Difference Between Gel Nails and Acrylic Nails (With Table)

Artificial nail enhancements have been around for quite a while now, and more people are giving in to the trend by the day. Gel nails and acrylic nails are two out of the many choices available. Even though the results of having them done may seem incredibly similar, there are many key differences between the methods.

Gel Nails vs Artificial Nails

The difference between gel nails and acrylic nails is that the application of gel nails involves using a gel on real nails and curing it under a UV light whereas acrylic nails are made using a liquid and powder that is mixed into a dough, applied on the nail, and then given a shape.

Gel nails have a much glossier appearance than the latter. They have a natural finish and do not feel very heavy on the nails. However, these kinds of artificial nails do not come off as quickly. They need to be filed off for removal, which takes a considerably long time.

Meanwhile, acrylic nails are not very glossy and have a much quicker application process. They have a sturdy and realistic appearance. Many a time, they might feel heavy on the nails and fingers. However, removing them is pretty easy as they only need to be soaked in acetone and peeled off.

Comparison Table Between Gel Nails and Acrylic Nails

Parameters of ComparisonGel NailsAcrylic Nails
MaterialThey consist of a photoinitiator in the form of a gel.They consist of a liquid and powder, the main ingredient being PMMA.
ApplicationThe gel is applied to the nail and cured under UV light.The ingredients are mixed into a dough, applied to the nails, and then filed into shapes.
TimeIt takes longer for gel nails to dry.Acrylic nails dry instantly on application.
AppearanceThey have a glossy appearance.They do not have a glossy appearance.
WeightThey do not have much weight and feel light on the nails.They may often feel heavy on the nails because of their weight.
DurabilityThey last up to approximately 14 days.They last for a much longer time and are sturdier.
RemovalThey can be removed easily by soaking in acetone and peeling them off.It is difficult to remove them as they need to be filed off, which takes a long time.
CostGel nails are expensive.Acrylic nails are cheaper as compared to the former.

What is Gel Nails?

Gel nails are artificial nail enhancements that can be used as extensions as well as nail polish. They give off a glossy appearance and last for around 14 days. Their application process involves applying a gel made of photo initiators on the nail. This is then cured under Ultraviolet light for a couple of minutes.

The result is a beautiful looking nail that is strong, but expensive. It takes a long time to apply these but removing them is relatively easy. The process of removal involves dipping the nails in acetone for around 20 minutes and then peeling them off.

Regardless, these kinds of artificial nails have gained massive popularity in recent times. A new kind of gel extension called Gel-X was created in 2017 for all the make-up enthusiasts out there. This is a soft gel coating on the nail, that may either be applied only on the tip or the entire nail.

Gel-X has a long application process. First, a PH bonder needs to be applied on a plastic nail, after which it is coated with a gel primer. This artificial nail is then glued onto the real nail using a gel adhesive. Lastly, it is cured under UV light. The removal process is the same as normal gel nails.

What is Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic nails are another artificial nail enhancement that has a completely different application process as compared to gel nails. First, a liquid and powder consisting of PMMA are mixed together to form a dough-like texture. This dough is then applied to the nail and brought to shape by filing.

It does not give off a glossy look but lasts for much longer than the former. Moreover, when the mixture is applied, it only takes a few seconds to dry up. The removal process however needs to be carried out by a professional. These nails need to be filed off, which may be risky as it results in nail plate thinning.

Even though the entire process of applying and removing acrylic nails takes much longer than gel nails, acrylic nails are much cheaper. Moreover, these nails are very durable and strong, even more, when designed with nail polish.

People can go to nail salons to get these artificial nail enhancements. However, such products are even available in general stores. So, it is up to the buyer whether they have enough time or money for either of the two. Regardless, getting them done is surely worth it as they come at a reasonable price and look gorgeous.

Main Differences Between Gel Nails and Acrylic Nails

  1. Gel nails consist of a photo initiator gel whereas acrylic nails consist of a PMMA liquid and powder.
  2. Gel nails are applied by putting a gel on the nail and curing it under a UC light whereas, for acrylic nails, the ingredients are mixed into a dough, applied on the nails, and then filed into shapes.
  3. It takes longer for gel nails to dry whereas acrylic nails dry in seconds.
  4. Gel nails have a glossy appearance whereas acrylic nails do not.
  5. Gel nails have a lighter weight whereas acrylic nails may often feel heavy.
  6. Gel nails last for up to 14 days whereas acrylic nails last for up to 21 days.
  7. The removal process for gel nails is easy as they need to be soaked in acetone and peeled off whereas that of acrylic nails involves buffing.
  8. Gel nails are expensive whereas acrylic nails are relatively cheaper.


Gel nails and acrylic nails are majorly different from each other in many ways. The most noticeable distinguishable factor between the two is that gel nails are applied by putting a gel and curing it using UV light whereas acrylic nails are applied using a doughy mixture that needs to be filed into shape. The drying process of gel nails, however, is much longer than that of the latter.

Gel nails are way more expensive than acrylic nails despite the fact that there is lesser manual work involved. It may be because of the ingredients used for both. While gel nails are made with a photo initiator gel, acrylic nails are made with PMMA.


  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1529-8019.2012.01543.x
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ced.13929
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