Although gel and acrylic nails can provide similar results, there are key differences with each nail style. As we mentioned, gel nails typically consist of brushing coats of polish on your natural nails and are cured with a UV lamp. The process is much faster than applying acrylic, especially because drying is instant, and the nails often look more natural. These days you can find online kits that let you get gel nails right at home. Once complete, gel nails will usually last for around 14 days without chipping. Toward the end of this period, they may start to peel or lift at the corners.

When you’re ready to remove gel nails, all you need to do is soak them off and you’re good to go. Typically, a cotton ball soaked in acetone is placed over the nail, then each nail is wrapped in aluminum foil. After 10 minutes, the gel polish is easily able to be removed. While gel nails can be prone to peeling, they are known to be more flexible than acrylic nails, although be warned that both styles run the risk of damaging your natural nails with continuous wear.

On the flip side, acrylic nails provide a hard, protective layer due to the powder and liquid hybrid mixture they're created with. Since acrylic nails are durable, you typically don’t have to worry about your nails cracking, breaking, or lifting while you have the acrylics (you may even notice that your natural nails grow longer and faster with acrylics).

However, they’re not foolproof and if you do lot’s of work with your hands (think typing, washing dishes, working out with weights) there is the potential for them to break. Acrylic nails can also look bulky if your tech doesn’t take the time to smooth them down to look more natural. If you’re using regular nail polish over acrylic, drying time can take a while, so you may want to tune into your favorite podcast while you sit in the salon and wait. These nails are also challenging to remove without damaging your nail beds.

To keep your acrylic set intact, you’ll have to refill your nails every few weeks. And once you remove acrylic nails, you’re often left with nails that are long but weak. You’ll have to wait for the damaged nails to grow out to get your nails back in shape.