Deciphering the World of Nails - What are Hard Gels/Soft Gels, Acrylic Nails, Dip Nails?

by Abbie In the Tidepool March 27, 2018


Dip nails, gel, acrylic, natural, deciphering the world of nails, cuticles, hands, cream

Navigating the world of nail services and products can be confusing. The big three in long-wearing manicure options are acrylic nails, gel manicures and now, dip nails.


What is a Dip Manicure? A cross between acrylic and gel, the dip method involves painting nails with a special primer coat, then another coat called the base coat. The finger is dipped in a jar of powder. Each finger goes through the process twice and then, hands are washed. The nails are painted with nail polish and a top coat. A colored powder may be used instead of polish and finished with a top coat.

Unlike the gel polish, with curing in the special UV/LED light to harden the polish, the dip method takes about two minutes to harden and dry with no special light. No chemical odors.

Pros: The dip manicure process takes about the same amount of time as a gel manicure and less time than acrylic. Minimal Filing--Hard nails--No harsh odor--Long lasting.


Cons: Must be applied and removed properly to ensure no damage to natural nail. Dipped nails must be filed, then soaked off. If removed improperly, nail bed can be damaged. Chance of allergic reaction to the skin from powder.


Hard/Soft Gel Manicure: The biggest difference between Hard and Soft Gel nails is porosity and removal. Soft Gel (Shellac, Gelish, OPI Gel Color) otherwise known as "Soak-off Gels," goes on like Nail Polish and is removed with acetone applied to a cotton pad and soaked off.

Pros: Manicure Lasts up to 2 weeks. Minimal damage to natural nails if remove properly. 

How NOT to remove properly -  lifting off yourself without acetone. Yes, it's tempting to pop the gel off after it's been on a while, but when you do, it takes a little of your nail with the gel.  If done over and over, your nail is weakened and serious damage can occur.

Cons: Does not add length. Can dry nails after time. Solution: Every 3-6 months soak natural nails in warm (heat 30 seconds in the microwave) coconut oil 5 minutes, daily for one week. Dryness issue is resolved.

Hard gels are not as porous and can only be removed by filing gel off. Hard Gels can be used to add length where Soft Gels can't. With this type gel, the damage can be the same as with acrylic nails in that you could lose layers of the natural nail.

Pros: Adds length. Manicure lasts up to 3 weeks.

Cons: Hard gels are not much different than Acrylic Nails. The difference is, instead of the manicurist mixing a powder and catalyst together to build a nail, the mixture is combined into one product. Bacteria problems can occur if nails are not properly maintained. Trying to go too long between manicures and improper removal can cause long term damage to natural nails.

Last but not least...New (and confusing) long wear type Nail Polish - is nail polish made by a variety of companies all trying to confuse us with terms like, "Gel polish without the light." Here's a perfect example:

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Brights -


Sally Hansens Gel PolishThis is not gel polish, it's a long wear polish and may last a day or two longer than regular nail polish. It's also more expensive. All the major nail polish brands are making long wear varieties. CND's long-wear is called Vinylux. OPI calls theirs Infinite Shine. While these long wear polishes can make your manicure last slightly longer, it's misleading to call them a Gel.

Find Nail Fitness Nail Hardener, Strengthener, formaldehyde free, acrylic nail removal, split, weak nailsNail Fitness
promotes the growth and strength of natural nails with its unique formula of nail hardening proteins, including Keratin, Calcium, Gelatin, Wheat Protein and Soy Protein. Non-yellowing, and quick drying. Many prefer natural nails and/or like to do their own nails at home. Parisian's Pure Indulgence offers a nail strengthener, Nail Fitness, perfect for the do-it-yourself girl. You'll grow long, healthy nails in no time. 








Read the blog I wrote on 6 tips to healthier, Strong Nails. No more splitting, peeling and breaking!


Have you tried any of these nail services, or do you prefer to do your nails yourself?                                                    

Abbie In the Tidepool
Abbie In the Tidepool


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