The Ultimate Guide to Acrylic Nails: Pros, Cons, & How to Get It


Acrylic nails are a type of artificial nail extension that offers strength, length, and endless design possibilities. They have been a mainstay in the beauty world for decades, but their popularity has exploded in recent years. Celebrities, social media, and our love for nail art have all contributed to this resurgence.

This guide is for you! We’ve tapped Hannah Lee, a Sally Hansen nail shapes expert, and professional manicurist, to break down everything you need to know about getting and maintaining acrylic nail design.

Meet Our Acrylic Nail Experts

  • Hannah Lee is a Licensed Manicurist and Sharing nail art ideas & swatches. 
  • Jenny Bui is a Celebrity Nail Artist. She has won the winner AIA award.
  • Tony Ly is a master of Nail Tech. He is the founder of Designed By Tony Ly.

Who Invented Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic nails were invented by dentist “Frederick Slack” in the 1950s. The story goes that he accidentally broke his nail and, in a moment of ingenuity, used dental acrylics to create a temporary replacement. This innovative solution eventually led to the development of the acrylic nail system we know today.

As far back as 5000 BC, civilizations like the Egyptians used materials like bones, ivory, and even gold to create artificial nail extensions. These elaborate adornments served as status symbols, signifying wealth and social standing.

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What Are Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic nails are a type of artificial nail extension that offers both durability and artistic freedom. It is made from a monomer liquid and polymer powder combination, they are sculpted directly onto your natural nails to create the desired length, shape, and design. Unlike press-on nails, acrylics are custom-made for a more seamless and long-lasting result.

How to Get Acrylic Nails?

Achieving those long-lasting, art-ready acrylic nail ideas involves a visit to a skilled nail technician. Simple process to get it:

  1. Prep Work: The technician will meticulously clean and buff your natural nails to ensure a strong bond for the acrylic.
  2. Tip Selection (Optional): For extra length, they might use pre-made nail tips that are glued onto your natural nails.
  3. Sculpting the Magic: The star of the show! The technician skillfully mixes a liquid monomer and powdered polymer to create a dough-like acrylic. This is then applied and sculpted onto your nails, forming your desired length and shape.
  4. Filing and Buffing: Once the acrylic dries, it’s time to refine your masterpiece. The technician will file and buff the acrylic to achieve a smooth, flawless finish.
  5. Design Time! Unleash your creativity! Now comes the fun part: choosing your perfect nail polish color or showcasing your artistic flair with intricate nail art designs.

How Long Do Acrylic Nails Last?

According to experts Hannah Lee and Tony Ly, recommend getting acrylics refilled every two to three weeks. This prevents lifting, reduces stress on your natural nails, and minimizes the risk of infection.    While some might stretch refills to eight weeks, experts generally advise against it.

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“Fills are essential,” Lee emphasizes, “because as your natural nails grow, that’s when lifting starts to occur.” By filling in the gap with fresh acrylic during these appointments, you maintain a flawless look and ensure your acrylics stay strong and beautiful.

How Much Do Acrylic Nails Cost?

The cost of acrylic nail ideas can vary depending on a few factors. Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $100 for a full set. Location plays a role, with salons in bigger cities typically charging more. 

The experience level of the nail technician can also influence the price. Additionally, the complexity of the design you choose will affect the cost. Simple polish is the most affordable option, while intricate nail art will naturally cost more.

Which Is Better, Gel or Acrylic Nails?

Both acrylic and gel nails offer extended wear and design flexibility.

  • For strength & durability: Acrylics win.
  • For a more natural look: Gel might be a better fit.

When it comes to durability, acrylic nail design reigns supreme. Their strength makes them less prone to chipping and breaking compared to gel nails. However, this added toughness comes at a price – acrylics can feel slightly thicker and less natural-looking than their gel counterparts. So, the choice boils down to your priorities: durability and strength with acrylics, or a more natural look with gel nails that might require touch-ups.

Acrylic Nails Vs Gel

Feature Acrylic Nails Gel Nails
Application Requires a liquid monomer and powdered polymer mixed by a technician. Air-dries. Uses pre-applied gel polish cured under a UV lamp.
Appearance Can be sculpted for various lengths and shapes. May appear thicker than natural nails. Thinner and more flexible, offering a more natural look.
Maintenance Requires refills every 2-3 weeks to fill in growth and prevent lifting. May require touch-ups every 2-4 weeks for chips.
Removal Requires soaking in acetone, which can be harsh on natural nails if not done properly. Removal involves filing off the gel polish, which can thin nails if done excessively.
Durability Stronger and more chip-resistant. Less durable, more prone to chipping.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic Nails: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Strength and Durability: Highly resistant to chipping and breaking Application Process: This can be time-consuming, requiring a skilled technician.
Versatility: Allows for extensive sculpting for various lengths, shapes, and designs. Nail Health: Improper application or removal can damage natural nails.
Air-Drying: No need for UV lamps, potentially faster drying time. Bulkiness: May feel thicker and less natural than gel nails.
Long-Lasting: Can last 6-8 weeks with regular refills. Maintenance: Requires refills every 2-3 weeks to maintain appearance and prevent lifting.

What Is The Difference Between Fake Nails And Acrylics?

When it comes to curing, gel and acrylic nail design ideas take different paths. Gel nails rely on a UV lamp to solidify the polish, while acrylics harden simply by being exposed to air. This difference extends to the removal process as well. Gel polish requires filing, but it’s a gentler procedure compared to the heavy buffing and filing needed for acrylics.

Also Read: 20 Bright Summer Nails Design Ideas to Try For Every Style

Why Do Acrylic Nails Hurt The First Day?

Ever get that new shoe feeling where they’re a bit tight at first? That can happen with acrylics too! When you first get them done, they might feel a little sore or tender because the acrylic creates a strong seal over your natural nails. This tightness usually goes away within a day or so, no worries!


From the history and science behind them, to the application process, care routine, and even the latest trends, you’ve explored everything acrylic nails have to offer. Whether you’re seeking long-lasting strength or a canvas for your artistic flair, acrylics can be a beautiful and versatile choice.

Remember, prioritize finding a skilled nail technician who prioritizes nail health alongside stunning results. With proper care and maintenance, you can enjoy your show-stopping acrylic nails for weeks to come!

You may also read: 25 Latest Stunning French Nail Art Designs for Every Occasion


What is the newest trend in acrylic nails?

The newest trend in acrylic nails is “aura nails”. They are a captivating way to add a touch of magic to your fingertips. Look for designs that incorporate iridescent colors, holographic finishes, and translucent elements, mimicking the beauty of an aura. 

Do acrylic nails really go inside your cuticles?

No, acrylic nails should never go inside your cuticles. They should be applied on top of your natural nail plate, leaving the cuticle area free. Applying acrylics on the cuticle can be uncomfortable and potentially damage your nails.

Is it possible to get a manicure with acrylic nails on? 

Yes, absolutely! Acrylic nails themselves are essentially a type of manicure offering extended wear and design possibilities. You can get a fresh coat of polish or even intricate nail art on your existing acrylics during a fill appointment.