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Difference Between Acrylic & Sculptured Nails

Updated April 17, 2017

Artificial nails are used by women as a semi-permanent alternative to the simple manicure. Fake nails can either be acrylic or sculptured, with plenty of room for creativity with nail polish colour and design, but both have their benefits and downfalls. It's a good idea to understand their differences and similarities before deciding what's best for you.

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Acrylic Nails

An acrylic nail is when tips are glued to the edge of your natural nail. This type of artificial nail doesn't require your entire natural nail for support. After the tip is glued on, the nail is painted in your chosen shade and decorative designs can be added. Acrylics must be filled in every two to three weeks as your natural nail grows in.

Sculptured Nails

A sculptured nail is when a gel is applied over the entire natural nail. A piece of foil is used as support when shaping the white tip of the nail. Then a lighter, usually pink, coloured gel is applied to the base of the nail and shaped to cover the nail entirely and meet with the tip. This nail can be coated with clear nail polish for a natural look or painted over with an endless number of creative designs.


Acrylic nails are stronger than sculptured nails. Because the acrylic is glued to the tip of the natural nail, it will cause less breakage when removed. Acrylic nails may sometimes look less natural, though, because they can be much thicker than a natural nail. Both will give your nails a beautifully clean and polished appearance. Also, they prevent chronic nail biting, which prevents natural, healthy nail growth.


Acrylics end up costing more money because of maintenance. Every two to three weeks, you'll need to have your acrylics filled. Sculptured nails will last longer (several weeks) and don't require as much maintenance. Allow your natural nails to "breathe" every few months; constantly wearing fake nails may cause breakage.

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About the Author

Carolina Arana has been writing professionally since 2003. She has been published online and in "Cypress Dome," as well as academic research conducted for the University of Central Florida and various private companies such as Leading and Learning Inc. Arana is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in English and a minor in biology.

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