Q&A: Gels v. Acrylics

Hi Candice,

I plan on opening a nail salon that focuses primarily on natural nail services, but I'm not sure how well an all-natural shop would fly in my area. So I’m thinking about offering at least gel nail services because I've read they’re not as harsh as acrylic services. Could you give any insight on how you feel the two differ?
Hi Donna,
Hmmmmm, this sounds like a loaded question! It seems like there’s a lot of debate out there over the different enhancement options, and it's sometimes dangerous to wade in, but I'll give it a shot. I'll start by saying that I really don't offer much in the way of natural services; I'm all about the enhancements! I started out just working on acrylics until I was comfortable and am now incorporating more gel into my services — I would be hard pressed to have to choose just one at this point.
Generally I chose which system to use depending on what I am doing design-wise on the nails, and sometimes I use both in the same set. Some things are easier for me to accomplish in gel versus acrylic or vice versa. In the harvest nails shown, I used gel because of the way I wanted to layer the design, but I normally use acrylics on this client. Since I charge the same for both products, I don't really let the client choose unless she absolutely wants one or the other.
When it comes to acrylics or gels being "harsher" on the natural nail, I believe it's the nail tech that can cause more damage than either one! Any time you are putting an enhancement (gel, acrylic, wrap, whatever) on the nails, you will be causing some (hopefully very) small damage to the natural nail through the prep process. However, if done correctly, the damage should be MINIMAL! The days of "roughing up" the nail are done.
I have a client that came to her last appointment with her acrylics off (gasp!) after wearing them for five months (by me) and her natural nails were beautiful. In fact, she's a former nail biter and said her nails haven't ever looked that good since she started wearing acrylics some 15 years ago! So I would have to say that the application is a more important consideration than the product you choose.
One complaint about acrylics that I read and hear a lot about is the odor. I invested in the Sunflower II for dust/odor control and also "The One That Works" air purifier for odors and have been extremely pleased with the results. Everyone who comes in to my studio tells me that they appreciate how it doesn't stink — even if I'm applying acrylics at the time!
—Candice, Panache Nail Studio, Marysville, Wash.

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