Dipped Nails Vs Gel Nails Vs Acrylic – What is better?

If you watch what is trending right for manicures you can easily get lost in the reviews for powder dipped, gel, and acrylic nails. Each has its list of celebrities touting this manicure or the other as the best around.

How to determine which is the best can be a daunting process. Search the manicure you like, and you will find someone claiming it to be the only way to go for your nails.

While powder dipped, gel, and acrylic nails all have many things in common, each manicure comes with its own set of advantages and drawbacks. Gel nails are great and long-lasting, but they can be hard to remove. Acrylics are a tried and true manicure, but they are really difficult to do yourself. Powder dipped nails are also long-lasting, but these also require an expensive trip to the salon.

We decided to evaluate each manicure and find out which is best: dipped nails, gel nails, or acrylic. Ultimately, the manicure you choose comes down to a simple cost/benefit analysis. Each manicure has its advantages and drawbacks, but this guide will give you the facts.

Under each category, we will give you a run-down of the pros and cons of each manicure. At the very least, you can get a sense of what is involved in dipped vs. gel vs. acrylic. From this, you should be able to make an informed choice between the three.

Acrylic Nails

These have been around the longest of the three. Acrylics are the standard when it comes to trending manicure options.

Acrylic nails are really just false nails made from an acrylic powder mixed with a liquid monomer to harden and attach the false nail to your natural nail The acrylic overlay is made by sculpting the powder and monomer. Once it is exposed to air, it dries quickly and forms a layer over your natural nail.

Be sure your nails are healthy before getting acrylics. If you bite your nails or have a tendency to pick at them, you will need to let them get back into top shape before getting an acrylic manicure. You really need a solid and sound natural nail in order to sculpt the acrylic nails onto your natural nails.

The distinct advantage of acrylic nails is that they provide protection for your natural nails. Obviously, having an acrylic shield will save your natural nails from breaking.

You do need to be careful about removing them since this can damage your natural nail in the process.

Acrylic nails also require little maintenance. As your natural nails grow, you will need to have them touched up by a manicurist about every 15-20 days.

Acrylic nails are extremely versatile in terms of what you can have done with them. You can sculpt acrylic nails into virtual works of art, making for some of the more flamboyant manicure styles available.

Finally, acrylic nails are inexpensive. You can get an acrylic manicure for as little as $10, although be careful about this. We will have a word about this below.

The disadvantage of acrylic nails is that you simply cannot do it yourself. Acrylics require the skill and expertise of a qualified nail technician. There are DIY kits available, but unless you have the training as a skilled manicurist, it is unlikely you will get the right results.

There is the potential to damage your natural nails while removing acrylics. Damage is usually due to improper application and removal of the acrylic. Check with your salon technician on how to remove acrylics safely.

Some acrylics contain a dangerous chemical called MMA acrylic. This is a toxic polymer used by cheap salons. You can detect MMA acrylic by its distinctive fruity odor. Avoid it and salons that use it.

Pros and Cons

  • Odor Free
    • No. Acrylic nails require the use of chemicals which have a distinct smell. These may not work for people who are sensitive to these things.
  • Durable
    • Yes. Acrylics are tough, but they will require some upkeep periodically.
  • Flexible
    • No. Acrylics are rigid and inflexible.
  • Gentle for nails
    • Yes, but acrylics do cause some minor damage to the natural in people with sensitive skin and nails.
  • Natural Feel
    • No. Unfortunately, acrylics feel like what they are, fake nails.
  • Expensive
    • No. Acrylics are the most inexpensive of the three options.

Dipped Nails

Dipped nails are something of a cross between an acrylic and gel nails. Dipped nails are not quite as rigid as an acrylic extension, but they are also not as flexible as a gel manicure. Dipped nails seem to be trending right now, but they have been around for quite some time. It should be fairly easy to find a salon that does good work with dipped nails.

The dip powder is an acrylic powder but rather having them sculpted on like traditional acrylics, they are layered on by dipping your nails into the acrylic powder.

The process involves the application of a base that acts as an adhesive for the powder. Then the manicurists layer the pigmented powder your nails with an acrylic powder that contains pigment and polish. They do not really dip your nails into powder. Dipped is something of a misnomer. In fact, if the technician is dipping your nails into a pot of powder, this is a sign to get away. It is unsanitary to dip your nails into the same container used for other people.

While powder dipped nails are relatively simple, they do require some time at the salon. But they take far less time than gel nails, for instance, which require a lengthy curing process.

This brings us to another advantage of powder dipped nails. Unlike gel nails which require a curing process under UV light to set your manicure in place, powder dipped simply dry naturally, leaving you with stunning, strong, and long-lasting nails.

Compare also with acrylic nails that must be shaped and sculpted onto your natural nails. Powder requires the application process, but this really consists of applying the base coat and the addition of the pigmented powder. There is no lengthy sculpting process.

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Acrylic nails also require a lot of attention once you get them. You can anticipate coming into the salon at every two or three weeks to get them filled. However, this process does allow you to keep them beautiful and intact for as long as six weeks.

In many ways, powder dipped nails are the easiest option of the three.

The main disadvantage of powder dipped nails is that they will dry out your natural nails. The bonding agents and the powders, because they stay fixed and chip-free for as long as three weeks, will dry out your natural nails. The more frequently you get powder dipped nails, the more the problem becomes aggravated.

The cost of dipped nails can range from $25 for a basic manicure to twice that much. But for nails that last as long as dipped nails, it can be a worthwhile expense.

Pros and Cons

  • Odor Free
    • No. Powder dipped nails require base coats that contain chemicals that do have an odor.
  • Durable
    • Yes. Powder dipped nails can last the longest, as much as six weeks.
  • Flexible
    • Moderate. Powder dipped nails are somewhere in between an acrylic manicure and gel nails. They are more flexible than acrylic, but a little more rigid than a gel.
  • Gentle for nails
    • Moderate. Like gel nails, removing them properly takes some time and you should leave it to a pro. Acrylics can also dry our your natural nails.
  • Natural Feel
    • Yes. Dipped nails can feel just like conventional nail polish.
  • Moderate
    • Dipped nails can be as low as $25, but it is possible to spend more than that.

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Dipped vs gel vs acrylic nails

Gel Nails

Gel nails are one of the most popular manicure trends right now. There are many good reasons for this too.

Unlike powders and acrylics, gel nails are literally painted onto your natural nails just like regular nail polish. The gel is then cured with a UV light that hardens onto your natural nails.

What makes gel nails distinctly different is the way the gel forms onto the natural nail. Rather than an acrylic, either in powder as in dipped nails or sculpted like acrylic nails, the gel forms the polymer directly on your nails. This is the function of the UV light. Under the UV light, the polymer which forms the acrylic takes shape and forms on your nails.

Gel nails are well known for being beautiful and tough. They can last more than four weeks without chipping or peeling. They require no real maintenance. The thinner density of gel nails makes them much more flexible than acrylics or powders. The natural look of gel nails accounts for their popularity.

If you do the searching you will find DIY gel nail kits that come complete with a mini UV light. These work and the gel nail you do at home will last longer than regular nail polish, but these are not of the same quality at a gel nail manicure you get at a salon.

One of the drawbacks of gel nails is that they can be difficult to remove. Conventional nail polish removers do not work well. Picking at them will damage your natural nail beds. Gel nails need to be soaked in acetone for a good 15 minutes or more to fully remove them. Some people have complained of skin irritation from exposure to the acetone.

Another disadvantage of gel nails is they require exposure to UV light which can damage skin cells. This kind of cell damage is linked with skin cancer, although there are no known cases of cancer attributable to the gel nail process.

The average cost for a gel nail manicure is around $35, although they go up as high as $50.

All in all, the durability, luster, and shine, and flexibility make gel nails well worth the price.

Pros and Cons

  • Odor Free
    • Yes. But the removal process involves acetone which does have a chemical smell.
  • Durable
    • Yes. Gel nails can last up to four weeks.
  • Flexible
    • Yes. Gel nails are extremely flexible.
  • Gentle for nails
    • Yes. But if not removed properly, you can damage your natural nails.
  • Natural Feel
    • Yes. Gel nails can feel just like natural nails.
  • Expensive
    • Yes. A good gel nail manicure can set you back as much as $65.


While we may not have come to a definitive conclusion on which is the best, this guide can at least give you the basic information to make your own decision. Dipped nails, gel nails, and acrylic nails all have real advantages.

If you want to go with the tried and true manicure, acrylics are probably your best bet. That they have been around for such a long time means you can get an acrylic manicure at just about any salon.

Gel nails are the newest option on the list and may not be available everywhere. But the advantages of gel nails are their natural appearance and feeling and they last a long time. Just remember, removing them can be another investment of your time.

Powder dipped nails are the buzz right now, but these too have been around for quite some time. There has just been a surge in popularity for this simple and elegant style of manicure. Dipped nails also have much going for them. You get the beauty and elegance of acrylics without the complicated sculpting. They are long-lasting and resist chipping and flaking.

Acrylic, gel, and dipped nails each pose certain risks when it comes to the health of your natural nails and skin. However, if you take the right precautions and go to a reputable salon, all of these options are safe for your natural nails. Pay attention to the kinds of chemicals a salon may be using as we described in the guide above, and you will have safe, healthy, and beautiful nails.

As we said above, this mostly comes down to simple economics and the exact style you are after. Dipped nails, gel nails, and acrylic nails all look fantastic in their own ways.

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