All the Types of Gel Nails

All the Types of Gel Nails

Gel nails provide your client with the high-shine and ultra-long wear manicure that they desire. When creating the perfect gel nail manicure for your client, it is essential to discover which gel nail type will suit your client best. This article will discuss the types of gel nails, how they differ, and which gel variety is best for you. 

What Are the Different Gel Types?

A perfectly manicured set of nails is every client’s dream. A gel is available in two different forms, including hard gel and soft gel. Knowing your client and their manicure preferences will help you choose which gel nail type will be best for your client. Let’s take a look at the different kinds of gel nail options.

Soft Gel

Soft gel is a soak-off gel that can be removed with 100% pure acetone. The soft gel adds minimal strength to short to mid-length natural nails but is not strong enough to support a nail extension. Soft gel is applied with a nail brush and is cured under an LED lamp or UV light. 

This gel is available in many colors and can be worn alone as gel polish for two to four weeks. The soft gel will wear thin on the nail’s free edge over time, requiring touch-ups every few weeks. Gel polish is soft gel.

Hard Gel

Hard gel is used to add length to the natural nail. This thick gel is laid onto the nail, then moved around the nail to form the shape. Hard gel nails can be shaped to form any nail shape and to add the nail length that the client desires. These factors make hard gel nails a prevalent nail option for many people. 

Hard gel cures underneath an LED light or UV lamp until it hardens to perfection. After the curing process, the nail technician will file and shape the nail with a nail file or e-file tool. Color is then added, and the manicure is complete. Each hard gel nail set will last three to four weeks before needing a refill. 

The hard gel should not be removed at home. Doing so will damage the natural nails. The nail tech should remove the gel in the salon by filing away the gel. A nail tech will help maintain the integrity of the natural nails underneath the hard gel.

Gel Nail Polish

Gel polish (soft gel) performs like a gel and applies like traditional nail polish. Traditional nail polish usually chips within two to three days, whereas gel polish lasts for several weeks. Gel polish is a thin UV gel that is pigmented and available in many shades of color. 

The gel is slightly thicker than shellac or traditional nail polish and can be worn for several weeks. As a bonus, the gel protects the natural nails and is hardier, making it ideal for those with weak, brittle nails. 

Gel polish dries by curing it under an LED or UV lamp. It can be applied alone over natural nails or on top of hard gel and lasts for two to three weeks. Gel polish is safely removed at home with 100% pure acetone, and it is the quickest gel nail service available. 

It is important not to peel away gel polish from the nails. Peeling gel polish away from the nail will cause damage to the natural nails. Gel polish is ideal for all nail types, from short styles to longer nails.

Alternate Types of Nail Overlays

Gel nails are sometimes mistaken for gelish, shellac, acrylic, or polygel nails; however, these are not necessarily gel nails. Let’s dive deeper into other types of nail overlays and the characteristics of each.


Polygel is considered a hybrid nail enhancement made of acrylic powder and clear gel. It is not self-leveling and is more flexible than acrylic, yet stronger than gel. The nail tech will shape the nails with a nail file or e-file, similar to shaping acrylic or hard gel nail enhancements. 

Polygel is cured under an LED or UV lamp and is removed in the same way hard gel and acrylics are by filing the polygel away from the natural nail. A polygel refill is needed every two to three weeks. One of the benefits of polygel is its odorless formulation.


Shellac is a hybrid gel-like form of polish patented by the brand CND. Shellac does not require a roughened nail surface for a strong adherence, and it cures under UV light. Like gel, shellac will last for up to two weeks. 

Shellac is more prone to chipping than gel because it is partially made with traditional nail polish. It can easily be removed with a special acetone-based remover. 

Shellac is perfect for the client who desires a more extended wearing nail color than traditional nail polish.


Gelish is a brand name of gel polish. It is a type of gel polish that offers a high-shine finish. Gelish requires a roughened nail surface to adhere securely to the natural nail. 

It cures under an LED or UV light and lasts for up to three weeks. The nails must be buffed first, then soaked in 100% pure acetone to remove the gelish. Gelish is ideal for shorter to mid-length nails. This no-fuss manicure is a popular choice for longer, everyday wear.


The main difference between gel nail enhancements and acrylic nail overlays is their durability. Acrylic nails are much more durable than gel. Acrylic involves a liquid monomer and a powder polymer that is mixed into a dough-like consistency. 

A bead of acrylic is applied to the top of the nail and shaped with a nail brush. A UV light is then used to cure the acrylic overlay. Gel polish or traditional polish is applied over the acrylic to add color. Acrylic adds long length to the trendy elaborate nail designs you see today.

Acrylic nails last for about two to three weeks before they require a refill. When it is time to remove the acrylic nails altogether, the nail tech will file down the top layer of the nails, then wrap each nail in a foil and cotton acetone-soaked wrap for 15 minutes. The acrylic will soften and easily slide off of the nails with the gentle push of a cuticle stick.

Many celebrities such as Cardi B, Billie Eilish, and Khloe Kardashian are known for their long, elaborate nail designs. These designs set the trend for nails we know today. 

Dip Powder

Dip powder manicures involve colored acrylic-like gel powder and a resin. Each nail is painted with a base coat then dipped into the colored powder. Then a resin sealant is applied to each nail. The excess powder is brushed away from the nail, and the dipping process continues until the desired color and opacity are reached. 

Unlike gel manicures, dip powder manicures last up to five weeks. To remove dip powder, file the top layer of each nail and soak in acetone for 10 to 15 minutes. After the nails have soaked, the dip powder is easily removable with the quick swipe of a cotton ball.

Dip powder manicures are ideal for those who desire a quick, polished look without the hassle of painted gel applications.

Gel vs. Traditional Nail Polish

Gel polish and traditional nail polish are similar. Both types of polish are applied in the same way, with a small brush. Both polishes are available in a variety of shades and are finished in a glossy shine.

While traditional nail polish chips after two to three days of wear, the gel polish will last up to two weeks. The longer wear time is why gel polish is popular among many people seeking a longer-lasting polished manicure. 

Summing It Up

Gel nails are one of the most popular types of nail overlays available today. A gel is available in soft gel and hard gel. Soft gel is available in different colors and can be worn for up to two weeks. 

Hard gel is used to create length and shape on short to mid-length natural nails. Hard gel is an excellent alternative to acrylic overlays because it is softer than acrylic and can be worn for three to four weeks. 

V Beauty Pure offers top-quality gel polish and V-Diamond gel to create beautiful gel manicures for your client. The V-Diamond gel is a gel-like resin adhesive that cures with minimal shrinkage, offering the perfect crystal manicure service.

Design beautiful glossy gel and acrylic manicures with V Beauty Pure nail collections. VBP offers nail tools, equipment, acrylic systems, kits, and bundles. We offer everything you need to provide the perfect nail service for your next client.


  1. Gel Nails VS Shellac Nails: What's the difference; which is best? | Women's Health
  2. Gel Nail Extensions: Pros, Cons, and Gel vs. Acrylic Nails | Byrdie
  3. Everything You Need to Know About Gel Manicures | Vogue