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Acrylic Nails vs Gel Nails vs Soak-off Gel Nails – A Complete Comparison

Artificial Nail

[Updated: Acrylic Nails vs Gel Nails vs Soak-off Gel Nails vs LED Soak-off Gel Nails Comparison in 2013]

“I’d like to have gel nails please” she said.
“What kind of gel nails would you like? Acrylic, gel nails or soak-off gel nails?”
“What? I thought there was only one kind of gel nails. What are the differences?”

This is one of the most common scenario we run into almost everyday. Acrylic, gel nails and soak-off gel nails are the most commonly known types of artificial nail. You apply a layer of gel like liquid on your finger nails then harden them under the UV light.

Among the three, Acrylic Nails is the oldest and has been extensively used for more than 20 years. It also has the highest durability among the three. Meanwhile Soak off Gel on the other hand is the latest artificial nail technology. It does not has the same strength as Acrylic Nails, however you can easily soak it off with special remover instead of filing it off like Acrylic Nails.

You can find more detail from the full feature and characteristics comparison table below.

Acrylic Nails vs Gel Nails vs Soak-off Gel Nails – Detail Comparison

Acrylic Nails

Gel Nails

Soak-Off Gel Nails

Color Main color: White; Light Pink; Transparent. Main color: White; Pink; Transparent and some other dark, light, shimmer colors. Same pantone as OPI’s Nail Lacquer.   All Soak-Off Gel color has a corresponding Nail Lacquer to match with.
Materials High density, relatively firmer and more solid.  It is actually an orthopedics technique originally invented for nail biters, pliable nails.  Since it can mimic the look of real fingernails therefore later on developed to a fashion accessories. Low density, but high adhesive.  Relatively thicker as a mending tool and simply for beauty purpose. High elasticity; High color density; the most natural effect in mimicking the look of real fingernails.
Durability 3-4 weeks to refill 3 weeks to refill 2-3 weeks redo the whole set
Technique By using a Kolinski brush to apply a mixture of polymer powder and a liquid monomer on polished real nails.  Then the mixtures start to harden in 30-40 seconds in room temperature. A pre-mixed Polymer Resin, only hardens under ultraviolet light.  Also applied on polished real nails. (Base + 1st Color coat + 2nd Color coat + Top Gel) Similar formula as Gel, also a color gel mixture which hardens under ultraviolet light.  But with more advanced technology it can be applied to  real fingernails without intensive polishing and can be soaked off instead of polishing off.
(Gel Base + 1st Color coat + 2nd Color coat+ Top Gel)
Cons Has a poignant chemical odor.
Need to polish real nails during every refilling.
The material hardens in room temperature very quickly, so it is a very dedicated technique which takes cumulative years of practice and experience.
Gel, which is liquid, is not easy to control.  If it’s applied out-of-bound to 2 sides, or even under the nails on free edge, clients will suffer from painful UV light heat.  (Especially if extension is needed).  Also if the base gel is not cleared thoroughly, new color would appear turbid.  Inexperienced technician will have difficulties in making a smooth curvy surface. Its purpose is to mimic real natural nail, so its texture is relatively slim, therefore not suitable for extension or 3D nail arts.
Pros Perfect as an orthopedics tool.
If extension is needed, this will be the best material as a base support.  (especially for people with short nail plates)
No Odor.
Comparatively easier to control than Acrylic, because the Gel will not harden before you put it under UV,  you won’t have “time challenge” like Acrylic, means you have much more time to mold the shapes.
No need to have intensive polish on real nails.
You could take off the whole set of Gel every time by just “SOAKing” them in a special remover.
Very long lasting color, and most importantly your daily activities like wearing contact lens or picking coins up  will not be restricted because it feels really natural.
Nail Art Most of the 2D or 3D nail arts require acrylic technique. 2D or 3D arts, gradual color. Only suitable for 2D and Air Brush patterns.
Difficulty Difficult Intermediate. Intermediate.

Choosing the right Artificial Nail type is very similar to choosing skin care products. Before you purchase, you need to know clearly what kind of skin type you have — oily, dry, or if you were allergic to certain chemicals. An experienced nail technician should be able to tell you what type of artificial nail suits you best. Or, you can leave us a comment and we will try our best to answer your questions :).

[Updated: Acrylic Nails vs Gel Nails vs Soak-off Gel Nails vs LED Soak-off Gel Nails Comparison in 2013]


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