Acrylic Nail Alternatives

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Some of us are obssessed with the length, creativity, and fabulousness of acrylic nails. And we enjoy the twice-monthly trip to the nail salon as part of our self-care and beauty regime.

However, the overuse of acrylic manis and pedis does have its drawbacks.

These include the application of harsh chemicals and the aggressive filing down. Oh, and let’s not forget the expense!

Therefore, now may be the time you consider different ways of enhancing your natural nails.

So let’s look at some acrylic nail alternatives. There are lots of options out there, including some you may not be aware of!


Acrylics Aren’t For Everyone

Acrylic nails are still considered one of the best ways to enhance your natural nails, but they don’t suit everyone.

You may have seen the photos of beauty bloggers with bloodied ripped nail beds. This is after their removal horror.

There are many reasons why acrylic nails may not work for you, including:


If you’re a serial acrylic nail wearer then you know the removal process can leave the nail bed weak, brittle, and super-damaged. You need to take regular breaks from acrylics. And if your nails are naturally weak, then acrylic mani and pedis are not for you.


Yes, some people are allergic to the chemicals used in preparing enhanced talons. And it’s not uncommon for others to have skin irritation, nail fungus, or even a weakening of the nail itself. This can cause brittleness and thinness after reacting to the acrylic application process.


Let’s face it, getting your acrylics done on the regular is an investment. Acrylics can range anywhere from around $50 for a basic color to $120+ for a fancy coffin or other elaborate design. And don’t forget removal costs as well.


Factoring in the time to not only have your mani and/or pedi done. But also to return every two to three weeks for filling in the gaps means acrylics are high-maintenance.

Acrylic Nail Alternatives

So is it possible to have flawless nails without damaging your natural nails? Well, yes! And you may be surprised to find out how many options are available.

So is it possible to have flawless nails without damaging your natural nails? Well, yes! And you may be surprised to find out how many options are available.

1. Well Gel

You may very well have considered having gel nails in the past. The application process of gel nails is similar to acrylics.

Acrylic can be used to fill hard gel and vice versa. But, gels are much softer, more flexible, and come in many forms. You just add them on top of your nails and they don’t need filing and shaping like acrylics.

There are two main types of gel nails. This blends in seamlessly with your natural nail bed. And don’t need maintenance like acrylics as your nails grow:

  • Soft gel — These gels are less damaging to the nail bed. This is because they are more porous, and so can be removed by soaking in acetone. Sometimes they even peel off
  • Hard gel — If you’re into shapes like coffin nails or stiletto nails, these gels allow for an extension of your natural nails. But, they can be more damaging to your natural nails, because they need to be filed down when you want them removed.

Both soft and hard gels can either be used separately or layered on top of each other.

  • Polygel, on the other hand, sits somewhere in the middle between gel nails and acrylics. This technique gives the strength of acrylics with the flexibility of hard gels. It is lighter and more versatile because it sets with LED light.

Meanwhile, there’s a new gel kid on the block called Apres Gel-X. This is very much innovative in nail extension technology.

Apres Gel-X extensions are applied without using nail glue. They are easy to soak off with acetone, and there’s no filing or filling required. You simply get a new set applied after about three weeks.

All the other types of gel nail extensions will also keep your fingertips looking fabulous for up to three weeks at a time.

See also:

2. Swell Shell

Shellac nails are only available at certified salons. It offers a long-wearing manicure or pedicure with the shine of a polish. Made by CND, Shellac is a gel-nail polish hybrid that is tough like the former but is applied like the latter.

It is easily removed from the nail bed and doesn’t need scraping because of its unique formulation. Damage to the nail bed is possible, though, if your shellac is not removed by a CND-trained nail technician.

3. Soft as Silk

Choosing this a silk-wrap manicure can work to reduce acrylic damage to your natural nails. This is while enhancing them at the same time. Back in the ‘80s, silk nail wraps were used to help weak and brittle nails look more pleasing.

The process involves covering the nail bed with and then layering it with resin to coat the surface. They can look great like gels and acrylics, and are a much safer option.

One downside, though, is that they’re quite soft, so if you use your hands a lot, you should consider another option.

Another downside is that many salons don’t do them.

4. Glass Class

These are often confused with silk nails. This is because of the similarities involved in the application process. Fiberglass nails can be used on your natural or fake nails to give them a more glossy look.

Using fiberglass is great if you suffer from weak nails because it will give them a strong base to grow from. Fiberglass nails can only be applied at the salon. The procedure is quite fiddly and time-consuming. They can only be removed in the same way as acrylics. This is by soaking in acetone.

This will last for two to three weeks before a maintenance trip to the nail salon is needed.

5. Double Dip

Using dip powder (AKA SNS Nails) to create a pretty manicure is easy to do. It has the added benefit that it dries in no time without the need for UV/LED lights. Your nails will be dipped into a finely milled powder. Then any excess is brushed off before setting it with a protective clear polish.

This procedure is repeated until the nail is hardened.

Renee's Dip Powder Nail Kit  is DIY dip nail enthusiasts’ wonder that will last for up to two weeks. Suitable for beginners, this dip powder kit is very easy to use to create a manicure worth showing off.

6. Press It

If you’ve been enjoying acrylics for a while, then you may be surprised at how far press-on nails have come. Gone are the days when press-on nails were more like fake add-ons to match your Halloween costume. These days, press-ons come in all shapes and lengths, from long oval talons to short and square nails.

And depending on what kind of adhesive you use, your press-on manicure can last for up to two weeks. Although you can also use adhesive tabs that will last for a night or two to give your natural nails a break.

Removing glued press-on nails is also easy. All you need is some dishwashing soap and water in a bowl to soak your nails before they pop off. And best of all, once you use a file to pick away any leftover glue residue, you can reuse them again in the future.

7. Going Natural

This might not be what you want to do.

But if acrylic nails have ruined your natural nails, then perhaps the time has come to give them some extra tender loving care. And allow them the space to eventually shine on their own accord.

Even wearing colored nail polish can cause further harm to your nails. So, if your nails have been damaged and are weak or pulling away from the nail bed after wearing acrylics for a while, then this is your body telling you to give them a rest.

On average, your nails will grow at a rate of about 3.5 millimeters every four weeks. By using certain products you can help to speed up this process.

Nail strengtheners can help to make your natural nails both longer and stronger.

Nail Aid’s Keratin 3-Day Growth Nail Treatment & Strengthener  can provide your nails with a visible improvement in only three days.

It contains keratin. It is the hardening protein that helps to build your nails. 3-Day Growth can be used on its own or as a base for nail polish color.

It is great at preventing further peeling and cracking. This growth treatment will give your nails an extra hard finish that dries like a high gloss manicure. It’s free from toxic ingredients, including parabens and formaldehyde.

Alternatively, Pura D’Or's Organic Nail & Cuticle Oil  is a nourishing product. It has biotin, sunflower oil, and almond milk, and vitamin E. These promote stronger nail growth. Using it daily keeps the nail bed hydrated and moisturized. Thus improving the health and appearance of your natural nails.

And see our homemade cuticle oil recipes here!


Now you’ve discovered a few acrylic nail alternatives. You can make sure your nails stay healthy and strong. This is while also making sure they look their best, whatever the occasion.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).