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Acrylic Nails or Gel Nails? How to Know Which is Right For You

Before your next trip to the salon, know the differences between acrylic nails and gel nails.

Whether you're the type that wouldn't dare to show off her natural nails or simply want to try something new, we're spilling the deets on nail trends. Should you go with gel nails or are acrylics more your thing? Here's the 411:

Acrylic Nails

What Are Acrylic Nails?

Acrylics, the most popular artificial nail, are a combination of a liquid and powder that creates a hard, protective layer over the natural nail. A nail tip is applied to the nail, then a ball is created by dipping a brush into liquid monomer and placing the wet brush in powder polymer. This ball is placed on the nail bed and patted into place using liquid monomer. The finished product is cured, normally by air drying.

Pros and Cons of Acrylic Nails

Acrylics are very popular, many nail salons offer the service. Acrylics are affordable, costing at an average $35 for a full set and $15 for refills. Many nail technicians are experienced in working with this type of nail, so you don't have to search very hard to find someone skilled in this type of artificial nail. Tansy Breshears, licensed cosmetologist, and nail artist noted that the biggest benefit of acrylic nails is durability. "Acrylic is so, so strong. It lets your client manage whatever's going on, with less worry of cracks, breaks, and lifting because it's so resilient."

On the downside, acrylics can look unnatural if applied incorrectly. These nails are also very difficult to remove without damaging the nail bed, which means you have to pay up for costly refills every few weeks or suffer the growing out period of your damaged natural nails after removal. Some work places also don't allow acyrlic nails due to the hygiene hazard of long nails, which can trap dirt and debris. Acrylics also emit a very strong smell during the application process, because of the chemicals involved.

Gel Nails

What Are Gel Nails?

Gel nails are quickly becoming one of the most popular artificial nail application in salons. In order to achieve gel nails, a nail tip is first applied if the length of the nails needs to be extended. Then two to three layers of gel nail polish are applied with each layer being cured using a UV lamp. The nail is then filed and polished with the desired color or decorated with nail art.

Pros and Cons of Gel Nails

Gel nails have a more natural look with a glossy finish. Unlike acrylics, if the nails are primed correctly, there is no damage to the nail bed. Gel nails cure faster than acrylic nails since they are cured under UV light. Gel nails are also more flexible than acrylic nails. There is no odor, and gel nails can easily be removed with no damage to the nail bed by soaking in acetone.

Gel nails also have a downside. For starters, they are more expensive, costing between $25 and $60 per application (though with at-home gel nail polish available, this cost can be offset if you're taking a DIY approach). Because UV light is involved, there is a concern that this exposure to UV light could increase your risk of skin cancer. Breshears noted that gel is not as strong as acrylic, and gel nails are sometimes prone to peeling. "Neither of those materials can take the beating that acrylic enhancements can," Breshears says.

Ultimately, it's up to you to decide which nail type is for you, based on your lifestyle, budget, and personal taste. Since acyrlic nails and gel nails both have their own set of benefits and weaknesses, giving each one a trial run might help you make your decision.

Aprill Coleman

Aprill is a fashion blogger and freelance writer that dabbles in beauty, fashion, and lifestyle. When she's not on the hunt for the next best lipstick, she's grilling or fishing.

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