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Acrylic vs. gel nails: which is better and what are the main differences

Karina VishnyakovaNews
What is the difference between acrylic and gel polish. Source: Instagram @iramshelton

If a long-lasting manicure is at the top of your beauty list, there is no better option than gel or acrylic nails. Both manicure methods can help you get a strong, shiny, chip-free mani that will last for weeks.

But what is the difference between them? Byrdie spoke to two nail experts to find out which is better.

Acrylic vs. gel nails: which is better and what are the main differences

The difference

Both acrylic and gel manicures require a lot of time. Manicurist Alison Martinez says you'll need to set aside at least 30-45 minutes for a basic mani with a gel polish coating and 60 minutes to three hours for gel extensions or acrylic nails.

Acrylic vs. gel nails: which is better and what are the main differences

She says that both manicures require thorough nail preparation. This involves removing any existing gel polish or acrylic, shaping and polishing the nails, and cleaning the cuticles.

Acrylic vs. gel nails: which is better and what are the main differences

For gel nails, the process includes the application of a base coat, gel polish, and top coat. Similarly, after the hard gel is applied to the nail or to a preformed plastic extender, it must be fixed with UV light. Gel polish lasts about two weeks on the nails.

Acrylic vs. gel nails: which is better and what are the main differences

As for the acrylic paste: the nails do not need UV light. Instead, it is fixed by exposure to air. Afterwards, traditional nail polish is usually applied over the acrylic and you have to wait for it to dry. With careful treatment, acrylic nails last about five weeks.

Appearance

Acrylic nails tend to look thicker and more voluminous than gel nails, especially if they are not properly filed. "However, well-applied acrylics can look similar to natural nails," says expert Rita Pinto. "Of course, the nails will be slightly thicker than natural nails because of the layers of monomer and powdered polymer. According to Martinez, gel nails can look a little more natural than acrylic nails, especially if the length is shorter.

Acrylic vs. gel nails: which is better and what are the main differences

How to choose what's right for you

When choosing between gel or acrylic manicures, consider your lifestyle, the current condition of your nails, and your budget. "If you work with your hands throughout the day, acrylic is probably a better option," Pinto says. "For those who want strong nails and prefer a certain shape, hard gel is a good choice," she adds. And if you need a quick, low-maintenance option, Martinez suggests a simple soft gel polish.

Acrylic vs. gel nails: which is better and what are the main differences

Conclusion

When it comes to gel and acrylic manicures, experts say that one is not better than the other. It all comes down to preference. With gel nails, there are many ways to achieve the look you want as you can choose soft gel, hard gel, or gel extensions, while there is only one way to create acrylic nails.

Acrylic vs. gel nails: which is better and what are the main differences

In general, the biggest differences come down to cost (acrylic is usually cheaper than gel extensions) and time (gel extensions are faster to maintain and dry in seconds thanks to UV lamps).

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