Builder Gel vs Acrylic – The Pros and Cons?  

When choosing a treatment for your nails, you want to look at the available options and consider which one is more efficient, longer lasting, and healthier for your nails.

Builder gel vs Acrylic is a common question I got asked since these two types of manicures have a lot of pros over other treatments. So which one is better? Let’s dive right in!  

Builder Gel Vs. Acrylic: Which One Should I Choose?   

Builder gel is a nail polish often used as a base coat during gel overlays and manicures. It requires curing with a UV light and helps strengthen your nails. Acrylic is a polish made of powder polymer and liquid monomer combined to create a shapable substance which is then applied as nail paint. 

Builder gel and acrylic are distinct and used for different purposes in nail treatments. Understanding the difference will help you make the right choice for your nails.  

What Is Builder Gel?

a builder gel layer

Builder gel is a type of base coat gel polish product that is used in gel overlays. It helps to strengthen the nails and give them thickness. It is also used to provide length when extending nails using nail forms. Builder gel is used on the natural nail plate and can be used independently or as a base coat. 

The layers of the base coat depend on how thick you want the builder gel to be. Typically, one to two layers are enough. Two to three thin layers work well for people with weaker, brittle nails. Builder gel is clear, and a colored gel polish can be applied over the builder gel. 

A top coat is also required over builder gel; each layer must be cured under a UV light for at least two minutes. 

What Are Acrylic Nails?

a woman doing acrylic nails

Acrylic nails are artificial nails. An acrylic polish is made by mixing a powder polymer and liquid monomer to create a molding substance type product called a bead. The product is then used to create a fake nail or an extension for your nail treatment. 

You also get a water-based acrylic polish that is applied as nail paint. It is rarely used, and most people directly refer to artificial nail treatment when discussing acrylic. 

You can apply regular nail polish or gel polish for color when doing a clear-coat acrylic nail treatment. Nail art is also common with acrylics. Many technicians use acrylics when a client asks for specific nail art designs. 

Acrylics can dry with the air in a cool to warm environment. But if necessary, you can cure them under a UV or LED light. 

Is Builder Gel Or Acrylic Better On Sensitive Nails?  

When you have sensitive nails, it can be tricky to pick which nail treatment to do because you don’t want to damage your nails further. Between builder gel and acrylic, builder gel is better for your nail health, and here is why: 

  • Builder gel is thinner and less heavy. It allows your natural nail to grow faster without weighing them down. 
  • Builder gel helps to give nails strength and feels natural and lightweight on your nails, whereas acrylic is hard and heavy and can cause pain to sensitive nails. 
  • Builder gel is applied on the natural nail so there is no fake nail extensions are required. This helps to avoid excessive buffing, filing, glue, and longer acetone soaks. 
  • Builder gel provides a non-chip nail treatment. Builder gel is less rigid, so it will not break as easily, causing pain or damage to your nail. 
  • It is a solid and long-lasting product and treatment, so you don’t need to put your nails under stress every two weeks for a new treatment. 
  • Builder gel also repairs nails by filling in cracks on the nail plate. 
  • Acrylic nails require excess filing down of the nail plate for overlays, making the nail weaker. 
  • Harsh chemicals in acrylic products can make your nails weaker, brittle, and more sensitive. 
  • Builder gel requires less soaking time in acetone for removal, allowing less damage than acrylic, which takes around 15-20 minutes more. 

Builder Gel vs Acrylic Application?

a nail technician apply acrylic nails

A significant difference between gel and acrylic is the time it takes to apply. Builder gel application is much quicker. It is a single product applied after dehydrator and primer and doesn’t require as much effort and focus on technique as acrylic. 

Acrylic takes longer than builder gel because it requires getting the correct consistency of the bead with each application. It also requires excess filing down of the nail plate before application.  

Builder gel takes a lot quicker to dry. Placing it for two minutes under a UV lamp is sufficient. Acrylic takes much longer to dry. It requires 10-20 minutes to dry and harden naturally until you tap them and hear a clicking sound. 

Does Builder Gel Or Acrylic Take Longer To Remove?

a nail technician using a electric nail file to remove gel polish from acrylic nails

The time it takes to remove builder gel is also faster than acrylic. To remove builder gel, you can soak your nails in cotton with acetone and wrap them in foil for around 10-15 minutes. Any soft gel residue left can easily be wiped off or removed with a cuticle pusher tool. 

You can soak your acrylic nails the same way, but since they are much harder and more rigid, you may need to dip your fingers into a bowl of acetone. An acrylic soak will require at least 20-30 minutes while you use your thumbs to rub the other nails for faster dissolving. 

Not only is the process of removing acrylic nails longer, but it is also more damaging to your nails because of the longer acetone soak. 

Why Should You Get Acrylic Nails?  

Acrylic nails are a beautiful, professional treatment that enhances the look of your nails and hands. It is more for aesthetics, adding length and luxury. While you can achieve these aspects with builder gel, acrylic is for you if your nails are naturally strong and you love the idea of artificial nails.

Why Should You Use Builder Gel? 

Builder gel is for anyone, anytime. Whether you want it for aesthetic reasons, to help prevent nail biting, or to add strength and shine to your natural nails, builder gel is the answer. You can also achieve length with builder gel using nail form without the heaviness of having artificial nails. 


Builder gel is favored over acrylic nails because it is healthier and lighter for your nails. It also takes less time to apply and is quicker to remove. It does not damage your nails but makes them feel stronger and look smoother.