Gel vs. Acrylic: The Pros Weigh In on the Differences

Gel vs. Acrylic: The Pros Weigh In on the Differences

Thomas Bittel

There are numerous types of manicures and nail enhancements to choose from these days. Among the most common are gel and acrylic. The team at Valentino Beauty Pure will not only explain the differences and the benefits of both of these trendy manicure options but help you decide which is best for your lifestyle and your clients looking to try something new and fun.

What is a Gel Manicure?

Let us first go over exactly what a gel manicure is. As opposed to a regular manicure that is finished off with a nail polish that is easily chipped, gel nail polish is a chip-free polish. It is dried and hardened using a UV or LED light process that cures the polish for long-lasting color and nails that feel stronger but still flexible at the same time.

There are three steps to getting a professional gel manicure –

  • PREPPING: First, with a manicure prep the nail  - File  the nails to their desired shape and length, trimming down excess cuticle growth, and buff out the nail for the gel base coat.
  • BASE COAT: Next, a base coat layer goes on to prime the nails for the gel topcoat. These coats are set by placing your hands under the UV or LED light for 30 seconds.
  • GEL COLOR:  Without disturbing the base coat, apply a thin layer of your choice of color and cure under the LED lamp for 60 seconds.  
  • TOPCOAT: Finally, a glossy top coat is painted on and hardened using the same process under the UV or LED light.

How Long Does Gel Last?

Depending on your day-to-day activities, gel can stay intact on average between two to three weeks. If you are a little harsh and rough on your nails, then you may need to consider re-doing them every two weeks. 

Something to think about as well, is how fast your nails grow. Once your nails start to grow out, the gel manicure will not look as they once did when they were freshly done, because that gap will be visible between the gel color and your cuticle.  

How is Gel Removed?

The most important thing to remember when it’s time to remove the gel – remind your client that they should always go to a Professional Nail Technician! If the gel is removed incorrectly by peeling or pulling off, it will cause damage to the natural nail. Technicians will have the proper tools to handle your nail with care.

The nails are first buffed to remove the shine. then covered with a cotton ball soaked with acetone and then wrapped with aluminum foil to sit for about 10 to 15 minutes. Once the acetone does its job, the gel will wipe off without needing to scrape or file.

Why Choose Gel?

There are many reasons to choose a gel manicure:

  • It lasts longer than traditional nail polish.
  • The application process is an easy one that cures quickly, so no smudges.
  • They are lower maintenance, which helps financially because they do not need to be re-done as frequently.

The hardest part is what gel nail polish color to choose from. Gel polish comes in so many fabulous shades—our gel kits include hundreds of shades for everyday wear, special occasions, and especially sparkly ones for the holidays. 

Whether your client is a simplistic “Once I find the right palette, I never stray” kind of gal, or the daring “different and bold is always better,” there is something for everyone. From neon shades to glitter, the creative potential is endless.

What is Acrylic?

Whether you want to go with a natural, shorter-length nail or longer nails covered in designs, acrylic is a versatile solution.

Acrylic is made using a combination of liquid and a powder (known as a monomer and a polymer) that forms a soft bead and is applied using a brush. The product hardens as it polymerizes resulting in a hard protective layer over your natural nail. Since acrylic is a combination of liquid and powder that is laid over a base, an artificial tip can be added (adhered onto your natural nail) beforehand to extend the nail to the desired length. The shaping now begins by sanding and smoothing the acrylic. The acrylic is usually clear,but now comes in several nude options. Nail polish can then be added on as an option.

How Long Does It Last?

Just as a gel manicure, prepping the nail first is key. This will ensure they last as long as possible. So before getting your set of acrylic nails, your nails need to be manicured and cleaned to ensure a durable application for the best result. 

The length of time acrylics can last vary from person to person, depending on how they take care of and use their hands. For example, a person who does manual labor may have to re-do their acrylic nails much sooner than someone who does less work with their hands. Generally, acrylic nails usually last two to three weeks. However, wanting to change your nail shape or paint color may lead you more often to the salon to get a refresh…we have to match that perfect color to that perfect outfit, right?

Here are some highly suggested ways to help your acrylics last longer and stay in pristine shape:

  1. Treat your nails with care

Don’t abuse your nails. Handle them gently and intentionally. Avoid doing those daily activities like extreme typing on a keyboard, opening lids or cans, and definitely refrain from lifting heavy items with your fingernails.

  1. Wear gloves

If you do have to participate in any tasks that may damage your nails, wear protective gloves. The more exposure they have to water and cleaning products, will weaken your polish and cause chipping. Instead of scrubbing all those dishes, let the dishwasher do the dirty work!

  1. Use a topcoat

Instead of painting your acrylic nails with a regular polish, consider using a gel polish instead. You can get the best of both worlds – hard, durable nails, along with a chip-free protective coat. Though adding a gel topcoat can add to the cost, it will be well worth it.

  1. Stay away from Acetone

Acrylics and acetone are not a good combination. Acetone will take off the polish and deteriorate the acrylic solution and damage the nails.

Acrylic Removal & Maintenance

In comparison to gel, which needs to be taken off and reapplied each visit, more acrylic can either just be added to the new nail as it grows out (which is called getting a fill), or you may choose to have a new set of acrylics put on. A new set of acrylics usually need to be replaced every couple of months to ensure that they stay free of moisture.

To remove the acrylic from the nail, many technicians use a professional filing system to file the acrylic layer off. But first, similar to gel polish, it is best to soak each nail with acetone for about 30 minutes. This will break down the acrylic for easy removal.

Within that two-to-three-month period in between getting your new set of acrylics, a refill of acrylic is necessary to maintain your manicured nails. This process is needed to fill in the empty area between your cuticle and the existing acrylic nail that will be grown out in normally two weeks. More acrylic liquid and powder are used to fill, then get filed down and repainted for a finished look.

Why Choose Acrylic

Your natural nails may not be the length, shape, or strength you would like them to be. Acrylic can be used to achieve any look you want. If you have brittle, short nails that break easily, using acrylic will provide that hard protective layer that you need. In addition, the process of applying acrylic nails is fairly a quick one, which helps financially compared to other nail options that are more time-consuming. 

It is also a way to help with that bad habit of biting your natural nails too. Not only will your nails be durable, but they will also be fashion-forward. There are endless nail art design options and combinations to express yourself for every occasion.

Summary

Depending on your lifestyle and preferences, either option, gel or acrylic, may be a great choice for your client! Gel gives a more natural look and feel, while acrylics allow you to lengthen your nails and keep that hard outer protective coat. However, gel can be used on its own; it can also be added to the top of the acrylic to give you a long-lasting, strong finish. 

As long as you remind your clients to take care of their nails by getting regular manicures and keeping their hands protected from harsh conditions, both can stay looking their best for two to three weeks. Anyone can enjoy beautiful nails!

Sources: 

  1. How to File Nails Safely So They Don't Break or Peel | Healthline 
  2. Acrylic Nails: 8 Things You Need To Know Before An Appointment | Cosmopolitan 
  3. Everything to Know About Getting a Gel Manicure | Instyle