Gel nail polish vs regular: is one better than the other?
This question has been circling for quite a while. And why wouldn’t it? They both have obvious benefits.
But we can say this for their shortcomings.
This debate might never be put to rest, but we’ve decided to take a crack at it. We’ve done the research and have created an in-depth comparison.
We discuss both their application and drying processes, how long they last, and more.
If you’ve decided to try one or the other, this article will give you all the facts you need.
What This Article Covers:
Table on the technical differences between Gel Nail Polish and Regular Nail Polish
Non-porous gel-like substance.
Porous, film-forming liquid.
Cured under a UV or LED lamp
About 2-minutes or less
Up to 7-minutes or longer
3 to 4 weeks
About a week
No chipping or peeling.
Will chip and/or peel after a week or so.
Soaked in acetone for 10-minutes.
Wiped off with remover and cotton balls.
Gel nail polish and regular polish have similar application processes. The only difference is how the polish dried.
In both cases, the nails are cleaned, trimmed, shaped, and buffed. Your manicurist will moisturize your hands and nails.
Most manicures include a hand massage as well. Everyone loves a bit of pampering, right?
Once done, a basecoat gets added first, and then the colored polish, and a topcoat. The top coat can either be glossy or matte, depending on your preference.
With regular polish, the polish is air-dried after each coat is applied. With gel polish, each coat is cured under a UV or LED lamp.
When the gel polish is cured, it hardens and won’t budge until removal.
As we said above, once gel polish is cured, that’s it. It will remain glossy (or matte) until it’s removed.
Gel polish doesn’t chip or peel, no matter the circumstances.
The same can’t be said for regular nail polish. We’ve all experienced a ruined manicure at some point. There’s nothing more disappointing than a chipped manicure.
While gel lasts for up to 3 weeks or more, regular polish only lasts a week. And if you work in water or in the garden? You’ll be lucky if regular polish lasts a few days.
When it comes to removal, regular polish beats gel.
With regular polish, all you need is a cotton ball and nail polish remover. A few swipes and your nails will be clean.
But gel polish is tougher to get off. It’s made to last and simple nail polish won’t get it off. To remove gel polish, your nails will need an acetone soak.
It takes about 10-minutes for the acetone soak to loosen the gel enough to be lifted off. Don’t attempt to peel or scrape the gel off. You’ll damage your nails and it’s just plain painful.
Both gel polish and regular nail polish have pros and cons. Neither is good or bad, and the choice is a personal one.
Some might prefer gel polish for its longevity. Others might prefer regular polish for the option to change the color weekly.
Below, we go into an in-depth comparison between the two.
There’s some misconception about gel polish being fake nails. It’s not. Gel polish and acrylic nails are two different things.
While the gel is thicker than regular polish, it’s still just a different type of nail polish. Yes, the ingredients in gel nail polish are much different from regular polish.
But there is also nothing harmful about the gel polish itself.
There have been complaints about it ruining nails, but the gel itself doesn’t ruin nails. This is why it’s so important to find a professional and experienced nail salon.
If you consider gel nail polish's pros and cons you’ll see that it’s a personal choice.
Since it lasts up to a month, it’s great for those who use their hands often. Do you do water sports or anything else that has your nails chipping? Then gel polish is a great choice.
Unlike regular nail polish though, you need to take a break between gel manicures. The acetone soak will dry out your nails and skin.
Take one week off and use cuticle oil or hand cream to rehydrate your skin and nails.
Lasts up to 3 weeks or longer
Won’t ever chip or peel.
Dries in 2-minutes or less under the UV/LED lamp
Stays glossy or matte until removal
Those who use their hands often
Anyone who wants a manicure to last more than a week
The best thing about regular nail polish is how quick and easy it is to apply. It air-dries too, so you don’t need to go to a salon.
You can do your nails at home without any concerns.
Regular polish does take longer to dry than gel. But you can get around that by using a product like our Spritz Dry.
The other main difference is that regular polish is more prone to chipping and peeling. The manicure only lasts about a week too.
This is great if you like changing the color every week. There are also different types of nail polish finishes that you can try.
Regular polish is much easier to remove than gel. All you need is a cotton ball dipped in nail polish remover.
You also don’t need to take a break between manicures.
There have been questions about the difference between nail lacquer and nail polish. Most nail polishes are lacquer.
Some have even wondered if nail polish is paint. It does the same thing, right? This article on nail polish vs paint explores this in detail.
Quick and easy to apply
Easy to remove since you don’t need an acetone soak
You can change the color every week
You don’t need a break between manicures
Those who love changing their nail color to match their outfit or mood
Anyone who likes doing their nails at home instead of going to a salon
They both have obvious pros and cons.
But, when it comes to wear and tear, gel polish is better. It won’t chip or peel, and it lasts for 3 weeks or more. The removal process is a pain, but it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it.
For the best of both worlds, check out our Perfect Pair Lacquer + Gels.
No, the gel polish itself doesn’t ruin your nails.
The state of your nails is dependent on the technique used. Some people tend to over-buff and file, and this weakens the nail bed. Then, during the removal process, those weakened nails are exposed to acetone. As long as your nail tech does it right, the gel manicure won’t damage your nails.
Overall, no. Regular polish and gel generally have the same effect on the nails.
But, the removal process is where it gets tricky. Gel polish needs to be soaked off in acetone and that can be harmful to nails and skin. In this case, yes, regular polish is safer.
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