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What is the difference between nail polish and gel nails?

Gel polish, gel nails, gel polish... A dear child has many names. But what is the actual difference between nail polish and gel nails? Read along in this article where we enlighten you about the difference between gel polish and nail polish. But also, what advantages there are in using one over the other when you want to get a new set of nails.

In the picture above, a layer of base coat is being applied, which is the first layer applied to the nail surface when creating gel nails. Photo: Nailie

Gel nails and regular nail polish are two very different nail products. The purpose of both products is essentially the same: to decorate and enhance the appearance of natural nails. However, when you delve into the application process, durability, and other factors, there are significant differences between them.

5 basic differences between nail polish and gel nails

When comparing gel nails to regular nail polish in terms of effectiveness, application process, removal, and durability, there are 5 fundamental differences:

  1. Curing
    The curing process is significantly different when comparing gel nails to regular nail polish. Regular nail polish air-dries over time and can take up to 30 minutes or more to fully dry. Gel nails, on the other hand, require a UV/LED lamp to cure. Depending on the strength of the lamp, it takes only a few minutes to cure the gel, resulting in a more durable and resistant surface.
  2. Durability
    Gel nails are generally more durable than regular nail polish. This is because gel nails are built up in multiple layers, starting with a base coat, followed by the gel polish color, and finally a top coat. Gel nails can last for several weeks without chipping or losing their shine, whereas regular nail polish tends to chip and crack within a few days or weeks. Regular nail polish is also not as resistant and is prone to scratching.
  3. Drying time
    Regular nail polish can take a long time to dry completely, whereas gel nails cure instantly under a UV/LED lamp. With gel nails, you don't have to worry about accidentally smudging or damaging your nail creations by touching things or applying multiple layers.
  4. Removal
    Regular nail polish can be easily removed with nail polish remover. Gel nails, however, require a different process for removal. The gel nail removal process is longer, and it's crucial to remove it carefully and patiently to avoid damaging your natural nails. When removing gel polish, it usually involves filing the top layer of the gel to break the seal, followed by soaking the gel in acetone to remove it completely. This can be a time-consuming process that requires care and attention. If you plan to remove your gel nails yourself, we recommend using a removal kit, which contains everything you need to remove gel polish from your nails. See our guide on how to remove gel nails.
  5. Flexibility and natural appearance
    Regular nail polish is more flexible and provides a more natural feel on the nails, while gel nails can feel somewhat stiffer due to the cured gel material. Regular nail polish also allows nails to bend and move more freely, while gel nails are more resistant to breakage.

Read more: What is gel polish

Pros and cons of gel nails and regular nail polish

Both types have their advantages and disadvantages, and your choice between gel nails and regular nail polish depends on your preferences and needs. If you desire more durable and long-lasting nail results with less maintenance, gel nails may be a good choice. If you prefer a more flexible and easily removable result, regular nail polish might be the best option.

In the tables below, we have attempted to outline the advantages and disadvantages of gel nails vs. regular nail polish in an organized manner:

Advantages of gel nails and regular nail polish:

Gel nails

  • Long-lasting and durable result.
  • Resistance to chipping and cracking.
  • Glossy and shiny finish.
  • Ability to create complex nail designs and nail art.

Nail polish

  • Easy to apply.
  • Flexible and natural feel on the nails.
  • Easy to remove.

Disadvantages of gel nails and regular nail polish:

Gel nails

  • Requires multiple products. Can be purchased together in a starter kit.
  • Removal can be time-consuming and requires a removal kit.
  • May feel stiffer on the nails.

Nail polish

  • Shorter durability.
  • Requires multiple coats.
  • Possible risk of chipping.

How to get started with making gel nails?

Has this comparison between gel nails and regular nail polish inspired you to try out gel polish? Then you can save money right now by buying a starter kit for making gel nails. When you buy a starter kit from Nailie, it always includes nail guides, so you can easily get started with making gel nails yourself at home.

In the picture above, you can see Nailie's Gel Polish Basic Kit. The kit includes all the essentials for making gel nails yourself at home. Photo: Nailie