Hard Gel Vs Acrylic – Which Is Better In 2023?

You’ve probably heard people swear that acrylic nails are the way to go, while others claim that hard gel is far superior. So which one is true? Continue reading to discover the differences between hard gel vs acrylic and which is better for you!

Hard Gel Vs Acrylic

Hard gel is better than acrylic. This is because gel nails are more flexible and will not damage your nail if you bump them. Gel nails are also more natural looking and have a quicker curing time. Removing gel is faster than acrylic and less hazardous to your nails if removed improperly.

Although hard gel and acrylic both have pros and cons – only one can come on top. To find out why we chose gel, keep reading the broken-down comparison below!

1. Mixing Process

a woman doing acrylic nails

To understand the differences between hard gel and acrylic, we will start from the beginning stages -the mixing. Acrylic is formed using a mixture of liquid (monomer) and powder (polymer). It is a two-part system that, when combined, creates a paste-like consistency -Acrylic.

First, however, there are a few things you need to know before using acrylic. Namely, it is vitally important to be aware of the ingredients used in the monomer. Cheap brands often include MMA (Methyl methacrylate) in their monomer, and as a result, many salons use these products to make an extra profit.

It is generally best to avoid MMA because it is a dental acrylic and is extremely tough for your nails. Instead, look for monomers that have Ethyl Methacrylate (EMA) as an ingredient. Usually, higher-quality products and professional brands will have EMA as part of their ingredient list. Hard gel (also called traditional or standard gel) has a similar chemistry makeup to acrylic.

However, it does not require a ratio mix for application. Instead, you can simply purchase the hard gel and use it straight from the pot – easy! Using a pre-made formula is perfect as it means you will always have the ideal consistency.

2. Curing Process

Curing refers to the chemical process of hardening or toughening a substance – in this case, your nails. Acrylic nails are cured by air. Specifically, the curing process begins immediately after combining the monomer and polymer.

This is why it is so important to shape your acrylic nails in a timely manner. Acrylic takes about 10 minutes until it is completely hard. On the other hand, gel nails are cured using a UV or LED light. Gel cures much faster than acrylic. Despite this pro, there are a few concerns you should be aware of when opting for hard gel.

Because UV and LED lamps emit UVA rays, there is concern regarding their safety, as UVA exposure is linked to skin cancer. So be sure to take safety precautions when using UV lamps, such as wearing an SPF 30 or higher or tipless gloves.

3. Purpose

Hard Gel And Acrylic are both used as nail enhancements. They are used to add length to the nails as well as shape and mold the nail into the desired shape. However, some people may prefer gel over acrylic as it has a more natural and glossy look.

4. Treatment Time

Expect anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour for a set of acrylic nails. However, less experienced technicians may take longer, whereas more experienced technicians may take less time.

On the other hand, gel nails can take anywhere between 2 – 2 and a half hours. So because the application time of hard gel is much longer, try scheduling your nail appointment on a day when you have a few errands to run.

5. Durability

So when it comes to longevity and durability, which one is better? Let’s look at a few facts that can help us decide. First, acrylic nails are harder and sturdier than gel nails, whereas gel nails are more flexible. Because of the hardness of acrylic, it cannot stand a lot of pressure and can crack easier than gel.

The gel can withstand more pressure and is less likely to crack. However, acrylic nails last longer than gel nails. Acrylic can last up to several weeks – with fills needed every two to three weeks. Hard gels can last up to 2-3 weeks (the latter if you are lucky.)

6. Smell

If you didn’t already know, acrylic has a strong chemical smell many people can’t stand. For this reason, people often avoid acrylic manicures and opt for hard gel instead. Not only is the smell of acrylic intense, but if you are using it, you need to ensure there is proper ventilation. This is because the fumes of acrylic can cause you to have headaches as well as trigger allergies, asthma, and dermatitis.

7. Removal Process

One of the main differences when it comes to gel nails and acrylic is the removal process. Hard gel nails cannot be removed by acetone. Instead, the nail is filled and buffed down until there is a thin, translucent layer. Acrylics, on the other hand, can be removed using acetone.

A soak, file, and repeat process are used to remove acrylics. It is best to always visit a trained professional for removal. If acrylic nails are applied and removed improperly, they can cause damage to your nails. However, improper removal of gel nails can also cause damage to your nails. Overfilling, picking, or prying can cause permanent damage to the nail plate.

8. Price

Out of the two options, which one is the cheapest? Acrylic. Acrylic nails are more widely available and will definitely cost less than hard gel nails. However, the price ranges will vary depending on your city and preferred salon.


Hard gel nails come out on top for nail health. This is because it’s less damaging to your nails and is not likely to crack when pressure is applied. However, gel nails also have their setbacks. Gel nails are more expensive and last for a shorter period of time than acrylic. In addition, there is also concern regarding UVA exposure.