Press-On Vs. Gel Manicure: Which Is Healthier For Your Nails?

Who doesn't want salon-perfect nails every day? But, after a few months, you'll start to notice that your nails are taking a bit of a beating from your acrylic manicure. You might even be considering switching to a gel or press-on nail instead as a result. To figure out which one is better for your nail health, it's important to understand how both work. 


Press-on nails can be bought from any store for a low cost in a variety of different styles, lengths, and tips. To adhere them to your nail, you simply apply a bit of glue and press them on, hence the name. Gel nails, on the other hand, require a bit more prep work and a UV light to properly affix them to the nail. You also need to file down your original nails to get them to adhere perfectly. 

While you can do gel nails at home, this is a technique typically employed in professional salons. Both gel and press-on nails will make your manicure look beautiful, but is one a surefire winner when it comes to nail health? 

There's no nail buffing required with press-on nails

The point of a manicure is, obviously, to have beautiful nails. But it can often come at the cost of your nail health. Since brittle and dried-out nails aren't really in this year, press-on nail application could be a healthier alternative. Press-on nails don't require much preparation for application beyond clean and dry nails. You might want to trim down your cuticle and file your original nail a bit, but that's typically the extent of it. 


Further, forego any worries about the glue by applying a coat of clear nail polish before the press-on nail. This way, the glue sticks to the clear coat and not your nail (it's a bit of added protection, essentially). Gel nails, meanwhile, adhere best to nails that are a bit dried out. Therefore, salons might add a bit of acetone to clean and dry your nail bed. It's also common to buff down your nail before applying the gel nail polish. 

If the buffing gets a bit too extreme, it can wreak a lot of havoc, so already your nails are in worse shape than if you simply applied press-ons. 

Press-on nails are much easier to remove than gel ones

One of the big areas where gel and press-on nails differ is the removal process. Gel nails are designed to last, so several coats are required to properly cure them to your nail. However, this makes removing them a long and arduous process. People often wonder whether gel nail polish ruins your nails, chiefly because it requires an excessive soak in acetone for removal, which can be harmful, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD). 


In fact, the AAD recommends rubbing petroleum jelly on the skin and cuticle to help with irritation during the removal process. They also heavily discourage picking at gel polish since this can cause further damage like peeling. Removing press-on nails is a significantly easier process since you just need to break down the glue holding them on, as Brittney Boyce, founder of NAILS OF LA and celebrity nail artist, explained to Pure Wow

Generally, you can simply soak your digits in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes to soften the glue up and add a bit of coconut oil to break the bonds down further. Always remember not to force them off. If in doubt, add a bit of acetone to get things moving. Thus, although press-on nails might not have the hold or prestige that gel nails do, they are generally healthier when it comes to keeping your nails safe and strong in the long run.