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What are the differences between Polygel, Hard gel & Acrylic Nail Systems?

As if selecting a nail colour wasn’t one of the hardest decisions to make when having your nails done, baring in mind the shape, length, thickness and overall design. Nowadays, you also have to consider which nail system to choose when extending the length of your nails; There’s the famous Acrylic, liquid gel also known as hard gel, and the new Polygel/Acrygel.

As there are a few different ways to creating artificial nail enhancements/extensions; I’ve created this presentation to help you understand the systems, how they are performed and decide which nail system is best suited to your lifestyle.


Acrylic Nail Enhancements

We all know this classic method of extending the length and strength of your nails, as well as the distinctive smell that stays with you long after leaving the nail salon.

This method involves mixing acrylic powder polymer with liquid monomer, which is applied over tips of desired length, air dried, sculpted into a nail shape, filed using an electric nail file and then designed. (The finger dipping method is another way of applying acrylic powder.)

Acrylic is the most popular choice of extending your nail length and providing strength like no other nail system, as you can create effortlessly stunning nail designs, in a matter of an hour and it doesn’t break the bank!

How long does it take?

45mins-1hr 30mins depending on length/shape, and can last up to 2-4 weeks.

How much does it cost?

£15 to £25

How is it removed?

Removal involves soaking in acetone and filing down repeatedly until completely removed, this process can take up to 20mins depending on thickness.

Pros of acrylic:

Strength, speed of application & creative long lasting XL nail designs.

Cons of acrylic:

Powerful odour, acetone weakens nails, dries skin & Inflexibility can cause damage/trauma to the natural nail as it can snap when it brakes, this is extremely painful and can bleed.


Hard/Liquid Gel Enhancements

We’ve all heard the term Gel Nails used in acrylic nail salons, and majority of the time they are only referring to applying a gel top coat ontop of acrylic enhancements or ‘shellac’.

A true gel is an odourless, sticky liquid gel in a pot or bottled ‘builder gel’ formula. Before application the cuticle is prepped, buffed and applied with nail dehydrate and primer to remove excess oil. Then a bead of Gel is brushed onto the nail and cured in UV/LED lamp. A larger bead of gel is then moulded on top to form the artificial nail, your hand is turned upside down to begin the self-levelling process and cured in lamp to set. This is then shaped, buffed, and then painted.

It’s self sealing with the famous ‘gel gloss shine’

This self levelling method is great for minimal filing, replicating natural nails, encapsulating clear designs, are lighter in weight, delivers the famous ‘Gel Gloss Shine’ and odourless if you don’t like the bulk of acrylics or the smell!

How is long does it take?

1hr 30mins-2hrs depending on length/shape, and can last up to 2-4 weeks.

How much does it cost?

Natural overlay £25-£40 Long tips with Nail designs

How is it removed?

As Liquid Gel can’t be soaked off using acetone the only way to remove this is by filing. This can take 10 mins.

Pros of liquid gel:

Lighter than acrylics with the same strength, odourless, high gloss finish, less dust particles less filing and creates realistic natural nail overlays.

Cons of liquid gel:

Service time, weakens/starts lifting after 3 weeks, file off removal process only.


Polygel a.k.a Acrygel

PolyGel/Acrygel nails are a newcomer to the industry, but what makes this method so different to the previous two options? Well, Polygel is essentially the baby of hard gel and acrylic; Combining the strength of acrylic and natural look of gel, in a putty formula squeezed from a tube.

In order for Polygel to be applied, cuticles are removed, nail bed is prepped, buffed, then applied with nail dehydrate and primer, to remove any natural oils. Once prepped, a layer of base gel is applied to the natural nail, cured in UV/LED lamp, then a large bead of polygel is scooped from the tube using the spatula brush, applied to the base layer and sculpted to create the artificial nail. This is then shaped, buffed, and painted as desired.

It’s 20% lighter than acrylic, 16% lighter than a traditional hard gel, produces less dust particles when filing and provides a pleasant fragrance. Great for people that don’t like the bulk or smell of acrylics!

How is long does it take?

1hr 45mins-2hrs hrs depending on length/shape, and can last up to 3-4 weeks.

How much does it cost?

Natural overlay £30-£50 Long Stiletto with Design

How is it removed?

PolyGel/Acrygel can be easily filed off or soaked off using acetone and other solvents for less damage to skin & nails.

Pros of polygel:

Lightweight and Strong, produces less dust particles, pleasantly fragranced, optional removal and is more flexible than acrylics when it brakes, therefore comes away from the natural nail bed causing minimal pain and trauma.

Cons of Polygel:

Longer application time due to prepping & curing process, and can weaken/lose shape of corners over time as its a lighter than acrylic and hard gel.


Now with all this knowledge, Which nail system will you choose ?

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