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Gel Polish vs Regular Nail Polish: Which Should You Choose?

Author: Jessica

Sep. 28, 2022

17 0 0

Tags: Beauty & Personal Care

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I'll earn a commission should you choose to make a purchase through this link. This is at no extra cost to you. Read my full disclaimer here.



If regular nail polishes have always been your go-to, but you’re considering moving over to gels, this is the post for you! You might be wondering ‘what’s the difference between the two?’ and ‘what makes gel polish so special?’ – fortunately, I’m going to aim to answer all your questions down below!


So, if you want to know whether you should stick to traditional manicures or make the switch to gel polish, keep reading!



What’s the difference between gel polish and regular polish?

The main difference between a gel manicure and a regular manicure is that gel polish needs to be cured using a UV or LED lamp in order to stick to your nails, whereas regular polish adheres to air drying.


A Quick Comparison

Regular Nail Polish

Gel Nail Polish


Lasts about a week

Can last for around two to three weeks


Most drugstore polishes are around £3 – £8

Quality gel polishes usually cost upwards of £7

Drying Process

Air dry

UV or LED curing

Drying Time

>15 minutes

<1 minute


Can be removed with a few swipes of acetone or non-acetone nail polish remover

Needs to be soaked in acetone nail polish remover for 15 minutes



Regular Nail Polish



Unlike with a gel manicure, all that’s required to get started is the nail polish itself. You don’t need a lamp or any type of prepping solution. At most, you’ll need an extra base coat and top coat, but you can definitely get away with just using your single chosen shade.



If you’re someone who likes to switch up their manicure pretty often, regular nail polish is an obvious choice. Unless you’re using glitter polish, you can usually remove your base shade with just a few swipes of nail polish remover.



There’s no doubt that regular nail polish is a whole lot cheaper than gel polish. This obviously varies depending on the brand – a designer nail polish is of course going to cost more than a budget gel alternative. But, on the whole, you’ll find that regular nail polishes are much kinder to your purse.




I can’t be the only one who’s painted their nails, started on another task, then realized that they’ve completely smudged their whole manicure. Because regular polish takes ages to fully dry, there’s a high chance of ruining it when it’s still tacky. Not only that but regular nail polish is prone to chipping and cracking. So, even when it is dry, you’re still not out of the woods!



Dark polish always comes with the added risk that it’s going to stain your nails. Sure, a thick base coat can help a little, but somehow the polish manages to discolor them anyway! This doesn’t seem to be so much of an issue with lighter, pastel shades. However, there’s still a slight chance that yellowing will occur.


Related news:FAQ: Does Gel Polish Need UV Light?

Gel Nail Polish



It’s no secret that gel polish lasts way longer than its regular counterpart. If you’re looking to save a little time – yep, gel polish doesn’t require regular touch-ups – then a gel manicure is definitely the way to go.



Since gel polish doesn’t start drying as soon as it leaves the bottle, you have much more time to play with it when you’re painting your nails. This means you can even out any streaks or fill in gaps without the coverage looking patchy. Gel polish also tends to be a lot glossier than regular polish, so the final look is not only smooth but super shiny too.



It takes around 15 to 30 minutes for regular nail polish to stop feeling tacky. But did you know that nail polish actually needs 24 hours to dry fully?! With gel polish, the longest amount of time you’ll spend waiting for your nails to cure is one minute. It’s so much quicker!



If your nails are naturally weak, gel polish offers them extra protection. Of course, this only applies when you’re actually wearing the polish – think of it as a type of shield. When you’re removing your gel manicure, you’ll want to be really gentle so as not to damage or weaken the nails any further.





It takes a little while to get used to the process of doing a gel manicure. Added steps like buffing and prepping the nail plate are easy to forget, and you’ll need to be really careful not to leave gel polish on the skin while curing.



Gel polish needs to be cured with a UV or LED lamp, so this is an essential purchase when you’re first starting to do gel nails. You’ll also need things like prepping solution and acetone nail polish remover, which can easily be bought but are still an added expense.


A cost-effective way to buy all the equipment you need is with a starter kit.



Gel nail polishes are inevitably more expensive than regular nail polishes. The difference in price isn’t always huge, but it’s definitely more costly to build up a gel collection. You’ll also find that it’s far easier to pick up regular nail polish at the drugstore than it is gel polish. Many gel brands sell exclusively online or will only ship to professional nail salons. This makes it slightly trickier to pick up the shades you want.



UV light exposure is linked to photoaging and skin cancer. While the FDA states that nail curing lamps are low risk – you’d need to be spending an excessive amount of time with your hand under the light to do serious damage – it’s still worth applying sunscreen or wearing UV-blocking gloves while you do your nails.



So, which should you choose?

In the end, it’s really down to preference. If you’re someone who doesn’t have the time to constantly be reapplying or touching up your manicure, then gel polish would be a better fit. But if you like to change up your look often, and you’re looking for an affordable way to do so, regular nail polish would be more suitable.


What type of nail polish do you prefer: gel or regular? Let me know in the comments below!