Overlay Nails vs Acrylic: What’s the Difference?

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There are now so many options for nail finishes, you can quickly get dizzier looking at the manicure menu than you get from inhaling the acetone fumes!

Among the many options for nails, overlay nails and acrylic nails are two incredibly popular types.

Overlay Nails vs Acrylic, what’s the difference?

  • An extension is not required for overlay nails. There’s no fake nail involved
  • An acrylic nail extension is made from acrylic powder.
  • Overlays should be treated with the same care as acrylic nails.

Style, lifestyle, aesthetics, and the look you are going for can help determine what type to choose.

Additionally, the condition of your nails at the time of your nail appointment will greatly impact your decision.

Let’s go over all the details below.


Overlay Nails 101

If you’re not looking to extend the length of your nails, but you want a more interesting finish than a typical lacquer nail polish, overlay nails would be a great choice. Overlays can be done with gel, acrylic, etc. but the key difference between them and other manicure types is that you’re not extending your natural nail.

A liquid monomer is mixed in when the acrylic powder is used directly on natural nails. With overlays, you’re not using an acrylic extension on top of the nail to make it artificially longer.

Overlays can be done with gel, acrylic, etc. but the key difference between them and other manicure types is that you’re not extending your natural nail.

Here’s what happens: the nail bed is filed until sufficient smoothness is achieved for a consistent, neat application.

After that, the monomer and acrylic powder go on your nails. Then the shaping, buffing, and filing. The end result is a nail that feels more natural and lighter because no extension is added. 

Here are some great trendy short acrylic nail designs for inspiration!


Acrylic Nails 101

Acrylic Nail Tips Finished

Acrylic nails are one of the most common types of fake nails. They are made from mixing liquid monomer and acrylic powder, which get applied to nail extensions that are glued on top of the natural nail.

These are commonly done at a salon, but many people love to DIY Acrylic Nails. Here are the basics:

  1. Your nail bed is filed to a smoother surface to make application seamless
  2. Apply nail glue to the nail bed. Nail extensions are then placed on the nail glue.
  3. Next, the acrylic powder will be applied to the extension, and the liquid monomer will be applied to create an artificial nail.
  4. Finally, a color will be painted onto the nail, adding a top coat.

Overlay vs Acrylic Nails: What’s the Difference?

Beetles Acrylic Nails

1. Strength

An overlay can reinforce your nails. Aside from giving your nails length, acrylic nails are more aesthetically pleasing but do not strengthen your natural nails.

2. How long they last

Acrylic nails last between four and six weeks with proper care. Overlays last between three and four weeks. However, it’s more important to take breaks with acrylics, because the fake nail will gradually cause damage to the natural nails (see below)

3. Cost-effectiveness

Compared to acrylic nails, overlay nails are less expensive. They’re less work to apply!

4. Damage to the natural nail

When your nails strike an object hard enough with overlay nails, you risk breaking just your nails which isn’t anything concerning. But with acrylics, it’s more of an issue. You have to remove the glued-on acrylic to address damage to your natural nail, which is no fun at all.

5. Shape and length options

With overlay nails, you’re not extending the length of your nail over the natural nail, so your overlays will be the same length as your nails before the manicure. But with acrylics, the sky’s the limit (pretty much, anyway!).

It’s also way easier to create different shapes with acrylic nails, such as silhouettes, coffins, squares, points, curves, etc. Yes, you can file your natural nails and overlays, but if they’re not super long, they won’t look as spectacular as acrylic tips.

6. Natural look

Compared to acrylic nails, overlay nails look more natural as fewer products are used and take on your natural shape and length. We all know there is always an artificial vibe to acrylic nails, since acrylic powder plus nail extensions make it difficult to achieve a natural appearance.

Some people love the artificial look, but some don’t.

We all know there is always an artificial vibe to acrylic nails, since acrylic powder plus nail extensions make it difficult to achieve a natural appearance.

7. Ease to remove

Acrylic nails are more difficult to remove than overlay nails. In most cases, acrylic nails need to be removed by a professional to avoid damaging the nail underneath. Also, the less time they have been on, the harder it will take to remove.

This is because the glue is fresh and hasn’t had the chance for the bond to start loosening yet.

8. Hygiene

Overlay nails are more hygienic as the nails tend to be short, making them less prone to germs and dirt. Acrylic nails are more prone to bacteria and dirt since they provide more hiding places because of the length. Maintain a regular cleaning schedule under your fingernails. A nail bristle brush is perfect for this job as it gets in the hard-to-reach places.

Additionally, if you’re not careful with acrylics around water, they can begin to lift off your natural nail. This can allow water to get in between the fake and natural nail, which can lead to acrylic nail fungus.

If you’re not careful with acrylics around water, they can begin to lift off your natural nail. This can allow water to get in between the fake and natural nail, which can lead to acrylic nail fungus.

Ugh!


When to Get an Overlay

Natural overlays are better for people with dry nails since acrylic will separate the nails more easily than tips. It is important to consider the length of the nails when picking a design and shape, as short stiletto nails may not look good. 

Natural overlays might be better if your nails are damaged and brittle, as only growing out the damage allows your nails to recover.

However, it will take time for you to get rid of damage like broken or chipped nails. As a result, you will be able to rid yourself of all previous damage after a couple of months if you take good care of your nails. 


When to Use Acrylic Tips

In most situations, you can use nail tips as extensions. However, abnormal nail beds are a problem when trauma happens, such as continuous biting.

When your nail bed is half its typical size, you cannot apply a tip to it

Natural nails that are severely damaged can be further damaged by gluing artificial tips on, as they are easily broken and can lead to more damage.

Natural nails that are severely damaged can be further damaged by gluing artificial tips on, as they are easily broken and can lead to more damage.

It might also not be the best option for someone with very thin and brittle nails. It is rare for a nail to break when bumped accidentally while wearing tips.

However, your nail will be severely damaged if the product lifts at the cuticle area. 

Under immense force, another possibility is for the extension to tear off the entire nail if you hit it hard enough. Ripping off the natural nail is extremely painful.

It can also cause damage by being forcefully ripped, leading to infection and a slow growth rate.


Conclusion

We know, all the different types of nail products out there are daunting, and more are added every day! It’s great, but it can also be confusing if you just want good-looking nails that will last a while.

You now know the difference between overlay nails vs acrylics: overlays go directly on the natural nail, with no fake tip involved.

They’re cheaper and less harmful than acrylics, but you don’t get those beautiful long nails (unless your natural nails are in amazing shape).

Written by Kayla Young

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