Gel Nails vs. Acrylic Nails: Which is Better?

If you’re like most women, you probably ensure that your nails are freshly manicured at all times. Unfortunately, traditional manicures tend to begin peeling and chipping soon after nail polish application, maybe lasting as long as three or four days in some cases. Your conventional manicure may not even last four days if you wash a lot of dishes without wearing gloves or spend a lot of time in chlorinated pools. This can make the upkeep of your nails more time-consuming because your manicure (and pedicure) must be re-done on a frequent basis.

Acrylic and gel manicures were developed to prevent this problem, enabling many women to go two and sometimes three weeks in-between manicures. However, acrylic and gel manicures are completely different yet similar in many ways, but which one is better?

What is acrylic and why does it last so long?

Acrylic is a material that is created by mixing a special liquid monomer with a powder polymer, which hardens and forms the perfect material for a fake nail. Acrylic nails have been around since the 1970s, and they have always been popular, not only because they last such a long time, but also because they help to protect natural nails and enable them to grow. Acrylic nails can last up to three weeks because once they’re applied, the solvent seals itself to natural nails, providing an amazingly durable finish. Acrylic manicures and pedicures can be compared to the shell of a nut in its finished stage.

Gel nails as an alternative to acrylic

Gel nails were introduced in the 1980s as an alternative to acrylic. One thing that makes gel nails different from acrylic is the fact that gel nails must be set under a heated UV lamp after application in order to cure and dry them. Some people worry about UV exposure, but it’s such a small amount, for a short period of time, that it doesn’t cause much, if any, harm at all. If you opt for gel nails, you could always use sunscreen on your hands or even wear a pair of manicure gloves while your hands are under the lamp. This will significantly decrease the amount of UV you’re exposed to, so you won’t have to worry about any undesirable effects.

Gel nails last about two weeks or so, and they can be filled in or completely redone at that time. Most people opt for fill-ins, which entails adding gel polish to the area nearest the cuticle as a means of “touching up” the manicure. The manicure will appear freshly done, but fill-ins are less expensive than a complete re-do.

Gel nails or acrylic?

If you’re still on the fence about gel or acrylic nails, then here is a list of pros and cons of each, so you can make your final decision about which one is best.

Pros of gel nails –

  • An abundance of colors and designs to choose from
  • More natural-looking than acrylic
  • Gorgeous finish that women really admire
  • Long-lasting
  • Quick-drying (under the UV lamp)
  • Helps your natural nails to grow due to the protective layers of gel
  • Odorless, and no strong fumes
  • Fewer chemicals and side-effects

Cons of gel nails –

  • Expensive, depending on where you go
  • You may be tempted to peel off the gel once it starts to chip, which could remove layers of your natural nail in the process
  • Gel nail polish must be removed by soaking nails in acetone, which can dry out the nails and surrounding skin
  • Must be dried (cured) under a UV lamp
  • Your nails must be maintained in order to remain in good condition, but the gel can damage your nails over time, especially if you don’t take breaks in-between

Pros of acrylic nails –

  • More durable
  • Less expensive than gel nails
  • Act as a protective shell for natural nails
  • Can be removed easily
  • Any damage can easily be managed at home

Cons of acrylic nails –

  • It takes an extended period to dry and can’t be done quickly, like gel nails
  • They contain a greater amount of chemicals that can be especially hazardous to pregnant women
  • Higher risk of damage to natural nails
  • May fall off if not attached securely to natural nails
  • Don’t have a natural appearance, like gel nails
  • Strong fumes, so they can’t be considered eco-friendly, like gel nails

At-home manicures and pedicures

women doing manicure and pedicure at home

If you’re looking to save money and time, it’s possible to do your own manicure and pedicure at home, with either acrylic or gel. All the supplies you’ll need can be purchased online or in local stores, and with practice, you can perform a professional-looking manicure and pedicure without the need to leave home. Whether you want to create beautiful toe acrylics, or you want to do a gel manicure and pedicure, there are many helpful online tutorials that you can walk step-by- step throughout the entire process.

Even if you opt to do your own manicures and pedicures at home, you might want to treat yourself to a professional’s services for special occasions, especially when it comes to your birthday, special dates, anniversaries, and more. Professional nail salons will include a soaking and massage along with your services, which can make you feel like the pampered princess that you deserve to feel like.


For some people, gel nails are preferred to acrylic since gel doesn’t usually damage the natural nails as much as acrylic has the potential to do. Then, of course, there are the people who prefer the durability and added protection of acrylic as opposed to gel nails, as everyone is different and has their own preference when it comes to counterfeit nail material. Whether you opt for acrylic or gel nails, hopefully, you will be pretty satisfied with your selection, and your nails will remain beautiful for as long as possible.

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