The real difference between gel and acrylic nails

If you've ever wondered what the difference between gel and acrylic nails is, you're not alone. A common question among almost anyone interested in beauty, Robyn Schwartz, a nail technician and Akzentz Certified Educator, recently explained to Vox, "Acrylic is liquid and powder, gel is gel. Period." But what exactly does this mean? Is there more to it than simply what the product is made of? We know the difference between gel and shellac nails, but what about gel and acrylic?

If you're ever had a gel manicure before, you'll know gel nail polish is very similar to regular nail polish. It's applied the same way, with the most noticeable difference being that it's set using a UV light. "Gels have a harder, non-porous surface, so they're less likely to stain — like if you work with hair color," Alisha Rimando, executive vice president and creative director of Artistic Nail Design, told Vox. "The downside for me is they don't soak off. You can't get them off unless somebody files them off." Unlike regular nail polish, gel nail polish hardens and is less likely to chip or fade. However, it is far more difficult to remove.

Acrylic nails generally last longer than gel nails

Acrylic nails, on the other hand, are easier to soak and remove but much more complicated when it comes to application. According to PopSugar, acrylic nails are basically artificial nail extensions, which are placed on top of your natural nails and stuck on using a liquid and powder mixture that Schwartz was referring to. Celebrity manicurist Michelle Saunders (via Better Homes & Gardens) elaborates, "Acrylic nails are made of a liquid monomer and powder polymer that, when combined, fuse into a hard substance that is laid on top of a plastic nail tip to create a longer or more sculpted shape." In general, they are said to be longer-lasting and slightly cheaper than gel nails.

According to Doug Schoon, a scientific consultant to the beauty industry and president of Schoon Scientific, no nail method is safer than the other. "Nail technicians push what they know, so they'll swear one is more organic and safer, and they're not," Schoon told Vox. The best thing to do is simply decide what type of manicure you want, then choose a salon that specializes in it.