Gel vs Powder Nails: Which is Right for You?

Gel and powder nails are popular nail services in the nail community. When it comes to choosing which one is better, everyone has their own personal favorites.

They are both durable, long-lasting, and easy to apply. But there are clear differences that tell the two systems apart which makes them suited for some people but not for others. 

Gel or Powder Nails: A Guide to Help You Decide

Gel nails use a gel-based polish and require a UV or LED light to cure the polish and lock it onto your nails. While it may look just like your regular old mani, the added benefits are that they last longer, are super shiny, and feel sturdier.

Gel nails
Gel nails by nailsbynatashapaige

Gel polish is made of polymers that are photo-initiated so when this polish is held under a UV light for 45 seconds, it completely hardens and dries. If you’re using an LED light, it will take a little longer to cure, but the result will be the same.

There are two types of gel nails, they include; soft and hard gel nails. Soft gel nails refers to soft gel nail extensions which are made out of the same material as gel nail polish but are built up on the nail to add length.

While hard gel nails are used to add length to nails. They are similar to acrylics and strengthen weak nails.

Powder nails is a system using acrylic powders to build up a manicure with layers and finished with a sealant.

Powder Nails
Powder Nails by

When applying these nails, you either need to dip the nail into the powder or you can brush it on. In between each layer of powder, you brush on a sealant polish.

As a powder manicure is built up in layers, the result is stronger than gel manicures, allowing the user to maintain the nails for up to a month. Powder nails can be used on natural nails, but also extensions like acrylic and Gel-X tips.

You might want to check out: Gel Nails: Everything You Need to Know

Gel Nails vs Powder Nails: What’s the Difference?

Below are the key differences to keep in mind when choosing between gel nails and powder nails.

1. Application

The main difference between gel nails and powder nails is how each system is applied. Gel nails are applied just like polish and are brushed onto the nail.

Between each coat of polish, the gel needs to be cured under a UV or LED lamp. UV light, takes about 45 seconds to dry, while LED light takes about two minutes.

On the other hand, powder nails are made by dipping the nail into an acrylic powder or brushing on the powder. Between each coat of powder, seal it with an activator polish.

2. Longevity

Both nail systems have great lasting power. Gel nails can last up to two weeks without chipping if it is applied correctly. If you have an oily nail bed or you regularly submerge your nails in water, you may not get the most out of your gel nails.

Powder nails on the other hand can last up to a month. Their longevity comes from the components of the activator polish.

The activator used for powder nails is the same compound used in Super Glue! It is called cyanoacrylate and is extremely strong.

3. Removal

Both gel and powder nails can be tricky to remove without the right technique as improper removal will lead to damage to the nail bed. Of the two nail systems, gel polish is easier to remove. For gel, you can file down the top layer of polish. Then soften the polish with acetone-soaked cotton balls.

Powder nails are both thicker and more difficult to remove. You can simply file off the top layer. After that, you will need to soak the nails directly in acetone to soften the dip manicure.

You might want to check out: How to Safely Remove Sticky Residue From Gel Nails Without Alcohol

4. Duration Of The Manicure

Both gel and dip nails take roughly the same amount of time to complete. In both cases, you will need about 45 minutes to complete the manicure from start to finish. Longer time may be required if you are adding nail extensions or art.

5. Safety

Both gel and powder nails are perfectly safe to apply and remove with the proper techniques.

The main reasons for nail damage with either both manicures are rarely because of the system but a result of:

• Strong chemicals used to prime your nails.

• Damaging the nail plate during removal by over-filing, or scraping with a metal cuticle tool to remove the gel or dip.

Picking at the gel polish and ripping it off instead of using acetone to soak it off.

6. Hygiene

Gel nails are arguably more sanitary than powder nails since sometimes the powder comes in direct contact with the client’s skin and is then reused on other clients.

7. Even-toned 

Gel nails provide an even-toned color as the pigment is finer and suspended in the gel. Powder nails have lower quality brands, and are known for pigment dots, fading, and inconsistent shades.

Gel vs Powder Nails: Which is Better?

You should take into consideration your lifestyle, nail condition, and how you want your nails to look when deciding between gel and powder nails. Gel nails have a natural look while dip powder has a thicker application.

However, if you’re using your hands a lot, dip powder should be your go-to option as it is more scratch-resistant than gel.

You might want to check out: Gel vs SNS Nails: Which One is the Best Choice for Your Nails?