Acrylic and gel nails are artificial nail enhancements done in place of natural nails. Gel nails tend to provide a more glossy and natural look whereas acrylic are more sturdy and durable as compared to gel.

Comparison chart

Acrylic Nails versus Gel Nails comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartAcrylic NailsGel Nails
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What are they? Artificial Nail enhancements Artificial Nail enhancements
Appearance May look less natural than gel nails, especially if applied incorrectly. Natural, glossy Freshly-manicured for up to 14 days
Cost Generally cheaper than gel nail application. $25 to $60 Salons typically start with manicure price and add an upcharge up to 50%
Durability Lasts longer than gel nails. Up to 14 days
Corrosive effect If properly applied with the correct quantity, primers(with or without methacrylic acid) do not etch or damage the nail bed. However, skin contact needs to be avoided to reduce the risk of allergic reaction. Gel nails can be applied with or without a base or primer.(CND GEL uses a non-acid primer to bond the gel to the nail). If primer is applied correctly, it does not damage the nail bed.
Curing techniques Slower curing time. Acrylic liquid and powder are applied to the nail and the acrylic nails. Faster curing time. Most gel nails are cured under uv-light; some cure with a gel activator and do not require uv-light (no-light gels).
After effects Overuse and incorrect application of primer can cause damage to the nail bed and leave an impression on the nails. Prolonged exposure to water may result in fungal infection. In general, Gel nails applied without a primer leave no hard impressions.Overuse and incorrect application of primer can cause damage to the nail bed and leave an impression on the nails. Prolonged exposure to water may result in fungal infection.
Flexibility Acrylic nails are hard and very robust, when applied correctly. Most of them are more flexible than the acrylic nails, but not as flexible as natural nails.
Range There is not much variety that you can go with the acrylic nails as far as the material texture is concerned. Gelish – 141 colors; OPI – 71 colors; Essie -- 36 colors

Appearance & Durability

Nail art inspired by the children's book The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
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Nail art inspired by the children's book The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

One of the primary factors for choosing gel nails over acrylic is the appearance. Gel nails tend to have a more natural and glossy appearance as compared to acrylic. On the other hand, acrylic nails are very sturdy. If applied correctly and with proper care, may last much longer than gel nails.

Differences in Application

Nail Art inspired by the UK flag
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Nail Art inspired by the UK flag

Acrylic nails are attached to the nails and their manicure technique involves the application of primer or glue like substance initially on the nails. Then an artificial acrylic nail is put on top of the existing nail. The curing time is generally slower for as compared to gel nails. If properly applied with the correct quantity, primers (with or without methacrylic acid) do not etch or damage the nail bed. However, skin contact needs to be avoided to reduce the risk of allergic reaction.

Most gel nails are cured under uv-light; some cure with a gel activator and do not require uv-light (no-light gels). Gel nails can be applied with or without a base or primer. (CND GEL uses a non-acid primer to bond the gel to the nail). If primer is applied correctly, it does not damage the nail bed.

Removal Process

Both acrylic and gel nails frequently requires professional help for better results. Nails can also be soaked rather than filed off, which is a fairly popular technique these days.

Cost

Acrylic nail extensions
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Acrylic nail extensions

Acrylic nails are generally cheaper than gel nail application.

Comfort

Most people do not like acrylic nails because of the uneasiness that follows to the cuticle. Gel nails, on the other hand, are just like a gel and take their shape themselves and hence are very easy on the hands.

Flexibility

Acrylic nails are hard and also look thicker than gel nails. Any stress applied to acrylic nails can hurt the original nail. Gel nails are flexible and not hard on the touch.

After Effect

Overuse and incorrect application of primer in acrylic nails can cause damage to the nail bed and leave an impression on the nails. Prolonged exposure to water may result in fungal infection.

In general, gel nails applied without a primer leave no hard impressions. Overuse and incorrect application of primer can cause damage to the nail bed and leave an impression on the nails. Prolonged exposure to water may result in fungal infection.

Video Explaining the Difference

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References

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