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

by Kelli Parisian May 31, 2020


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

Navigating the world of nail services and products can be confusing. Your Nail Technician may suggest one of the big three in long-wearing nail enhancement options: acrylic nails, gel manicures, and now, dip nails.

What are "Dip Nails?" 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 fingernail is then dipped in a jar of polymer powder (very similar to acrylic powder). Each finger goes through the process twice and then, hands are cleansed. The nails are painted with nail polish and a topcoat. A colored powder may be used instead of polish and finished with a topcoat.

Unlike the gel polish, which must be cured 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. Benefit: Minimal chemical odors, no light.

Pros: The dip manicure process takes about the same amount of time as a gel manicure and less time than acrylic. Benefits: Minimal filing--hard nails--no harsh odor--long-lasting.

Cons: Must be applied and removed properly to ensure no damage to the natural nail. To remove: Dipped nails must be filed on the surface; then soaked off. If removed improperly: The nail bed can be damaged. Chance of allergic reaction to the skin from acrylic 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, etc.) otherwise known as "Brush on/Soak-off Gels," go on like Nail Polish and removed with acetone applied to a cotton pad and soaked off. 

Pros of Soft Gel - Soak-off Gels: Manicure Lasts up to 2 weeks. Minimal damage to natural nails if removed properly. 

How NOT to remove properly -  lifting off yourself (picking off) 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 layer of your nail with the gel.  If done over and over, your nail becomes weakened and serious damage can occur.

Cons: Does not add length. Can be drying to natural dry nails after time. Solution: Remove gels every 3-6 months and soak natural nails in warm (heat until warm in the microwave) coconut oil for 5 minutes, daily for one week. The dryness issue should be 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 cannot. With this type gel, the damage can be the same as with acrylic nails in that you could lose layers of the natural nail through filing and improper removal.

Pros: Adds length. A manicure can last up to 3 weeks.

Cons: Hard gels are not much different than Acrylic Nails. The difference is, instead of the Nail Technician mixing a liquid catalyst (monomer) and powder (polymer) together to build a nail, the mixture is combined into one product.

Bacteria problems can occur if nails are not properly maintained. If you go too long between manicures (over 3 weeks) and/or improper removal can cause long term damage to natural nails.

Last but not least...New (and confusing) long wear type Nail Polish -  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. Hybrid polish is also more expensive. All the major nail polish brands are making long-wear (Hybrid) varieties. CND's long-wear is called Vinylux. OPI calls theirs Infinite Shine. Essie's brand calls theirs Gel Couture. 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
Nail Rejuventation & Hardener 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 who wants to 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!




Update: 3/15/2020













Kelli Parisian
Kelli Parisian


Kelli Parisian - Founder of Parisian's Pure Indulgence Organic Skin Care. Contributing writer to LivingBetter50 online Woman's Magazine. Come along with me, and learn how to have a healthy, vibrant, beautiful life after 50!

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