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What's the difference between acrylic and gel nails?

Gel and acrylic nails are part of those endless yet attractive options you will be faced with. However, users are still not sure about the difference between both manicures. It's important to understand what they are before deep-diving into the nail extension world.

Acrylic vs Gel Nails

Acrylic nails are made by mixing a liquid (monomer) and powder (polymer) to create a paste, which is then applied to the natural nails. The mixture hardens and forms a durable layer over the natural nails. Acrylic nails are known for their durability and strength, and they can be shaped and filed to create various looks. However, they can also be harsh on natural nails and may cause damage if not applied or maintained correctly by a nail technician.

Gel nails are applied using a gel-based polish cured under a UV lamp. The resulting nails are shiny and look natural, and the gel polish is typically more flexible than acrylic. Gel nails are also known for being easy to remove and less likely to cause damage to natural nails. However, they are typically more expensive than acrylic nails and require a UV lamp for curing.


Acrylic nails can last upwards of three weeks and be filled a couple of times before an entirely new set is needed. Since acrylic nails are durable, you typically don’t have to worry too much about your nails cracking, breaking, or lifting while you have them.

Gel nail polish typically lasts around two weeks without chipping, though, the polish may start to peel or lift at the corners as you get closer to the 14-day mark. It’s stronger than regular nail polish but not as strong as acrylic because it sits on your natural nails. So, whatever state your natural nails are in will affect how strong your gel nail polish is.


Typically, acrylic nails are removed in the salon by a nail technician, whereas gel nails can be removed at home with ease. To remove gel nails all you need to do is soak them off and you’re good to go. Typically, a cotton ball soaked in acetone is placed over the nail, then each nail is wrapped in aluminium foil. After 10 minutes, the gel polish can easily scrape off and you’re ready for a new manicure.

Acrylic nails are removed with acetone, cotton and foil but the process is a bit more lengthy. This process can be harsh on the natural nails and may cause damage if not done correctly by a nail technician.


Acrylic and gel nails can vary in cost depending on the location, nail salon and nail technician. Still, acrylic nails generally tend to be less expensive than gel nails.

To learn more we recommend professional Acrylic and Gel Nail courses at NTC nail technician courses.

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