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Acrylic Nail Extensions: Pros, Cons, and More
Nothing makes a woman feel so fierce as lengthy acrylic claws. They’re one of the few methods of long-lasting nail art, whose group includes gel nail extensions and SNS dipping nails. The claim to fame is simple: they last around 4-6 weeks and are harder than most nail extensions, including gel extensions. They’re also very flexible and can accommodate a wide range of colors, designs, and art styles.
Gone are the days of chipped nails and cheap polish. If you’re serious about having beautiful, colorful nails for a long time, then you’ll definitely want to consider getting acrylic nails. To help you make the decision, we’re going to lay down all you need to know about acrylic nails: the pros, the cons, and more!
Are nail extensions the same as acrylic?
Nail extensions are a broad term for different types of artificial nails or nail tips. These are nail-like accessories placed over your real nails in the place of regular nail polish or a traditional manicure. Nail extensions have risen in popularity and demand over time, thanks to their durability in comparison to regular nail polish. While the latter requires only a nail polish remover to scrape off, nail extensions require the services of a nail technician to remove.
Over the years, plenty of different artificial nail methods have cropped up. You have your acrylic nail, your gel nail, and other up-and-coming products like nail dips. With the recent lockdowns, brands have also been innovating by selling DIY kits, such as the Apres Gel X nail extension kit, which includes a nail drill. Do note that a nail drill should be used by someone who has significant experience with the tool.
All of these serve the same purpose: to add a long-lasting cover for one’s nails. While they primarily serve a cosmetic purpose (hello, Facebook-worthy fingertips), plenty of others use acrylic or gel tips as a technique to prevent nail biting, breakage, or splits.
How long do acrylic nail extensions last?
The first thing that draws people to this nail technique is its longevity. Regular polish starts to chip off from your nails at around two weeks. They also don’t offer any protection to your nails themselves. Gel extensions, on the other hand, are much more flexible but last only about 2 weeks.
Acrylic extensions are created by combining monomer liquid with polymer powder to create a durable, air-dried nail extension. This powerful mixture can last 6-8 weeks on your nails. However, you will have to schedule fill-ins at the nail salon every two weeks to keep your acrylic nails looking good as new. This is because you’ll be able to see growth of cuticle beds around this time, according to the founder of New York City nail salon, Vanity Projects.
To prepare for an acrylic nail procedure, a lot of salons recommend letting your nail tips grow out a little as it helps with the adhesion of the product.
How do I maintain my acrylic nails?
You can’t prevent your nails from the natural process of cuticle growth. However, there are a few things you can do to keep them from chipping before your scheduled fill-in. Here’s what experts have to say:
1. Baby Your Nails
While acrylics are meant to last, their material can, unfortunately, be prone to breaking. So be gentle with your nails! Avoid physical activity that requires the use of heavy lifting, scrubbing, or scraping, as advised by cosmetologist Tina Alberino. If you must, use gloves so that you reduce direct exposure to your nails. Gardening or doing the dishes are some examples of tasks that may require you to be extra careful.
2. Add a Top Coat
If you really want your nails to last longer, you can add a gel manicure on top of it. While more expensive, that extra layer is going to lock in your acrylic nails for longer. Plus, you won’t have to make the decision between gel nail extensions or acrylic ones because you’ll be content with the best of both worlds.
3. Don’t Be Your Own Nail Technician
With the age of DIY, it’s hard not to take matters into our own hands. A chip or two on our acrylics may prompt us to try to repair them ourselves, or worse, remove them on our own. Don’t do this. It might be tempting, but since acrylic nails can be very tough on your natural beds, you might end up doing more harm than good!
If you break or lift your nails, it’s best to seek the help of your nail artist. The removal process requires an expert hand. Be wary of attempting to fix a nail lift with nail glue on your own! At worst, this could not only damage nail health but trap bacteria and cause an infection. Always entrust the repair process to your local salons.
4. Apply Vitamin E
Your nails aren’t going to stand out if your hands are always dry or cracked. Take your nail care up a notch and keep your hands looking soft and smooth, too! Dr. Carolyn Siegel advises liberal use of Vitamin E oil or shea butter to keep your hands looking moisturized. Those who have dry skin or reside in a cold climate will benefit from this.
A quick google search would tell you that the most popular alternative to acrylic nails is a gel nail extension. What exactly is the difference and which one should you get?
Vanity Projects says it depends on the preference and lifestyle, although they generally favor gels over acrylics. This is because the nature of acrylic nails make them stick to the surface of natural nails much harder — and while this is great for their longevity, they can be more damaging to the surface of the natural nails in the long run.
But they also recommend getting acrylic nails if you have a more active or heavy-handed lifestyle. Clients who need the adhesiveness of acrylic nails are going to find that gel extensions are a little too flexible.
As for design and length of the products, they really aren’t all that different. Both an acrylic and a gel nail can mimic a c-curve around the edge of your nails, use different colors, and vary in length. Most salons offer a wide range of styles, whether you fancy a sophisticated french manicure or a colorful, out-of-the-box set of nails.
What's the difference between gel and acrylic nail extensions?
What exactly is the difference between gel nail extensions and acrylics? Manicurist Shirley Cheng describes it in an article for Allure: a gel nail can be likened to a plastic cup, while an acrylic nail is more similar to a glass cup. She explains: “While a glass cup might seem harder, if you drop the glass, it will break, while the plastic cup will be fine.”
Manicurist to the stars Gina Edwards says that gel extensions and acrylics have a similar look and feel, but vary in the way they’re prepared. In this Refinery29 article, she explains that an acrylic nail extension is a two-step process requiring air drying liquid and powder. Gel extensions use structured gel cured by a UV light, UV lamp, or LED lamp. The latter also lasts about two weeks.
There are two types of gel nails. One uses hard gel, a tougher and less flexible product for gel nails, while the other uses structured gel, a less firm product that can easily be soaked off. Both require the use of a UV light.
Are gel nail extensions better than acrylic nail polish?
Ultimately, the difference between the two lies in the ease of removal and polymerization process. Shirley Cheng also reiterates that a client’s lifestyle and personal preferences all come into play, and that a good nail artist will first ask questions to figure out which product is more appropriate for you. People who are used to a more active lifestyle may prefer gel products because they don’t break as easily, but the same people could prefer an acrylic alternative because they last longer.
Keep in mind that gel extensions are generally more gentle on your natural nails despite not lasting as long as an acrylic mixture. The difference between the two is also the gel curing process. Both gel and acrylic nails are removable at home, although a gel nail extension is the easier one of the two.
That said, if you do go for acrylics, it’s important you seek the help of nail technicians who don’t use outdated products like methyl methacrylate or MMA. Exposure to this product has been shown to cause lightheadedness and hand tremors, causing its permanent ban in the cosmetology industry in the United States.
From the difference between the two methods to all the do’s and don’ts, acrylic and gel nail extensions are certainly some of the most interesting facets of cosmetics today. We hope you learned a thing or two! Stay tuned to our page for all the best content on beauty and fashion!
Have any experience with nail extensions? Share some tips in the comment box below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I remove my gel nail extension without going to nail salons?
A gel nail can be tough to remove, especially if done incorrectly. The properties that make them so durable are also what make them difficult to clean off. To avoid harming your nails, we always recommend going to the salon to remove the gel, but a home removal can be done if absolutely needed.
To remove a soft gel manicure, InStyle magazine recommends you do the following steps:
- Start by shielding your nails and fingers with Vaseline, cuticle oil, or cream.
- Using a nail file, gently buff the top layer of your manicure. This breaks down the top coat to let the acetone sink in.
- Soak cotton balls in acetone. Nail professional Madeline Poole highly recommends purchasing 100% acetone and not the diluted nail polish remover found in local drugstores. Place the soaked cotton ball on your nail.
- Next, take a piece of foil and wrap it around your finger to secure the cotton. Do this with all your nails.
- Wait 10 to 15 minutes for the acetone to work its magic. Once done, you can remove the foil, and the gel extensions along with it.
- Acetone can be drying (and so was the gel nail polish), so the final step of the gel removal process is to restore a bit of moisture into your nails. Give them care by applying cuticle oil.
Joey is an AB Psychology graduate of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod. Her life’s passions include writing, film, and spending hours on end binge-watching fashion vloggers on Youtube.