Acrylic Nails: The Complete Guide

By Katarina V.| Last updated on February 21, 2024

This is your comprehensive guide to acrylic nails, all the benefits and risks, DIY options, maintenance tips, and more!

acrylic nails cover

Image source: Instagram nailsbykarenm

When it comes to a nail trend that has been circulating around for decades, acrylic nails are definitely the winner. Due to social media, celebrities, and their nail artists, acrylics are here again, and they’re seemingly here to stay.

If you’re thinking about trying out acrylic nails, and are wondering whether this option suits you, then you need to keep reading our detailed guide to learn all about the benefits, insider tips and tricks, costs, and more!

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What Are Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic nails are a popular type of artificial nail extension that provides a durable and long-lasting solution for enhancing the appearance of natural nails. They are composed of a mixture of liquid monomer and powder polymer.

These substances, when mixed together, create sort of a wet paste that hardens in a few seconds. This paste is applied to your nail bed, creating a sturdy and customizable extension.

The versatility of acrylic nails is one of their main advantages. They can be filed, polished, and shaped to create a variety of looks, from sleek and sophisticated to delicate and modest.

what are acrylic nailsImage Source: Instagram miracleonnails

How Are Acrylic Nails Done?

Benefits of Acrylic Nails

Acrylics offer a few great benefits that could potentially make them the perfect nail extension choice for you. At the end of the day, choosing the best treatment depends on your personal preferences.

Here’s a closer look at some of the key advantages of acrylic nails.


One of the most significant benefits of acrylic nails is their outstanding durability. Unlike natural nails, which can be prone to breaking or chipping, acrylic nails are strong and resilient, making them ideal for individuals with active lifestyles or demanding jobs.


Acrylics are incredibly versatile, offering you a chance to go for any nail design you wish for. They offer a wide range of nail shapes, lengths, and designs.

Whether you prefer a classic French manicure, bold colors, intricate nail art, or trendy designs, acrylic nails offer endless possibilities for expressing your personal style and creativity.

acrylic pink nailsImage Source: Instagram emily__meraki


The monomer concoction that is applied to your natural nails acts sort of as a shield. They protect your nails and add additional strength, reducing the risk of breakage and promoting healthy nail growth.

This is particularly beneficial for those with weak or brittle nails who struggle to maintain long, healthy nails without any extensions.


If you happen to damage or break your acrylics, the nail technician can quickly repair them and fill them in, making it look like nothing ever happened! Convenient, isn’t it?

This ensures that your nails maintain their beautiful appearance and longevity, even if minor issues arise between appointments.

Natural Nail Protection

Acrylic nails provide a protective barrier that shields the natural nails from external damage, such as harsh chemicals, water exposure, or daily wear and tear. This helps preserve the health and integrity of the natural nails, promoting long-term nail health and vitality.

Are Acrylic Nails Bad for Your Nails?

The debate surrounding the potential bad effects of acrylic nails on natural nails has long been a topic of discussion among nail enthusiasts and professionals alike.

While acrylic nails offer many benefits like durability and versatility, it’s still important to consider their potential impact on the health of your natural nails.

Here are some factors to consider when assessing whether acrylic nails are bad for your nails:

  • Potential Nail Damage – Wrong application or removal of acrylic nails can lead to damage to the natural nail bed. Aggressive filing or excessive buffing during the application process can weaken the nails and increase the risk of breakage or peeling.
  • Risk of Infection – If moisture becomes trapped between the acrylic and natural nail, it can create an ideal environment for bacterial or fungal growth, leading to infections such as nail fungus or bacterial paronychia.
  • Nail Thinning – Prolonged and frequent use of acrylics can cause thinning and chipping of your nails, especially if the nail technician buffed them a bit too aggressively. The acrylic material can put pressure on the nail bed, leading to weakening of the nails.

Ultimately, how acrylic nails are done, cared for, and the state of your natural nails will determine whether or not the acrylics are bad for your nails.

@drdananails Be careful when applying acrylics at home. Listen in to what Dr. Dana recommends to look out for #drdananails #naildoctor #dermatologist #dermatologistreacts #derm ♬ original sound - Dr. Dana

How Long Do Acrylic Nails Last?

The duration of acrylic nails largely depends on various factors, including individual nail growth rate, lifestyle factors, and maintenance practices. However, on average, acrylic nails can last anywhere from two to four weeks before requiring a fill or touch-up.

As your natural nails grow, the gap between the acrylic and the cuticle will become more noticeable, resulting in a need for a fill or maintenance appointment.

Your lifestyle can also impact how long acrylic nails last. Activities that involve frequent hand washing, exposure to harsh chemicals, or heavy use of the hands may cause acrylic nails to lift or become damaged more quickly.

@klawedbykiiara Reply to @graciemoodyy here’s an example of 3 weeks later and no lifting! You definitely get what you pay for but aftercare is a huge factor as well. Use your cuticle oil 👏🏼 #nailtech #goldcoast ♬ original sound - KlawedByKiara

How Are Acrylic Nails Removed?

While acrylic nails offer durability and aesthetic appeal, there comes a time when they need to be removed to maintain the health and integrity of your natural nails.

When it comes to removing acrylic nails, nail technicians typically follow two removal methods – soak-off or filing the material off. Some even combine the best of both worlds!

Let’s get over the basics of each of these removal methods.

Soak-Off Method

The soak-off method involves soaking the acrylic nails in acetone to dissolve the acrylic and gently lift it away from the natural nails.

The acrylics are trimmed and filed down just enough so they can be put into a bowl with acetone. Then, the nails are covered with acetone wraps (typically aluminum foils) for 30 minutes.

When the material becomes softened, the nail technician can use a wooden stick to lift it off. If necessary, the soaking process can be repeated until all the acrylic has been removed.

Filing-Off Method

The filing-off method involves mechanically filing down the acrylic nails until they are thin enough to be lifted off the natural nails.

Using a coarse nail file to file down the acrylic nails, the nail technician carefully thins down the acrylics until they are nearly flush with the natural nails. They can’t be too aggressive to avoid damaging your natural nails.

Once the acrylic has been filed down, the technician will use a cuticle pusher or wooden stick to gently lift off the remaining acrylic.

Combining The Two

This hybrid approach takes advantage of both methods to ensure thorough acrylic removal with minimal stress on the nails.

As you can see in the video, this nail technician uses both removal techniques to make sure that the material is entirely scraped off and the client’s nails are prepared for the next set.

@the_babebar How to do an acrylic removal!! 😜💖 I always thought that this process took FOREVER but these are the steps on how I was able to cut down the process to ONLY 10 minutes! #acrylicremoval #nailtutorial #nailtech ##acrylicnails##beginnernailtech##beginnernailtechtips##beginnernailtechs##beginnernailtechfriendly##acrylictutorial ♬ original sound - The Babe Bar

Fake Acrylic Nails vs. Real Nails: The Differences

While both fake acrylic nails and natural nails share the same purpose of adorning your fingertips, they differ significantly in design, appearance, and maintenance requirements.

Understanding these distinctions can help you make decisions about your nail care routine.


As you already know, acrylic nails are made of artificial monomer paste. It forms a durable and shapeable substance that can be shaped and sculpted onto the natural nail bed or nail tips.

Your natural nails are made of many layers of keratin and grow from the nail matrix located beneath the cuticle. These layers offer natural protection for your fingertips!


Acrylic nails offer a flawless appearance, with a smooth surface and perfect shape. They can be customized with various colors, finishes, and designs, allowing you to be as creative as you want.

Natural nails have a more organic appearance, with subtle variations in color, texture, and shape. They may have imperfections such as ridges, spots, or uneven edges, depending on individual genetics and nail health.


Acrylic nails require regular maintenance to upkeep their appearance. This includes scheduling fills or touch-up appointments every two to three weeks to fill in the gap between the acrylic and the cuticle as the natural nails grow out.

As for your natural nails, you can maintain them with trimming, filing, shaping, and moisturizing, which is extremely important. But, they are less demanding in terms of upkeep compared to acrylic nails.

maintenance acrylic nailsImage Source: Instagram acrylicsbysol

DIY Acrylic Nails – Step-by-Step Instructions

DIY acrylic nails are a popular option for people who prefer to do their nails at home, offering convenience, cost savings, and the flexibility to customize their nail designs!

While professional nail technicians are trained to apply acrylic nails safely and effectively, with proper preparation and practice, DIY enthusiasts can achieve salon-quality results in the comfort of their own homes.

If you’re planning to go on this DIY journey, here’s a step-by-step guide to creating DIY acrylic nails at home.

Gather Your Supplies

Make sure to get a complete acrylic nail kit, which typically includes a liquid monomer, acrylic powder, nail tips, nail glue, a nail file, a buffer, and other essential tools.

These two kits are perfect for beginners, as they include all the necessary tools you will need to create the perfect acrylic nail look.

Of course, you will also need a nail polish remover, cotton pads, a cuticle pusher, and cuticle oil to prepare and clean your nails.

Optional nail art supplies such as nail polish, gel polish, nail decals, rhinestones, or glitter for creating custom designs. You can go all in and show your creativity and talent!

Prepare Your Nails

Start by removing any existing nail polish using nail polish remover and cotton pads. Push back your cuticles using a cuticle pusher and trim or file your nails to your desired length and shape.

Gently buff the surface of your nails to remove any shine and create a rough texture, which helps the acrylic adhere better to the natural nail.

Mix Acrylic

Follow the instructions provided with your acrylic nail kit to mix the liquid monomer and acrylic powder in the correct ratio. Use a small bowl or small container to hold the acrylic mixture.

Make sure to use the exact amounts of chemicals written in the instructions. This is an extremely important step to follow to avoid any damage to your nail beds.

Apply Acrylic

Dip a small brush into the liquid monomer, then into the acrylic powder to pick up a bead of acrylic. Place the bead near the cuticle area, and gently press the acrylic to cover the natural nail or nail tip.

Work quickly but carefully to shape and smooth the acrylic before it dries. Repeat the process for each nail, adding additional acrylic as needed to achieve your desired thickness and shape.

Shape & File

This part is often the most satisfying one as you get to shape the nail to your liking. Once the acrylic has dried and hardened, use a nail file to shape and refine the edges of the nails.

You have the freedom to choose whichever shape you like – round, coffin, almond, square – it’s up to you.

Finish & Seal

When your nails are smooth and buffed, you can apply any nail color you like, or make a design that stands out.

Apply a top coat or sealant to protect the acrylic nails and enhance their shine and durability.

And, that’s it – you have your perfect, DIY acrylic nails!

NOTE: It’s extremely important to wear a mask when applying the monomer paste as it’s dangerous to inhale these fumes for longer periods of time. So, make sure to always have a mask on!

How Much Do Acrylic Nails Cost?

The cost of acrylic nails can vary depending on several factors, including location, salon reputation, nail technician’s expertise, and the complexity of the nail design.

Also, whether you opt for professional nail appointments or choose to do them yourself at home will affect the overall cost as well.

Overall, if you get your acrylics done at the salon, the price will vary anywhere from $30 to $80 or more. The cost of fills typically ranges from $20 to $40 or more, depending on the salon and the extent of the fill required.

If you want to save some money in the long run, you may as well opt for the DIY version. Purchasing a complete acrylic nail kit for DIY application typically costs between $20 and $50, depending on the brand, quality of the products, and number of items included in the kit.

Acrylic Nails – Main Takeaways

In this comprehensive guide on acrylic nails, we covered all the basics you need to know about. From the benefits and risks to DIY step-by-step instructions, it has it all.

Removal techniques, including the soak-off and filing-off methods, ensure safe and effective removal without damaging the natural nails.

Whether through professional appointments or DIY efforts, acrylic nails offer durability and versatility. If you decide to do your acrylics at home, make sure to prepare the nail beds thoroughly but not damage them.


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