In short, says Rica Romain, manicurist and nail-care specialist, “Polygel has the strength of acrylic, but is lighter, stronger, and more flexible.” 

How does polygel compare to regular gel and acrylics?  

When talking about differences between nail products, Idehen says it comes down to strength. Traditional nail polish and gel polish are the weakest, while dip, acrylic, hard gel, and polygel are more durable. “The cool thing about polygel,” Idehen says, “is that because it has that gel-like consistency before it’s cured, it gives it a bit more flexibility than acrylic.” 

Regular gel polish is flexible and doesn’t provide structure or strength the way polygel does. “It’s just long-lasting color,” says Idehen. When her clients are looking to grow out their nails, she suggests a more durable nail enhancement, such as polygel or acrylic, “that you can build with, so that it doesn’t snap and break at the point of stress, like where your nail leaves your nail bed.” 

Acrylic extensions are made of two products: a liquid monomer and acrylic powder, which together create a hardened base. (Polygel also uses a liquid slip solution to make it pliable.) Says Romain, “Polygel nails can be applied on top of a nail form and sculpted to create an extension of the nail, just like acrylic.” 

But acrylic and polygel differ in how they are applied. “[With acrylics], you have to know how much monomer you need to pick up with the powder so that you get the correct consistency for the bead before applying it to the nail,” says Idehen. This aspect of acrylic application can take a long time, with a lot of training to get them perfect. But because polygel is premixed, “you don’t have to worry about ratios, and this makes it a lot easier to use and get to grips with.” 

Also, polygel does not have a smell. This is hugely different from acrylics, which have that intense scent you probably associate with walking into a nail salon. That strong smell sometimes deters people from having their nails done. 

The last difference: “Polygel enhancements don’t usually need to be removed regularly,” says Romain. “The nail growth area can simply be filled in with more polygel.” 

Can they be done at home? What are the risks?

“Polygel can be done at home,” says Idehen; however, “it does require all of the same skills that doing any other nail service requires.” These include patience (and if you’re a beginner, lots of it), knowledge of what you’re doing (more on this later), and having the right products at your fingertips. 

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