The difference between Acrylic, Gel and Shellac Nails

 

When you go beyond the basic manicure you have many options, and it can get confusing to know which one you want.  Below we’ll clear up the differences between Acrylic, Gel and Shellac Nails. You’ll find a few tips to weigh the pros and cons of the different artificial nails to help you pick the best option.

 

Atelier Emmanuel Nail Art by April
Acrylics
and Gels are fake nails placed over your natural ones. Both can be made to match the shape of the nail, or to extend it. So, when you want longer nails, you are asking for either Acrylic or Gel extensions. People also get Acrylics and Gels in order to have stronger nails (however, in the long term they actually weaken your natural nail).

Of course Acrylics and Gels are very different products. Different ingredients, different application techniques, and different pros and cons. You can learn more about their differences below by clicking on “Acrylics” and “Gels”.


Shellac
is a blend of gel and nail polish. Because it is like a polish, it can’t be used to extend your nail. Because it is like a gel, however, it does add strength and durability. In the long term Shellac is much less damaging to nails than traditional Gels (or Acrylics).

The main benefit is that it reduces chipping.


Shellac vs. Gel Manicure vs Gels

Many people confuse Gels with Shellac. This is because Shellac contains gel, so many consumers have mixed up their terminology, asking for a “gel manicure” when what they want is Shellac. So gel manicure is sort of a made up name for Shellac (people in the industry always use the term Shellac). Meanwhile, Shellac and Gels are not the same service. Just as the ingredients, procedures and results for Acrylics and Gels differ, the same is true about Shellac vs Gels.


On top of regular manicures, Atelier Emmanuel offers Acrylics, Gel and Shellac manicures. Because of the trade-off of cost, time and effort, most people choose Shellac over Gel or Acrylic.

 

What about “Gel Fills”?

Gel Fill is a repair/maintenance service for those who already have Gels.

 

You now have some tools to better understand your options. And of course, to make the final decision and find the manicure that best suits you and your nails, don’t forget to consult your nail technician!


If you want still more information about Acrylics, Gels and Shellac, click on the respective buttons below.

 

Acrylic nails are a combination of a liquid monomer and a powder polymer. They create a hard protective layer over your natural nails. The product hardens as it is exposed to the air. Acrylic is transparent. A nail polish is added after.

 

Advantages

  • Provides a perfect canvas for applying nail color.
  • Acrylic nails are hard and very robust
  • They last longer
  • Easy removal
  • When you break an acrylic nail, you can almost always fix it at home.

Disadvantages

  • They can damage your nail bed
  • Acrylics may look less natural than gel nails, especially if applied incorrectly.
  • The application process involves chemicals and fumes


Gels are brushed onto your nails in three steps : a base coat, polish color and top coat. Each coat has to be cured (hardened) in an UV light for two to three minutes. Because gel color is not in-demand in our area, at Atelier Emmanuel we instead do a four step process: base coat, clear gel, top coat, and then regular color polish for those who want.

 

Advantages

  • Natural, glossy, freshly-manicured look
  • Lasts up to 14 days
  • Curing time is faster
  • More flexible than the acrylic nails
  • Easier to remove
  • Gel nail mixtures lack the fumes associated with acrylic nails

Cons

  • More expensive than other artificial nails
  • Self-fixing a break at home is complicated
  • Removal can result in nails damage if gel is used too frequently



Shellac is the brand name for a new, patent pending nail product created by Creative Nail Design (CND). It is a hybrid, meaning half nail polish, half gel.

The product can be applied similarly to nail polish on your natural nails (no sculpting or filing). It is cured through UV lighting, just like Gels.

 

Advantages

  • Thin and strong product that gives it both flexibility and durability
  • Natural look combined with the shine associated with gel nails
  • Lasts up to 14 days
  • Removal technique through acetone wraps does not leave nails dry, thin, or torn.

Cons

  • Unlike other artificial nails, you cannot use Shellac to strengthen or lengthen your nails.
  • Shellac is only sold to licensed professionals and requires a special removal process. You cannot apply Shellac, repair a break or even remove it at home.
  • Shellac is not for everyone as it requires a healthy nail bed.

 


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