Gel Nail Polish vs Regular Nail Polish: Which one to choose?


Gel Nails

With all the buzz about nail polishes trending right now, you might be trying to decide if you even want to bother sorting through it all. When you get right down to the difference between gel vs regular nail polish, you may wonder if there is enough difference to warrant the time and expense.

Obviously, there are differences to evaluate for gel vs regular nail polish. Gel polishes have not become trendy just because the internet says they are. And people are still using regular nail polish for some sound reasons.

What you need are some real facts about gel vs regular nail polish that will help you wade through the trends and internet hype. What makes a gel polish worthwhile, for instance? Why are some people sticking with the tried and true regular nail polish?  Are there health and safety concerns you need to know about?

This guide will present the information you require to make an informed decision regarding gel vs regular nail polish, and we will give you a quick rundown of the pros and cons for each.

Gel Nail Polish

Again, gel polish manicures have been trending all over the internet. Search #gelnails and you will find well over 15 million posts right now. Gel nails are arguably the biggest trend in manicures. But are they worth the fuss, that is the question?

Gel nails are popular for some really good reasons. They look fantastic, and they last. These two things alone will send many people into a salon for a gel manicure. The promise of great looking nails that remain flawless for more than a month can be irresistible. Yet, there is much to gel nails that you need to know.

What are Gel Nails

Gel nails differ completely from regular nail polish because they consist of acrylic that is painted onto your natural nails and then forms a polymer as it is cured. Unlike regular acrylic nails, which are really just fake nails that are then sculpted to look beautiful, gel nails adhere and form on your natural nail.

This is a far cry from regular nail polish because of the acrylic polymer and the curing process. The gel nail “polish” contains the polymer in a liquid form. When exposed to UV light, the polymer forms and hardens. The actively cured polymer is the reason gel nails are so resilient and long-lasting.

What is Involved

Gel nail manicures require a professional manicurist. While there are DIY kits available, the reality is that you need someone trained in the application and curing of the gel nail to get a good manicure. For this reason, there are inevitable time and monetary investments involved in a gel manicure.

A good gel manicure takes more time than a regular manicure. The gel must be applied with great care, and the UV curing process takes a considerable amount of time. The fact is, a gel manicure requires a substantial time investment at the salon.

While gel manicures are generally considered affordable, they do cost more than a regular manicure. You can find gel manicures for as little as $35, but they can go up to as much as $120, depending on what you want and where you go to get it done. Often it is the case, like most anything else, that you get what you pay for. This means that a cheap gel manicure may well look like a cheap gel manicure.

On the other hand, gel manicures can last and look brand new for more than two weeks. They are highly resistant to chipping and peeling. They look amazing. So, the time and money may be worthwhile when you balance these things against the overall amount of time and money you spend on regular nail polish. The fact is, it may end up being roughly the same in the long run.

Since gel manicures are so strong, they provide protection for your natural nails. Another feature of a gel manicure is that your nails remain flexible. Unlike a traditional acrylic, a good gel manicure can bend almost like a natural nail.

The trade-off to the benefits to natural nails includes the fact that gel nails have a tendency to dry out your natural nails. This seems to be the most common complaint about gel nails. You can combat this problem by hydrating with high-quality cuticle oil.

Another downside to gel nails is that they are difficult to remove. You need to visit this salon again and have them soaked off in acetone. This also takes time—about 15 minutes—to loosen and fully remove the gel nail polish. Also, the acetone may irritate your skin.

Note: cutting your nails, picking at them, and certainly biting them will damage gel nails and cause them to flake and peel. Make certain you have gel nails properly removed.

Health Risks

Gel manicures do carry some risks. The health dangers involved in a gel manicure are somewhat uncertain, but there are a few things you need to be aware of as you consider a gel manicure.

Some gel products can contain what is called the “toxic trio” of chemicals. These include formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBT). These chemicals have been linked to adverse side effects that can disturb liver and thyroid function. Reputable salons can remove or reduce your exposure to these chemicals but be advised that many gel nail polishes contain this toxic trio.

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

The UV light used in the curing process is another source of concern. Exposure to UV light has been shown to damage skin cells. This type of damage is associated with skin cancer. As of now, there is no link between gel manicures and skin cancer. Here again, a professional and reputable salon will know how to minimize your exposure to the UV light.


  • Long-lasting
  • Resists chipping and peeling
  • Flexible and feel natural


  • Expensive
  • Time-consuming
  • Requires professional removal

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gel nail polish vs regular nail polish

Regular Nail Polish

Regular nail polish is the standard manicure. Painting your nails is, in fact, an old practice. Archaeologists can date the practice of painting nails as far back as 3000 BCE. The ancient Egyptians did it.

While getting your nails done at a salon with regular nail polish is fun, we can also all do it at home by the time we are teenagers. We also know that unless you are extremely practiced and careful, painting your nails is an easy thing to do wrong.

Some Facts about Regular Nail Polish

Nail polish as we now know it was actually developed from automobile paint. The fine and smooth shine you see on a car is quite similar to the glossy shine we want in a manicure.

Regular nail polish consists of an acrylic polymer, most often nitrocellulose, and a solvent. The common solvents are ethyl acetate or butyl acetate. When applied, the solvent simply evaporates (this accounts for that familiar smell associated with common nail polish), and this leaves the pigment in place.

The pigments usually consist of some type of titanium oxide. There is actually an entire branch of chemistry that develops these pigments.

Advantages of Regular Nail Polish

The primary advantage of regular nail polish is that it is extremely affordable. As we all know, you can buy simple nail polishes at just about any drug store. If you want to spend large amounts of money, that is always an option. There are high-end brands of nail polish and some of them are well worth the extra expense. The higher quality polishes last longer, look better and are easier to use.

Regular nail polish is also simple. Most of us learned to wield the brush and the polish bottle by the time we were teenagers, and we have spent years perfecting our technique.

However, like everything else these days, regular nail polishes have advanced in ways that are anything but regular. There are now things like photochromic polishes. These are light-sensitive polishes that will change color in varying types of light. The polish itself actually changes color.

Holographic nail polish is another major development in the world of regular nail polish. These are polishes that contain small amounts of reflective crystals that will produce light effects as they are exposed to different types of light.

One real advantage of regular nail polish is that it is really easy to remove. With the exception of a few intense pigments, most regular nail polishes wipe right off with nail polish remover. Even the all-natural nail polish removers now available will generally remove most standard nail polishes.


One of the primary disadvantages of regular nail polish is that they simply do not last long. Most will start chipping and peeling within a few days. If you are the type of person who uses their hands a lot for your work or for hobbies, regular nail polish probably is not going to work out for you.

Regular nail polish also takes a long time to dry. We all know what it is like trying to do just about anything right after applying a fresh coat of polish.

Finally, most polishes simply will not provide a good shine and color without multiple coats. It can be time-consuming and tiresome trying to get regular nail polish to look glossy and even.


  • Inexpensive and widely available.
  • Easy to do at home
  • Now come in a variety of colors and styles


  • Takes a long time to dry and can be messy
  • Chips and peels easily
  • Usually requires multiple coats

Wrapping this up

Possibly the best news about gel vs regular nail polish is that we have so many options to choose from now. Both manicure styles have advanced to such a level that either way we go, we have a world of choices.

The gel manicure has been getting a lot of press recently and it is easy to get caught up in the trends. The truth about gel manicures is that they really do look fantastic and they are incredibly durable.

The downside of gel polishes is that they can be expensive, and you are almost certainly bound to be at the salon a few times to have them applied, maintained, and removed.

Sticking with regular nail polish will always remain an option and a good one at that. You can get some top-quality nail polishes now at a reasonable cost. They are easy to use yourself, and you can find them almost anywhere. If you really want a professional manicure, the salons still offer conventional nail polish manicures.

However, regular nail polish has its disadvantages. It takes a long time to dry. If you are not careful it can be extremely messy. Most polishes require multiple coats to get an even and fine polish. And we all know, they start chipping and peeling within a couple days.

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