Difference Between Gel and Acrylic Nails

Difference Between Gel and Acrylic Nails

The main difference between gel and acrylic nails is that gel nails give a more glossy finish and natural look, unlike acrylic nails, which are best for adding sturdiness and durability to the nails.

Read this article to understand other differences between gel and acrylic nail art forms to pick the best for yourself.

Gel vs. Acrylic

Gel vs Acrylic
Appear glossy and freshly manicured Appearance Appear unnatural and don’t have a glossy look
Two weeks Durability More than two weeks
Flexible Flexibility Hard
Require more time Drying Time Require less time
Cured under UV rays Curing Process Cured in air
Filed off completely Removal Process Requires acetone treatment
3-step process – brush, nail polish, and final coating with UV exposure on each layer Application Process Applied either on the natural nail bed or with extensions and sets under fan or air
Odorless, no odor during application Smell It gives off an odor during application
Damaging if not applied properly Effects on Nail Damaging along with reaction on skin if not applied properly
More expensive Cost Less expensive

What are Gel Nails?

Gel nails are artificial nails (or fake nails) that look similar to your natural nails. They are a mix of a monomer liquid and polymer powder. Gel nails are standard acrylic nails, but they appear more lustrous. 

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Three-Step Process

  • Step 1: Brushing a base coat
  • Step 2: Nail polish
  • Step 3: Top coat on natural nails

Every coat is then exposed to a UV lamp or LED light for 30 seconds to two minutes for drying. UV light prevents the smudging of nail polish. 


How Long Do Gel Nails Last? 

On average, gel nail polish can last for two weeks or more. The chances of getting them ruined are greater when you keep them for a long time. However, you can make them last longer by taking a few precautions. 

Tips for Caring for Gel Nails

  • Use cuticle oil 
  • Fill your nails regularly
  • Wear a top coat 
  • Keep the nails dry 

How to Remove Gel Nails?

You can visit your nail stylist after two weeks to get them removed gently. Or follow an online tutorial to remove your gel nails at home

Hard vs. Soft Gel Nails

The difference between these two gel nail designs is that hard gel is stronger and harder, so it protects nails from bending and breaking and stays on longer than soft gel.

What are Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic nails are another popular artificial nail. Acrylic nails are made by combining liquid monomers and acrylic glass. This substance is made into tiny beads pressed on the nail with a brush. 

The Acrylic Nail Process

After acrylic nail shaping, a regular base coat is applied, followed by a nail polish color and top coat. They are long-lasting, and the polish doesn’t chip off easily.


How Long Do Acrylic Nails Last?

Acrylic nails are durable and last for about six to eight weeks, with a fill needed every two to three weeks. However, you can keep them longer by taking precautions.

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Tips for Caring for Acrylic Nails

  • Apply cuticle oil
  • Use moisturizer
  • Keep your hands dry 

How to Remove Acrylic Nails

While it’s possible to remove your own acrylic nails, it’s not recommended. The safest way to remove acrylic nails is by consulting a professional manicurist. 

Difference Between Gel and Acrylic Nails

Gel and acrylic nails are very different from each other.


Gel nails appear more natural, glossy, and freshly manicured for up to two weeks. However, acrylic nails appear less natural, especially if misapplied.

How Long Does Each Last?

Gel nails last up to two weeks, while acrylic nails last up to six to eight weeks.

Drying Time

Every layer of gel nails must be exposed to sunlight for a cure. Thus, it requires more time. However, acrylic nails get dried faster.

Curing Process

Gel nails are cured using UV light, while acrylic nails are cured in the air under the fan.

Removal Process

Acrylic nails must be soaked in acetone and buffed off, while gel nails must ultimately be filed off.

Application Process

Gel nails require a three-step process that includes brushing a base coat, nail polish, and a top coat on natural nails. Every coat is exposed to UV light for 30 seconds to two minutes for drying.

Acrylic nails are applied either on the natural nail bed or with extensions. It sets naturally in minutes without the help of any equipment.


Gel nails are odorless and give off no smell during application. However, acrylic nails give off a strong smell during application.

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Effects on Nails

Both acrylic nails and gel nails come with risk and damage. 

However, gel nails are more damaging if not applied or removed properly. Acrylic nails may cause mild damage to nails when applied or removed incorrectly. 

Also, there is the risk of allergic reaction when the primer comes in contact with the skin.


Gel nails are more expensive than acrylic nails because of their polished appearance. 


Gel nails are more flexible, while acrylic nails are hard and robust. 

Will You Choose Gel or Acrylic?

Gel and acrylic nails are two artificial nail styling techniques that allow you to express your style. The key difference is that gel nails appear more glossy and natural, while acrylic nails appear unnatural. 

Now that the difference between the two nail arts is clear, you can make more informed decisions. Consider lifestyle, job, personal taste, and budget while choosing your favorite manicure.

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Vanessa is passionate about written communication, especially after beginning her career as a middle school English teacher. She’s an experienced content marketer as well. Vanessa loves to analyze, compare, and contrast, which is why she writes for ContrastHub. Besides writing, Vanessa is a wife, mom, entrepreneur, spicy food enthusiast, comedy nerd and lifelong learner.

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