(Closed) What exactly are gel nails?

posted 7 years ago in Beauty
Post # 3
1621 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

“Gel nails” could refer to 2 different things. More accurately, gel nails are a version of artificial nails or overlays over real nails.  It differs from acrylic but I’m not sure exactly how.  I had gel over my natural nails years ago, it’s thick and strong and shiny.  It grows out in a couple weeks and you need a “fill” to fill in the growth space with more gel.  I found that they weakened my nails because the tech needs to buff down the nail plate for the gel to adhere.  If they buff too much, the nail gets super thin and sensitive and you can get burns.

“Gel polish” is a new(er) kind of polish cured by UV or LED light and lasts longer than typical polish, usually about 2 weeks.  I’ve also had this and I find it grows out before it chips, I don’t find it chips at all.  It also makes the nails feel thicker and stronger (but not as much as gel overlays).  It doesn’t require buffing for it to adhere to the nail so it’s not as damaging, although the acetone used to remove it is very drying.

I, personally, really like gel polish and have a kit to do my own at home, although I go to the salon once in a while for a change.

Post # 4
2997 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: April 2014

Gel Nails vs Acrylic Nails

Acrylic Nails


Acrylic nails are the most popular of artificial nails and have held that position since the 1970′s. The general process of having acrylic nails done goes like this. An artificial nail is applied to your nail bed (usually sculpted beforehand to suit your nails) before being glued to it with liquid acrylic and powder. Usually it is glued to the tips of nails instead the whole nail bed. The result is a hard protective layer that can be used as a canvas if you wish to color your nails. They are pros and cons with this process as we will discover below as well as the difference between gel and acrylic nails.


Pros of Acrylic Nails:

  • Acrylic Nails are very strong and long lasting.


  • They are easier to repair at home due to their strength where the crack rather than shatter. As always it is advised that you visit a professional nail technician for the nail related issues instead of tackling them by yourself.


  • They are generally cheaper than gel nails which is important in these times.


  • There is a higher availability of them in america, meaning you will find more nail salons offering acrylic nails. Gel nails are only starting to pick up in popularity in america. This is not the case in Europe.


  • They have a matte finish to them, this is up to personal taste and preference

Cons of Acrylic Nails:

  • If done poorly there is a high risk of damage towards the natural nail. This can lead to nasty things such as fungus and infection. This can be a problem if you wish to apply them by yourself at home If this ever happens immediately get in touch with your doctor. When it comes to nails it is no joking matter.


  • A strong odor is emitted when applying the acrylic over the acrylic nail. The fumes can be potentially hazardous if you are not located in a well-ventilated area.


  • The acrylic is also toxic and is advised that pregnant women do not get acrylic nails during pregnancy.


  • Their strength can be a drawback sometimes. They are more prone to damage since they are more inflexible.


  • Don’t look as realistic as gel nails and can be bulky and clearly fake.


  • Require more fillings than gel nails.

Gel Nails

Gel nails are applied by having 2 – 3 coats of gel nail polish applied. Every layer must be cured with a UV gel nail dryer before applying the next layer. This process can be  generally quicker than having acrylic nails applied. There is a reason why gel nails are serious competition to for acrylic nails as we will discover below.

Pros of Gel Nails:

  • When having gel nails applied the process is odorless unlike acrylic nails.
  • They are non-toxic so that pregnant women are not sidelined and are able to enjoy them as well.
  • They are more realistic and natural looking.
  • Have a glossy finish to them, again this falls under personal taste and preference.
  • They are more slender than acrylic nails which adds to the realism and natural look.
  • Generally the process of applying gel nails can be easier and less hazardous. They dry quicker as well.
  • Less filing and shaping is required during the process which I know can be a big plus for some people.
  • They generally last longer than acrylic nails and require less fillings.
  • Are more flexible which makes them less prone to damage.

Cons of Gel Nails:

  • They are more expensive which can be big minus point in these economic times.
  • Are less available in america. It is harder to find nail salons that offer them.
  • The UV dryer can cause cancer. UV rays are damaging to the skin and are known to lead to cancer. There is protection available for this though. ROYAL NAILS ANTI UV GLOVES FOR UV LIGHT/LAMP NAIL DRYER ONLY NAIL EXPOSED
  • They are less durable and weaker. This means they tend to shatter rather than crack. This can make repair extremely difficult or even impossible.

Post # 5
2997 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: April 2014

The salon is probably referring to “no chip” gel nails like the PP had said.  It is a polish that is set with UV light and can’t be removed with normal nail polish remover.  It stays on for weeks. It also dries almost instantly.  I does cost more though, around $25-35 around me. 

Gel fills (fake nails) will damage your nails but not nearly as much as acrylic

Post # 6
1810 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: April 2011

Since you already have info about gel nails, I’ll just tell you that I LOVE gel polish. If I get a mani now, that is what I get. It is dry when they are finished with the last round of UV so you don’t have to worry about smudging it. And it doesn’t chip– it grows out as another PP said. It’s usually more expensive than a regular mani, but I think it’s worth it.

One thing I will mention is that if you sunburn easily or are worried about UV exposure, put sun screen on your hands before your mani. You put your hands in UV dryers a few times for a number of minutes for the gel to cure. And if you end up liking it and start doing it more often, that UV exposure adds up. Sun screen obviously will help protect against that.

Post # 7
326 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2013

I sometimes get ” gel ” over my natural nails.. My nails grow fast so I usually get a French manicure with gel.. It does last longer.. Like the other bee said, you have to put your nails under the uv light.. You can get gel over acrylics too if you want that shinier look.

Post # 8
469 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: December 2013

@MrsNewDay:  I used to wear acrylics for years! they really mess up your nails for about 2 months (or however long it takes for them to grow out). I HIGHLY suggest sh-lack (Idk how to spell it) nails.  It lasted 2 weeks and didn’t mess up my nails at all. I’m in complete love with it. I will DEF be using for my wedding.  Only cost me $30

Post # 9
450 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: November 2013 - Garden

In either case, in order to get the gel or acrylic to adhere properly to the nail, the artist will file of buff back the top layer of your nail to “rough it up”. This is where the most damage used to happen when I had gel nails. It does grow out but the nail is incredibly flimsy if the gel overlay is removed. You can grow them out but I have done this a few times and every time I found the thicker layer of gel put alot of pressure on my natural nail and ended up quite painful when the gel was only on the tips. It would tend to crack and fall off at that point anyway, so you’re still left with the flimsy nail underneath until the untouched nail grows through.

I have had acrylics and gel, I never had a problem with gel. I did get a sore finger when I tried acrylics, could have been due to the acrylic or the fact that the artist cut me with the file, or unclean salon conditions. I really don’t know.

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