Acrylics vs Gels! What’s The Difference?

In Acrylic Nails, Choosing the right salon for you, Gel Nail Enhancements on November 21, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Nail Technicians have been at war for decades over this subject. Heated arguments break out over this very subject. Nail Techs have very strong opinions about their preference. If you want to start a fight in a bar with Nail Techs, bring this subject up.

I prefer gels and specialize in them. I have nothing against acrylics, after all I built my entire business with acrylics, I just prefer gels now. so keep in mind as you read this blog post that I am favorable to gels. A Nail Tech who is favorable to acrylics is welcome to add any “pros” to the acrylic “pros” list.

So here are the “pros”and “cons” of acrylics and gels.

I’ll start with the “pros” and “cons” of gel nail enhancements.

Gel nail “pros”

Light weight
Non yellowing
Natural feeling
Self leveling
Easy to file
Crystal clear
Unaffected by room temperature
Fully cured at end of service
Pre mixed
Available in many colors
Custom colors can be mixed
Complete freedom modeling (any shape/look can be achieved)
Can be used as natural nail overlay, tip with overlay or sculpted
Will adhere to other gel brands
Will adhere to some acrylic brands, mostly brands who also have a gel line of product
Extremely high shine that lasts weeks

Gel nail “cons”
Must be cured in UV lamp (electricity required)
Heat spike possible while curing
Higher cost
Cannot be used over all acrylic brands or wraps (will not adhere)

Now for the “pros” and “cons” of acrylics

Acrylic nail “pros”

Available in many colors
Custom colors can be mixed
Complete freedom modeling (any shape/look can be achieved)
Can be serviced during power outage (air dry)
No heat spike
Can be used as natural nail overlay, tip with overlay or sculpted
Will adhere to anything (other acrylic brands, wraps and gels)

Acrylic nail “cons”

Odor (gives me a headache)
Takes up to 24 hours to fully cure
Will yellow if client does not properly care for enhancements
Harder to file
Not as self leveling
Tricky to master mix ratio
Room temperature/client hand temperature affects set up
Must be buffed, polished or gel sealed to achieve high shine
Every discount salon does them and some have given them a bad reputation. Clients often ask why I charge more than the salon down the street for acrylic? Aren’t all acrylics the same? The answer is no, all acrylics are not the same, but, try to get a client who is price shopping to listen to your whole sales pitch. Good luck on that.

General “pros” and “cons” of both acrylics and gels


Great looking nails can be created by a skilled Nail Tech using either product.
Both products are safe to use when used properly
Neither product will damage the natural nail when applied, maintained and removed properly


Thick, ugly nails can be created by an unskilled salon employee using either product
Good quality product is costly
Cheaper is not better. Cheap acrylic will yellow, become brittle and chip off. Cheap gel is not strong, may yellow, will become brittle and chip off.
Both products require hours of training and practice to master
The application process is not the same for both products requiring hours of education for each product
A salon employee can damage the natural nail using either product if applied, maintained or removed improperly
Both products require regular salon maintainance

So which is better? The answer is that it is more an issue of client needs and Nail Tech expertise. Which ever product the Nail Tech is better educated and more experienced with is the product with which she/he will do their best work.

My advise, choose a skilled Nail Tech who’s work you like and allow the Nail Tech to decide the best service for you.

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  2. I couldnt find a way to just contact you on here, but I have a question for you. I am a cosmetologist and I have an LED light at home for Shellac, gelish, etc but I would like to have gel enhancements. I want tips and everything on my nails, but I cant seem to find a gel that will cure with an LED light that isnt a gel POLISH. Can you recommend a product? Thanks!

    • Hey Stephonie,
      Gelish and OPI both make LED gels. Both are hard gels that will not soak off, both insist that you use their LED lamp. The Gelish LED lamp is around $300 and the OPI lamp is $500. Sometimes they both have sales and you can get them for $50 off. State Beauty Supply and Nailco have run the OPI lamp special in the past and Nailtech Supply is who ran the Gelish lamp special.
      I use Gelish Clear Builder Gel for my full sets and fills. The clear gel is too thin for my technique. Eventually I may master the thinner clear gel fill application, working on it.
      Here is the link to Nailtech Supply. Gerri-Dawn is the owner. She is a fabulous nailtech and knows all there is to know about Nail Care Harmony and Gelish.

      • Nailtech Supply sells to professionals only and they do charge for shipping. Sally’s Beauty Supply has a limited selection of the Gelish products, you could check them to see what they have and maybe save yourself shipping costs.

      • Thank you so much, I really appreciate it. I will look into those. I have a fingerpaints LED lamp from sallys that does work with the gelish gel polish so maybe I will give that a try. I would prefer not to buy another lamp 🙂 But again, thanks so much for the info!!!

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