Gel Nails: All You Need To Know Before Your Salon Visit

Written by Sierra Hamilton | Reviewed by Linda Simko Last Updated: March 16, 2024

Gel Nails are famous and on-trend. You’ve been thinking about going to the salon and getting a manicure. Now, you’re asking yourself whether or not you want to get gel nails or the age-old acrylics you’ve always gotten before. Your nails are looking like you stuck them in a wood chipper, so it’s obvious you need to get a set.

Do you really want to try something new? Are they going to look as good as your acrylics? How about the way they feel — do they feel funny? Further, do you want to know if they will completely destroy your natural nails?

These are all questions lovers of manicures have asked since gel nails became popular. Trying something new is always a bit nerve-racking, even when it is something as small as your fingernails. Nobody wants to veer away from their trusted and true product only to end up with something that looks like garbage. The good news is that gel nails are as awesome, if not more so than acrylics. And we’ll tell you why.

Gel Nails: How Are They Different Than Acrylics?

Gel nails are so worth it!

First of all, it would be helpful to understand exactly the difference between gel nails and acrylics before you make a decision. Traditional acrylic nails and gels are completely different.

Acrylics, the most popular fake nails, are by attaching a tip, dipping a brush in a liquid monomer, and putting the wet brush into powder polymer. The polymer is then placed on the nail and spread using a liquid monomer. The nails then dry and become hard. The thing is, they look artificial because they are so thick. Also, with every filling, they get thicker. However, acrylics are also pretty affordable, costing an average of $35 per set and $15 for fills, which are biweekly.

Gel nails are not put on by using any powder or liquid. Instead, a tip is attached, and then gel nail polish is applied in layers. It usually takes two or three layers of gel polish, dried under a UV light between layers, to attain the desired look. Gel nails are, unfortunately, more expensive, costing $25 to $60 per set.

The good news about gel nails, though, is that they are easy to do at home. The only thing you need to do at home are tips (if you want extra length), then glue to attach the tips, a UV lamp (as low as $20), and gel nail polish. We don’t recommend you ever try to apply acrylics at home unless you’ve had training.

Gel Nails: Definitely Worth It

A gel manicure is definitely worth trying if you get your nails often done. For one thing, gel nails are not damaging to your nails the way acrylic nails are. Acrylics often destroy the underlying nail, and then you have to either continue getting them filled or wait for your poor, destroyed nails to grow out before they look nice again. Once removed, your nails are brittle and snag on everything. It’s a pain in the rear. However, because gel nails use the monomer and polymer-like acrylics, there is no damage when you wipe gel polish off.

Gel nails also feel more natural than acrylic nails. If you’ve ever worn acrylics, you know that they sometimes feel funny. Scratching your head, for instance, just doesn’t feel the same. I know, it sounds totally weird, but it’s true. One time I scratched my ear with acrylics and worried I might puncture my eardrum because I couldn’t feel my fingers. The only downside to gel nails is that they can peel and are not as strong as acrylics. But, if you are not prone to breaking your nails, it shouldn’t be that much of an issue.

Also, because gel nails are with polish, they come in a plethora of colors. Whereas acrylics, on the other hand, have to go through the extra step of painting afterward.

Gel Nails Polish Brands You Should Try

If you decide to do your gel nails at home, or even if you’d like to take your own bottle of gel nail polish to the salon, it would be nice to know what to buy. We have some suggestions for you.

CND Shellac: $14.99

CND Shellac is great because it is thinner and feels like regular polish. They currently sell polish in 116 colors, and they last an average of two weeks. According to the company, it only takes five minutes to remove the polish when you want to redo the color.

Lechat Perfect Match Gel Nail Polish: $14.14

Lechat is thicker polish, and you’ll want to make sure you put it on in thinner layers so that it cures properly. However, it is a really great formula, which means it will probably last longer than two weeks. This is good news for people like me who don’t want to paint their nails constantly. It comes in a wide variety of colors. And they also have a beautiful holographic polish.

Aimeili Soak Off UV LED Gel Nail Polish: $6.99

Aimeili has more than 50 colors, and a lot of them change color in response to light or temperature. It’s a little thin, but for the low price, you can afford to put on an extra coat. It also lasts about 14 days before chipping.

Awesome Gel Designs For Your Next Manicure

The kind of design you want on your nails all depends on the kind of person you are. Do you like subdued colors and designs? Or do you prefer bright polish with elaborate designs? How about jewels on your nails? Here are some designs for each of those categories. You can download photos and take them straight to your salon.

simple and natural looking nails

This is just a solid light pink with a bit of a shine. When in doubt, go for the solid colors.

French manicure design

A beautiful French tip with a nail on each finger done in pink glitter polish.

black elegant design

Black polish with fun floral designs on top. The perfect design for someone who is fun, but needs to tone it down at work.

A playful effect from several shades

Fun stripes in different shades of blue.

bright and colorful design

I’m not exactly sure how to describe these bright, awesome nails. They sort of look like a tie-dyed shirt. Whatever they are supposed to do, they’re really cool.

unicorn nails

Yes! Those are, indeed, unicorn nails. Every woman should have unicorn nails at least once in her life.

red nails

Check out these bright red nails full of jewels.

If you do not like any of these, there are literally millions of designs on the internet. If you go to Instagram, for instance, you can search “gel nails” and find more than eight million photos. It is incredible. So just look around to find one you’d like to take to your salon. Or, if you are a creative person, you can try to come up with one of your own designs. I am not a creative person, so I spend hours searching the web for cool ideas.

Have Some Fun with Your Nails

In short, gel nails are a lot of fun, and you should definitely not be afraid of trying something new. In addition to not damaging your nails, there are millions and millions of cool things you can do with them.

Ultimately though, which nails you decide to get depends on your lifestyle. If you knock your nails around a lot, you’re probably going to want to get acrylic nails. If you are easy on your nails, then gel nails are for you. Either way, your nails will look beautiful after your manicure, and really, that’s what matters the most. There is nothing quite like looking down at your hands and thinking, “Oh yeah!”


  • Sierra Hamilton

    Hi, I'm Sierra Hamilton, the founder and main author of My journey began as a salon enthusiast, and over time, I came to recognize the challenges many face when comparing services and prices across different salons. Tired of the opaque pricing in the beauty world, I was inspired to launch My mission is simple: to offer a platform where visitors can access accurate and up-to-date price listings for a myriad of beauty services, streamlining the decision-making process. I'm deeply committed to ensuring everyone can make informed and confident choices about where to indulge in their next beauty treatment.

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