Best Bets: Acrylic, Gel or Shellac

Woman applying nail polish

Gel, shellac or acrylic? In this day and age, with so many nail trends emerging, and updated technologies on nail care, that question may be becoming as commonplace as ‘paper or plastic?’ But the answer may not be so easy to come by. To find the nail option that’s right for you, it may be a good idea to explore our choices.

A gel manicure is a type of nail treatment where a nail technician uses a gel to bind synthetic fingernails to natural ones. The gel can also be applied over natural nails like regular polish. Though relatively new, this form of manicure is becoming more and more popular. It is seen as a cure for chipping nail polish with super shiny results that last 2-3 weeks and usually costs around $35. However, there are also downsides to the gel manicure.

Gels can be bad for nail health. Manicures in general can weaken your nails. “The manicure process itself can lead to dehydration and thinning of the nail,” says Dr. Chris Adigun, a Chapel Hill based dermatologist. This can be particularly detrimental in the gel manicure process where you won’t be able to see your nail beds for 2-3 weeks at a time, to properly assess nail health.

The removal process in gel manicures can also be dangerous not to mention time consuming, difficult and costly. If you opt to remove the gels at home, this must be done with a 100% acetone remover which can be harsh on nails. A less abrasive choice is a gel remover which tends to be more expensive. It is then necessary to affix a remover soaked cotton to nails with a foil wrap and then a hand towel. This process can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. Wearers are also warned to not peel polish as this can take off layers of the nail and also cause water to seep in the nail, which can lead to an infection.

Acrylic nails, or artificial nails, are another choice. Donne Geer, co- founder of Hey Nice Nails explains, “Acrylics are applied using a liquid monomer and a powder polymer to create a hard protective layer over your natural nails. Acrylics only harden when exposed to air”. Polish is added later. Like gel polish, acrylics are also a long lasting option for fashion lovers. If done correctly, acrylics can last up to 4 weeks, outlasting a gel manicure. The cost can range from $35 to $50.

Like gel nail polish, the removal process is time consuming and can be damaging to nail health. You must use a similar process of soaking and wrapping your nails in an acetone remover which can also wear down your nail beds and leave them vulnerable to infection. Acrylic nails are also cited as being difficult to get used to and many say they look unnatural.

Shellac nail polish is a brand name for a new patent pending nail product created by CND. It is a hybrid meaning half nail polish, half gel. Shellac and gel are very similar but Lunchtime Beauty Q &A writer Christina Han sites some differences including the shellac polish being slightly less goopy than the gel. Also, CND sell their own acetone wraps which isolate the remover to the nail bed area saving your fingers slightly as acetone dries out nails and skin. Also, the removal is a quicker process but is only available at salons.

So which option will you choose? With so many different factors involved, the choice is not an easy one.   We can only hope that we made the decision making process just a bit easier.

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