From Our Editors
Gel or Acrylic? Finding the Right Chemistry for Your Nails
Fake nails have come a long way from their press-on past. Explore the several varieties of artificial nail types before deciding which suits you best.
Acrylic: Acrylics are the oldest form of modern faux nail, first appearing on fingers in the 1950s. Today, acrylic nails begin as two acrylic products—a liquid monomer and a powdered polymer—which nail technicians mix and then apply to the natural nail, using plastic tips or painting over removable forms if added length is desired. Acrylic nails are the strongest and most durable of all of the artificial nail types, though they can be thick and somewhat less natural in appearance. Like gels, they require refills every two to three weeks, depending on how fast your nails grow.
Gel: Similar to their acrylic cousins in chemical makeup and application technique, gel nails add an element of flexibility to fingernails via a compound called an oligomer. After nail techs brush the gel polish onto nails, clients put their paws under a special UV light to harden the gel polish and make fingers feel like they’re in a sci-fi movie. The resulting look is natural and durable. Gel polishes tend to chip less frequently than regular acrylics, although they’re usually more expensive.