The Difference Between Shellac, Acrylic, and Gel Manicures

Today, women have a lot more options when they hit the salon for a manicure. And if you go beyond the basic file, buff, and coat of colour, you may find yourself with a lot of questions about acrylic, shellac, or gel nail extensions and what they all mean.

What is shellac?

Shellac is a blend of gel and nail polish. Though it can’t be used to extend your nail, it does add strength and durability. Shellac is much less damaging to nails than traditional gels (or acrylics), and if your goal isn’t to make your nails longer, then they’re a great choice. Shellac looks like a thick glossy gel polish, and the main benefit is that it reduces chipping.

What are acrylic nails?

Acrylic nails have been a staple of nail salons for years and are still a popular choice. The reason they have stuck around is due to their strength and durability.

Acrylics are applied using a liquid monomer and a powder polymer to create a hard shell/layer over your natural nails. Acrylics only harden when exposed to air. Once hardened, they provide an excellent canvas for applying nail colour.

What are gel nails?

Gel manicures provides the strength of acrylic nails but with a more natural appearance. Unlike acrylic nails, gel nails only harden when exposed to UV light. Gel polishes are similar to nail polish in that you have a base coat, polish colour and top coat. Each coat has to be cured in the UV light for two to three minutes.” Both types of nails undergo a chemical process to bond to the natural nail, however, there are some differences between the two.

Gel nails or acrylic nails…which is better?

The results of gel manicures and acrylic are similar, but with some differences. They both lengthen short nails, strengthen nails, and make your fingers look longer. But depending on your lifestyle, the occasion, and how long you need them to last, one might be a better option for you. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide which nail application to choose:

Pros of acrylic nails

  • Acrylic nails can be more easily fixed at home if they break
  • The nails can be soaked rather than filed off.
  • When done correctly they’re very tough and can last a long time.
  • Acrylic nail application tends to cost less than gel nail application.

Cons of acrylic nails

  • They can damage your nail bed, and according to White, this damage can create a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria.
  • Acrylics may look less natural than gel nails, especially if applied incorrectly.
  • The application process involves strong chemicals and fumes – pregnant women are advised not to use acrylic nails during pregnancy.

Pros of gel manicures

  • Gel nails may look more natural and glossy than other types
  • The curing time is faster than acrylics
  • Gel nail mixtures lack the fumes associated with acrylic nails – they’re considered a safer, more eco-friendly option.

Cons of gel manicures

  • They are less durable than acrylic and thus don’t last as long (even though they tend to cost more)
  • Most gel nails require a UV light for curing
  • When gel nails break, they usually shatter and not easily fixed
  • Gel nails often need to be filed off, although there are some soak-off versions

On either type of nail you can paint, add French tips, or create other designs.

Choosing between gel and acrylics

If you want the least amount of damage to your nail bed, then soak off gels are the way to go. However, with all the variables to consider when choosing artificial nails, it’s best to discuss with your technician what your goals are. If you’re in Toronto and want to get a manicure, our experienced nail technicians will take care of you. Call or book an appointment online today.