Gel Nails Vs. Acrylic Nails


Women who want to get their nails done often have a choice: gel nails vs. acrylic nails. Basically, the war between artificial nails are fought between these two types, each of which has its own pros and cons.

Comparing Gel Nails Vs. Acrylic Nails

Before getting nails done, here is a comparison of gel nails and acrylic nails that you can use to decide which treatment to offer:

What are Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic nails are made from methacrylate, a type of monomer liquid that is mixed with a polymer powder called PMMA (Poly(methyl methacrylate)). Once combined and processed, these chemicals can dry to a hard substance that looks like fingernails. It first came around in the 70s and was worn by women who liked the idea of having instantly long and polished nails.

The Pro & Cons of  Acrylic Nails

Pros – Due to the chemical makeup, acrylic nails are more durable than gel nails and typically last longer. If applied properly, acrylic nails can even provide a hard and sturdy layer of protection for the real fingernails underneath. They are cheaper in general due to their wide availability.

Cons – Acrylic nails are artificial nails and they do live up to that characteristic. If the client is going for a more natural look, then acrylic nails may not be a good choice. Once applied, acrylics also take a while to cure and set. These are hard and will not flex, not even slightly and there is only one texture to choose from. To make the nails appear as natural as possible, it takes a good bit of skill from the nail technician.

What Are Gel Nails?

Gel nails are made from the same combination of polymers and monomers as acrylic nails. The only difference is that a type of oligomers is added to make the them more flexible and thus, more natural-looking. Gel nails are usually offered in two types: light-cured and no-light. Light-cured gels harden and are set in place using UV light while no-light gels are cured and set using a gel activator.

The Pro & Cons of  Gel Nails

Pros – Gel nails appear and feel more natural than acrylic nails. They also tend to set more quickly and do not always require the application of a primer to bond the nail and the gel, so there is little risk of damage to the nail bed. With proper and skilled application, gel nails do not leave an impression on the fingernails. They are also available in different textures.

Cons – Gel nails typically have a higher price tag than acrylics and often do not last that long, so they have to be replaced more often. Light-cured gel nails also have to be set using UV light, so there is some concern regarding their long-term effects.

Have You Thought of Becoming A Nail Technician?

Providing clients with the best products and services is an important step in becoming an excellent nail technician or cosmetologist. Evergreen College can help you learn the pros and cons of gel nails vs. acrylic nails so you can help clients make the best decision to fit their needs. Contact us for course details today.

Frank Trieu
Vice President of Business Development & Industry Relations

Frank Trieu is a cosmetology industry leader, and despite his accomplishments and accolades, he still prioritizes students on the Evergreen campus. Through building relationships within the community and local salons, retail stores, and spas, he helps facilitate job placements for aspiring beauty professionals using his expansive network.

Happy Evergreen Beauty College Students


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10 years ago

Good article. Thank you for explaining the difference!

3 years ago

is it hard to go back to having natural nails if you decide to stop getting acrylics?

Helpful advice
Helpful advice
1 year ago
Reply to  JJ

Yes very much so…I’ve had two sets so far and after the first one I had to take a break for basketball season (I play) and it was extremely hard to go without my nails for two months, much less just stopping even after multiple sets (ofc take this with a grain of salt because nails help me with an insecurity) but also I adore my nails and don’t like taking even short breaks

Lisa Borradale
Lisa Borradale
2 years ago

Thank you for all the information. I love beautiful nails and my natural nails are just not strong enough to look good for long, break easily and nail polish comes off too quick .. so I am looking into investing in these just to make myself feel good and look nice. I don’t drink, smoke or go out to clubs, so it’s a worthy investment. Thanks again.

1 year ago

This helped a lot make my choice on which nails to make. Thanks! I think I’m gonna go for the gel nails.