Gel Nail Polish vs Regular

Gel nail polish vs regular: is one better than the other?

This question has been circling for quite a while. And why wouldn’t it? They both have obvious benefits. 

But we can say this for their shortcomings. 

This debate might never be put to rest, but we’ve decided to take a crack at it. We’ve done the research and have created an in-depth comparison. 

We discuss both their application and drying processes, how long they last, and more. 

If you’ve decided to try one or the other, this article will give you all the facts you need. 

What This Article Covers:

Gel Nail Polish Versus Regular Nail Polish

Table on the technical differences between Gel Nail Polish and Regular Nail Polish

Gel Nail Polish

Regular Nail Polish


Non-porous gel-like substance.

Porous, film-forming liquid.

Drying Method

Cured under a UV or LED lamp


Drying Time

About 2-minutes or less

Up to 7-minutes or longer

How Long it Lasts

3 to 4 weeks

About a week

Wear and Tear

No chipping or peeling.

Will chip and/or peel after a week or so.


Soaked in acetone for 10-minutes.

Wiped off with remover and cotton balls.

Application and Drying 

gel vs nail polish

Gel nail polish and regular polish have similar application processes. The only difference is how the polish dried.

In both cases, the nails are cleaned, trimmed, shaped, and buffed. Your manicurist will moisturize your hands and nails. 

whats gel nail polish

Most manicures include a hand massage as well. Everyone loves a bit of pampering, right? 

difference between gel nails and gel polish

Once done, a basecoat gets added first, and then the colored polish, and a topcoat. The top coat can either be glossy or matte, depending on your preference. 

nail polish vs nail lacquer

With regular polish, the polish is air-dried after each coat is applied. With gel polish, each coat is cured under a UV or LED lamp. 

gel nails vs gel polish

When the gel polish is cured, it hardens and won’t budge until removal.

Wear and Tear

As we said above, once gel polish is cured, that’s it. It will remain glossy (or matte) until it’s removed. 

Gel polish doesn’t chip or peel, no matter the circumstances.

The same can’t be said for regular nail polish. We’ve all experienced a ruined manicure at some point. There’s nothing more disappointing than a chipped manicure. 

While gel lasts for up to 3 weeks or more, regular polish only lasts a week. And if you work in water or in the garden? You’ll be lucky if regular polish lasts a few days.

Removal Process

When it comes to removal, regular polish beats gel. 

With regular polish, all you need is a cotton ball and nail polish remover. A few swipes and your nails will be clean.

gel vs regular nail polish

But gel polish is tougher to get off. It’s made to last and simple nail polish won’t get it off. To remove gel polish, your nails will need an acetone soak. 

It takes about 10-minutes for the acetone soak to loosen the gel enough to be lifted off. Don’t attempt to peel or scrape the gel off. You’ll damage your nails and it’s just plain painful. 

Gel Nail Polish or Regular Nail Polish

Both gel polish and regular nail polish have pros and cons. Neither is good or bad, and the choice is a personal one. 

Some might prefer gel polish for its longevity. Others might prefer regular polish for the option to change the color weekly. 

Below, we go into an in-depth comparison between the two. 

Gel Nail Polish

There’s some misconception about gel polish being fake nails. It’s not. Gel polish and acrylic nails are two different things.

While the gel is thicker than regular polish, it’s still just a different type of nail polish. Yes, the ingredients in gel nail polish are much different from regular polish.

But there is also nothing harmful about the gel polish itself.

There have been complaints about it ruining nails, but the gel itself doesn’t ruin nails. This is why it’s so important to find a professional and experienced nail salon. 

If you consider gel nail polish's pros and cons you’ll see that it’s a personal choice. 

Since it lasts up to a month, it’s great for those who use their hands often. Do you do water sports or anything else that has your nails chipping? Then gel polish is a great choice. 

Unlike regular nail polish though, you need to take a break between gel manicures. The acetone soak will dry out your nails and skin. 

Take one week off and use cuticle oil or hand cream to rehydrate your skin and nails. 

gel polish vs gel nails

Why It’s Great 

  • Lasts up to 3 weeks or longer
  • Won’t ever chip or peel. 
  • Dries in 2-minutes or less under the UV/LED lamp
  • Stays glossy or matte until removal

Who It’s Right For 

  • Those who use their hands often
  • Anyone who wants a manicure to last more than a week

Regular Nail Polish

The best thing about regular nail polish is how quick and easy it is to apply. It air-dries too, so you don’t need to go to a salon. 

You can do your nails at home without any concerns. 

Regular polish does take longer to dry than gel. But you can get around that by using a product like our Spritz Dry. 

gel nail polish vs regular nail polish

The other main difference is that regular polish is more prone to chipping and peeling. The manicure only lasts about a week too. 

This is great if you like changing the color every week. There are also different types of nail polish finishes that you can try.

Regular polish is much easier to remove than gel. All you need is a cotton ball dipped in nail polish remover. 

You also don’t need to take a break between manicures.

There have been questions about the difference between nail lacquer and nail polish. Most nail polishes are lacquer.

Some have even wondered if nail polish is paint. It does the same thing, right? This article on nail polish vs paint explores this in detail.

Why It’s Great 

  • Quick and easy to apply
  • Easy to remove since you don’t need an acetone soak
  • You can change the color every week
  • You don’t need a break between manicures

Who It’s Right For 

  • Those who love changing their nail color to match their outfit or mood
  • Anyone who likes doing their nails at home instead of going to a salon

Gel Nail Polish and Regular Nail Polish (FAQ) 

Is Gel Polish Better than Regular Polish? 

They both have obvious pros and cons. 

But, when it comes to wear and tear, gel polish is better. It won’t chip or peel, and it lasts for 3 weeks or more. The removal process is a pain, but it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it. 

For the best of both worlds, check out our Perfect Pair Lacquer + Gels.

nail polish vs gel

Does Gel Polish Ruin Your Nails?  

No, the gel polish itself doesn’t ruin your nails.

The state of your nails is dependent on the technique used. Some people tend to over-buff and file, and this weakens the nail bed. Then, during the removal process, those weakened nails are exposed to acetone. As long as your nail tech does it right, the gel manicure won’t damage your nails.

Is Regular Polish Safer than Gel?

Overall, no. Regular polish and gel generally have the same effect on the nails.

But, the removal process is where it gets tricky. Gel polish needs to be soaked off in acetone and that can be harmful to nails and skin. In this case, yes, regular polish is safer.

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