 

Gel and acrylic nails are both great options for someone looking to showcase a bit of their personality on their hands. With so many colors, shapes and styles to choose from, you’re suer to find a type of manicure that will showcase your creativity to the world. It all starts with finding a Pro in your neighborhood who can bring your dreams to life — visit our directory to start your nail journey.