Gel Nail Polish vs Regular Polish

Gel nail polish vs regular polish

Gel nail polish vs regular polish: these are two different nail products widely available today.

Most important info on gel nail polishes:

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Gel nail polish vs regular polish: they have many similarities but they are also very different.

Regular nail polish has existed for decades.

It’s a very familiar beauty product that you can paint your nail plate with to add color and shine to your nails.

Regular polish is also called nail varnish and nail lacquer.

Gel nail polish is a rather recent invention.

The whole gel craze started in 2010 when companies like CND started making gel nail polishes, such as Shellac that could be used both at home and in salons.

Gel polishes and salon gel manicures are more expensive than regular ones.

Gel Nail Polish vs Regular Polish: Similarities and Differences

Both gel polish and regular polish are sold in bottles with a brush in the bottle cap.

Ordinary polish is sold in transparent bottles because light does not affect it.

Whereas gel polish is sold in opaque, mostly black bottles because it can thicken when exposed to light.

Gel Nail Polish vs Regular Polish: Longevity

One of the main differences between these two types of polishes is longevity.

Gel polishes normally stay on your nails much longer than regular ones.

With ordinary nail lacquer, you can sometimes see chipping and peeling on the same day you applied it.

However, in most cases, nail varnish can stay on your nails for a few days.

And gel nail polish can stay on your nails up to 2 or even 3 weeks if you apply it right.

Sometimes gel stays so well that you only need to remove it because the nails have grown out too much.

Applying it right means painting the gel polish, the base coat, and the top coat in very thin layers.

If you paint it in thick coats it may shrink or bubble up in the lamp while you are curing it and come off in a day or two.

So sometimes your gel polish can start chipping and peeling earlier than the promised 2 weeks.

But usually, it holds better than ordinary polish.

Also, gel polish looks a lot thicker on your nails than regular varnish even if you apply it in thin coats.

Gel Nail Polish vs Regular Polish: Application

You can use both products for painting your nails.

You can apply both of them to your natural nails.

Gel polish does not equal nail extensions or fake nails.

It doesn’t make your nails longer. It just goes over your natural nail plate in the same way as ordinary polish does.

Both kinds of polish have a similar application process.

You pick the product out of the bottle with the brush attached to the bottle’s cap and paint a few strokes over your nail plate surface.

You usually have to apply two layers of any kind of polish for a better look.

And if the polish is too sheer you need to apply 3 layers for opacity and to get rid of streaks and sheer patches.

If the polish is thick and very pigmented then one coat may be enough.

Base coat and top coat

You can use a base coat and a top coat with both kinds of nail polish.

However, using the base coat and the top coat is almost always mandatory with gel polishes unless they are specially formulated 2-step or 1-step gel nail polishes.

The base coat is necessary for better adhesion of the color polish to the nail plate and for protecting the nail plate.

And the top coat will help your gel polish stay on your nails longer.

It will also add some shine if the top coat is glossy and make your nails matte and velvety if the top coat is matte.

But with ordinary nail polish, the use of the base coat and the top coat is pretty much optional.

The ordinary base coat will just add some protection to your nail plate and help the polish hold better too.

And the top coat will add more shine and longevity to your manicure.

You can’t use a gel base and top coat with an ordinary polish and vice versa.

Ordinary base and top coat must only be used with ordinary polish.

Nail plate preparation

You don’t need to prepare the nail plate for the application of ordinary nail polish too much.

Of course, you can wipe it with a polish remover or rubbing alcohol to get rid of natural oils or debris and buff the nails a bit too, but it’s not as mandatory as when you are preparing your nails for a gel manicure.

With gel nail polishes you almost always need to wipe your nails with 99% Isopropyl alcohol using a lint-free wipe and buff the shine off your natural nails.

Unless you are using Shellac. Then it’s not necessary to buff the nail plate.

Buffing helps the gel base coat adhere better.

And wiping your nail plate removes all the dust and debris left after filing.

Some gel polishes also require the use of a special primer before you apply the base coat.


Another considerable difference between gel polish and ordinary polish is, of course, the drying process.

Gel polish will never air dry.

Gel nail polish only dries when it’s cured with a special UV or LED lamp.

There are some gel nail polishes that only dry under a UV light.

But most gel polishes can dry under both UV and LED lights.

UV curing process usually takes a couple of minutes and LED curing is much faster just 30-60 seconds.

Some gel polishes dry quicker, while other gel polishes take a bit longer to cure.

And you need to repeat the curing process for every layer of gel polish, including the color polish, the base coat, and the top coat.

Ordinary polishes just simply air dry.

You don’t need any special devices for the ordinary polish to dry.

And a lamp won’t work on regular nail varnish.

It takes longer for a regular lacquer to dry than it takes for gel polish to cure.

The drying time is really long. And you can accidentally smudge your new manicure while you are waiting for it to harden.

However, regular polish is much easier to use, especially at home or when you are traveling.

No need to take a lamp with you.


Another major difference between gel nail polishes and regular polishes is the removal process.

Gel polish has better longevity and is harder than ordinary lacquer.

So you can only remove it by soaking it off with an acetone-based remover or by filing it off with a nail drill at a salon.

Soaking it off is the most common removal method that at home users select.

And experienced nail techs can file gel nails off with a nail drill.

Soaking gel manicure off takes about 10 minutes. And you need to wrap each nail in a piece of foil with a cotton ball with acetone-based remover placed inside the foil on the nail plate.

Whereas ordinary polish can be removed with any nail polish remover, not necessarily acetone-based.

You don’t need to soak it off for a long time. Wiping the polish off is enough.

Gel-like polishes

There are also gel-like polishes that are something like a cross between gel polishes and ordinary polishes.

Gel-like polishes don’t need to be cured with a lamp, just like ordinary lacquers.

However, they stay on the nails much longer than regular polishes, for up to one week.

And the longer they stay on the nails the harder they become.

But they can be easily removed with any remover without soaking off, just like ordinary varnishes.


Contrary to the popular belief, gel nail polish doesn’t harm your nails more than ordinary polish.

Your nail plate doesn’t need to breathe, so you can use gel nail polish as much as you like.

You just need to be careful when buffing and preparing the nails before your gel manicure and when taking gel polish off your nails.

And you can also choose safe, non-toxic gel nail polishes that many brands now offer.

However, if you are allergic to gel polish you can switch to ordinary polish, it’s usually less allergenic.

You can read more about gel nail polishes on this site:

Recommended reading:

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