Shellac, Acrylic, Gel and Powder Nails – What’s the Difference?

4 min read

I have to admit, I am not a nail person. I don’t know much about fake nails, nail polish or the latest trends.

Now, I know I’m not alone in this. So for all you nail-newbies out there, I thought I would go through the four main types of nails that you hear about – Shellac, acrylic, gel and dip powder.

It’s important to remember that each of these methods should be done by a qualified nail technician and with anything, make sure that they are working in a clean environment.

1. Shellac

Shellac is actually the brand name for a nail product and is made up of a mixture of nail polish and gel. There are over 100 shades of colours. Shellac is applied like a regular nail polish onto natural nails, so it cannot be used to extend them. However, the gel component in Shellac will add strength and durability to the nail and in the long term, Shellac won’t damage your nails as much as traditional fake nails. A Shellac manicure should last up to two weeks or more.

2. Acrylic

Acrylic nails are artificial nails made from a combination of a liquid monomer and a powder polymer. When you have acrylic done, an artificial nail is glued to your nail, usually to the tops of your nails and not the whole nail bed, with liquid acrylic and powder. This creates a strong, protective layer over your natural nails and the acrylic nail can be shaped and as long as you want. The acrylic hardens as it is exposed to the air. As acrylic is transparent, any colour nail polish can be applied.

Acrylic nails are generally less expensive than gels and are very strong and long-lasting with proper care. However, you need to be very careful about where you go to get your acrylics done, as there is a high risk of damage to your natural nail if it’s done incorrectly. Damage to the nail bed can result in fungal and other infections.

Other things to be aware of is that acrylic is toxic (and a very strong odour is emitted with liquid acrylic), so if you are pregnant, it is best that you stay away from acrylic nails. Another drawback is that acrylic nails can be a little bulky, so it may not look very realistic and they do need to be filled regularly.

3. Gels

Gels are brushed onto your nails in three steps : a base coat, polish color and top coat. Each coat has to be hardened (or cured) under an UV light for two to three minutes.

This process can be generally quicker than having acrylic nails applied. There is less filing and shaping which also reduces the length of the process.

Gels are odourless and non-toxic, so it can be applied if you are pregnant. They also look more natural as they are thinner than acrylic. Gels tend to last longer and do not need filling as regularly compared to acrylics.

4. Powder

This is the latest trend in nails. The new technique involves brushing a gel base on the natural nail and dipping it into a special powder. The dip powder comes in an amazing range of colour options from pink and white for the traditional French polish to glitters.

The benefits of the dip powder technique is that there is no odour, no liquids and no curing under UV light. This means that the application process is quicker and simpler than the other methods, and removal is also easier.

Dip powder nails look natural and the powder actually provides more strength than gels. Because nothing is glued to your natural nails, your nail bed remains healthy and undamaged. Another plus is that if applied correctly, dip powder can last for up to eight weeks.

Which of these types do you prefer?

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Yuki Smith

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