Difference Between Acrylic and Gel Nails
By Claire Miles - December 19, 2022

It is usually challenging to distinguish between a gel manicure and acrylic nails precisely. With so many nail polish options, the lines might become hazy when achieving chip-free manicure perfection. Is one genuinely superior to the other in the hunt for a manicure that won’t break or budge?

Table Summary

  1. It uses liquid monomer and powder polymer
It uses hard gel cured under UV lighting
  1. Lightweight and flexible
Thick and durable
Woman Fliling Nails With UV Lamp in Background

Getty images/Moment/ mikroman6


Acrylics are typically composed of a powder polymer and a liquid monomer combined to produce a bead-like ball of putty that is molded into your nails and hardens when exposed to air. Acrylic nails are made of acrylic, known as methyl methacrylate, and are also used to make several dental items. Unlike gel nail paint, acrylics do not require UV light to set into a long-lasting finish.

Under UV light, molecules link together to form gel nail polish, which cures a firm, glossy finish. Because of the drying process, gel polish may last for several weeks if properly cared for and can withstand wear and tear that conventional nail polish cannot.

Acrylic vs. Gel Nails

Acrylic is a powder and liquid mixture, whereas gel polish is already a liquid. Gel nail paint, since it is softer than acrylic, allows for more natural bending and flexibility of the nail. While some gel polish fans like the “softer” feel, its bendability can lead to chipping faster than acrylics; on the other hand, gel nails are noted for their high gloss appeal. Even better, they’re a perfect canvas for nail art.

Gel, like acrylic, lasts for weeks, but it also serves as a protective layer if you’re attempting to grow out your nails. A standard gel manicure lasts two to three weeks (or more) and can help keep fragile nails from breaking by providing an extra layer of protection. Acrylic hardens when exposed to air, but gel polish hardens when exposed to UV light.

If you fill in your acrylic nails, they can last for several weeks, but gel paint typically lasts two to three weeks. Also, acrylics must be removed using extended acetone soaks and e-filing, and Gel polish is readily removed with a light file and acetone.