Difference Between Gel & Acrylic Extensions

Updated April 17, 2017

While both gel nails and acrylic nails are used to extend nail length, they aren't exactly the same. The application and qualities of these two types of nail enhancements differ. Acrylic nails tend to be more popular because they've been around longer than gel nails. However, both types of nails get the same results. Both will beautify your nails and even make your fingers appear longer and slimmer. Ultimately, it's a matter of personal preference. Both gel and acrylic nails will make your nails stronger and appear more beautiful, and they can be placed over the entire natural nail.

Gel Nails

Gel nails can be placed over fake nail tips. Gel nails have a shiny appearance. There are two types of gel nails. Light-cured gel nails are created under ultraviolet light. No-light gels don't need an ultraviolet light in order to form, but instead use a gel-activator to form. The activator can be either brushed onto the nail or sprayed on. Sometimes gel nails will cure after simply dipping them into water. Gel nails are odourless.

Acrylic Nails

Acrylics can be placed over the top of the nail to create a faux tip. Acrylic nails are ultra strong. Acrylic liquid and powder are mixed together to create an acrylic nail. The nail can be made into any shape; for example, you could have a nail that has oval tips or tips that are filed straight across. After a few minutes, the acrylic will harden. The finish on acrylic nails is matt.

Repair and Removal

Acrylic nails can be fixed and removed easier than gel nails. Acrylics can sometimes even be repaired at home instead of having to go to a salon. However, acrylics run the risk of doing damage to your natural nails. Gel nails are extremely difficult to fix if they break because they shatter instead of breaking clean. They are also more difficult to remove than acrylic nails.


While it's not prevalent, nail fungus can grow. This could be due to unhygienic tools used by your manicurist. Nail fungus is typically a white spot underneath your nail. Nail antiseptic can be used to remove the fungus.

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About the Author

As a full-time writer in New York's Hudson Valley, Lindsay Pietroluongo's nightlife column and photos have appeared regularly in the "Poughkeepsie Journal" since 2007. Additional publications include "Chronogram," the "New Paltz Sojourn," "About Town" newspaper and "Outsider" magazine. Pietroluongo graduated from Marist College with a B.A. in English.