Say Goodbye To Acrylics: 6 Trendy Nail Alternatives To Try

Key Takeaways
  • Consider gel nails as an alternative to acrylic nails. Gel nails offer similar strength and durability but are cured with UV or LED light, making them a popular choice.
  • Dip powder nails are another option, offering a durable and long-lasting manicure without the need for UV or LED curing.
  • Press-on nails are a convenient, temporary solution that can be easily applied and removed without the need for chemicals or salon visits.
  • Prioritize the care of your natural nails by maintaining a healthy nail care routine, including trimming, shaping, and applying cuticle oil.

Today we are going to explore five awesome alternatives to use instead of acrylic nails that you might not have considered.

Acrylic nails are one of the most durable options and this is one of their biggest selling points. They can last for multiple weeks without as much chipping or peeling. 

The problem with the application process of acrylics is that when you layer the acrylic nail on top of your own nail, you are potentially sealing a layer of bacteria or fungus between the real nail and fake nail, which can lead to all kinds of nail infections underneath from the gap.

But being aware of the health, hygiene, and time-consuming implications when choosing acrylic nails is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially if you visit the nail salon on a regular basis.

Not only this, they take a long time to apply and typically require a lot of harsh chemicals such as nail primers and dehydrators.

Ladies, we know how sexy it feels to get a fresh set of nails done. Nothing completes an outfit like a matching outfit and nail combination.

Nail extension

Before You Get Started 

  • Determine which alternative suits your daily activities and nail care preferences, as some may offer longer-lasting results than others.
  • Prioritize the health of your natural nails, as some alternatives may be gentler on them than acrylics.
  • Different alternatives have varying levels of upkeep, so choose one that aligns with your desired maintenance commitment.
  • Consider your budget, as some alternatives may be more cost-effective than acrylic nails in the long run.
  • If you’re unsure which alternative is best for you, consult a nail technician or professional to get personalized recommendations based on your needs and preferences.

So here are six of the best acrylic nail alternatives that we recommend to our audience. Get your french tips and coffin nails ready, as we’re about to show you the best options on the market.

1. Gel Nail Extensions

Top of the list, and for good reason, are gel nail extensions. These are a great alternative to acrylic nails and probably the most common solution for those seeking a strong overall finish.

5 Awesome Alternatives To Use Instead Of Acrylic Nails

Many celebrities such as Ariana Grande use this type of nail and are one of the most comparable options to acrylic nails.

Gel nail extensions are applied similarly to acrylic nails as they are still built out from your nail, and they become extended.

However, one of the major differences is in the ingredients, as gel nail extensions are free from certain ingredients such as methacrylate monomers, formaldehyde, and methacrylic acid, which have been shown to be harmful.

In terms of overall look, they provide a much more natural look and feel when compared to acrylic nails, as they are much lighter and more flexible. This means they put less pressure on the nail bed which can cause irritation to the nail itself.

One other major benefit of using gel nail extensions is the lifespan of the nail. An adhesive is applied to both the nail and nail extensions, and it wouldn’t be uncommon for the nail to last over 3 weeks without so much as a chip or a crack.

Gel nail extensions typically cost more than other types of nails because the builder gels are more expensive, so bear this in mind if you are on a tight budget.


  • Typically long-lasting and can stay consistent for up to 3 weeks without peeling or cracking.
  • These are safer for your nails and do not feature several ingredients that are shown to be harmful to the nail.
  • They have a much lighter and natural feel to them which a lot of users like and are a great comparable option to acrylic nails.


  • If you are avoiding UV lights due to the potential health risks, this option may not be for you as gel nail extensions require a UV light to cure.

2. Dip Powder (SNS)

Dip powder, also commonly known as SNS is another popular alternative to both acrylic nails and gel extensions.

They work by dipping the nails in a fine-colored powder whilst applying a sealant on top of the nail to seal it off.

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This type of nail is typically used for simple style manicures, but can also be used for nail extensions.

The big win is that this method doesn’t require a UV lamp which is a big put-off for the health-conscious nail advocate, and so make this a slightly more ‘healthier’ option than gel extensions.

In terms of the installation and removal process, they have both their advantages and disadvantages.

The application process is quick and is one of the best DIY options available to you.

This is why so many ladies swear by SNS, as they don’t have to go out of their way to get their nails done, especially if looking to save money.

The problem comes with removing them. You need to soak them in acetone for around 15-20 minutes which has the potential to dry out the cuticle.

However, they are still easier to remove than acrylic nails which can take a lot longer to soak and remove the nail.

The other major downside of dip powder is the price. When compared to acrylic nails or gel extensions, they are going to cost more to apply.

Bear in mind that the shelf life of this type of nail is roughly two weeks as well, which is typically less than acrylic and or gel extensions so you’re going to be paying a lot more long-term.


  • They are quick and easy to apply and can be applied at home if you want to save on costs.
  • They do not use harsh chemicals that acrylics use making them a better option for your nail health.
  • They are a durable option and can last up to two weeks without peeling or cracking.
  • They do not require a UV lamp, which is a massive bonus for those who are more health-conscious.


  • They are pricier than acrylic and gel extensions if done professionally.
  • They can be tough to remove and you will need to soak your nails in acetone for up to 15-20 minutes.

Keep in Mind

  • Longevity: Understand the expected lifespan of the chosen alternative and how often you’re willing to invest in maintenance or replacements.
  • Natural Nail Health: Prioritize the health of your natural nails; some alternatives may be less damaging or more protective.
  • Allergies and Sensitivities: Be aware of any allergies or sensitivities to nail products or adhesives and choose alternatives compatible with your skin.
  • Skill Level: Some alternatives may require a professional application, while others can be DIY-friendly. Choose one that aligns with your skills and preferences.
  • Personal Style: Consider your unique style and aesthetic preferences when selecting an alternative, as different options offer varied design possibilities to express your individuality.
Awesome Nail Art

3. Press on Nails

Press-on nails are another super DIY option and are fake nails designed to be easily pasted to your natural nails within minutes.

5 Awesome Alternatives To Use Instead Of Acrylic Nails

These are a great option for those looking for a more understated nail that isn’t going to take a lot of maintenance and would be suitable as a substitute for acrylic nails.

To apply the nail correctly, once you have cleaned your nails, applied the adhesion, have pushed back your cuticles, all you’ll need to do is line up the nail and press down firmly.

With regards to why these are more suitable than acrylic, we’ve already established that application is a big feature for press-on nails, and why so many prefer this method, even against gel nail extensions.

They will take less than 10 minutes to apply and shape which is certainly a lot less time and hassle than driving down to the local boutique.

As with many of the other options, press-on nails is a minimalist solution as it doesn’t feature harsh chemicals that can harm the nail and the only thing you’ll need is the adhesive that is provided with the kit, although some brands come with a built-in adhesive to the nail that is also nail-friendly.

Another great feature of the press-on nail is the removal of the nail itself: they are super easy to remove, and most brands will just pop off after a little pressure is applied.

Make sure to soak them in acetone for 1-2 minutes before removing them as you never want to remove a fake nail without loosening them first.

In terms of their lifespan, they are not as durable as acrylics or gel extensions which doesn’t make them a good choice for long-term application.

Before using these, make sure you know how to apply them, as they can fall off prematurely if you don’t clean your nails before use, or place them on correctly.

A typical lifespan of press-on nails is around 5 days, but if you’re really careful they could last as long as 2 weeks.


  • They are easy to apply and your nails can be completed within 10 minutes.
  • They avoid harsh chemicals and only require an adhesive.
  • They are an affordable option and one of the best choices for those that want a cheaper solution.
  • They are easy to remove and won’t take long once they have been soaked in acetone.


  • Because they are a cheaper option, they aren’t going to last as long as some of the other options on this list. These would be great for a short trip, i.e. a family reunion or wedding-type event.
  • Can be fiddly to apply and if not done correctly will shorten the lifespan of the nail.

4. Nail polishes

Time for a classic option that has been used time and time again. Nail polish has been around for decades, and they are one of the most popular DIY options for nails.

This is the best option for those that don’t want a lot of hassle and want a quick solution to beautiful nails. 

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In terms of ease of application, it’s one of the best choices, as typically you’ll be applying a coat or two to ensure even coverage.

As long as you are careful with the application, and have a good set of nails that makes the coat look smooth, you won’t need to worry about more than two applications.

From start to finish, you’re looking at a 10-15 minute application process, and most brands dry quickly to ensure the process doesn’t take any longer than necessary.

Removing the polish is just as easy and it won’t take long to go back to your natural color. And if you don’t like the color you have chosen, apply some acetone and it will wipe away after about 5 seconds.

This makes nail polish a versatile option because you can change your nail color every day if you want to mix things up.

Most brands offer an affordable price, and you won’t be spending above and beyond to get a good brand and color.

This makes nail polish a great option for those on a budget or those that are new to getting their nails done and want to try out different styles and colors.

You also won’t need a UV lamp when using nail polish, and the ingredients are all considered safe to use, unlike the acrylic options on the market.

One downside to nail polish is that even though it dries quickly, this can be a bad thing as you may find yourself rushing to get the nails coated evenly.

Other DIY options such as gel polish (which we’ll come onto in just a second) don’t have this problem.


  • One of the easiest to apply, and with a little practice this can be a solid nail coloring option in less than 15 minutes.
  • This is one of the most affordable options on the market, with most brands costing less than $10 to buy.
  • Another safe option in terms of overall health, that you won’t require a UV lamp and nail polish contains safe ingredients.


  • Because nail polish tends to dry quickly, some may feel rushed when applying more than one coat to even out the color.
5 Awesome Alternatives To Use Instead Of Acrylic Nails

Alternatives to Acrylic Nails Guide:

  • Selecting the Right Option: Consider your lifestyle and preferences when choosing an alternative to acrylic nails. Opt for options that align with your daily activities and desired nail aesthetics.
  • Nail Health: Prioritize the health of your natural nails. Explore alternatives that are less damaging or provide protective benefits to maintain their strength and integrity.
  • Maintenance Commitment: Different alternatives have varying maintenance requirements. Choose one that matches your willingness to invest time and effort into upkeep.
  • Budget Consideration: Examine your budget constraints and evaluate the long-term costs of the selected alternative, as some may be more cost-effective.
  • Professional Advice: If you’re uncertain about the best alternative for your needs, consult a nail technician or professional for personalized recommendations based on your lifestyle and style preferences.

5. Gel polish

Our final option is similar to nail polish but differs slightly in finish and texture. With gel polish, you are going to be getting a thicker coat with a more durable finish, making this an ideal choice for nail longevity.

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These are a versatile option as you can add nail tips and add gel polishes that have a similar finish to acrylic nails or gel nail extensions.

Just one thing to note is this method isn’t going to be as durable as the other options, which lowers the lifespan of the nail.

One downside to gel nail polishes is that you have to use a UV lamp to cure, harden and dry the gel polish.

This process takes around 30 seconds per hand, and you’ll need to apply at least two coats as well as another run-through after you have applied a gel top coat, so this process will take around 5 minutes to total on top of the gel polish application.

If you’re not worried about the potential health implications of UV rays and want a fast but great finish to your nails, this would be a sound option.

This is also not the best choice if you don’t want to take a lot of time removing the polish.

Unlike nail polish that can instantly be wiped, you’ll need about 10-15 minutes of acetone soaking to remove gel polish.

Also worth noting is that between nail polish and gel polish, there is the chance that you’re going to get the stuff on your skin around the nail, which if left unchecked will dry and stay stuck to your skin. However, this will become less likely with more practice.


  • Provides a thicker texture that some prefer to the lighter nail polish finish.
  • They are more durable than nail polish and can last upwards of 3 weeks without losing their color.
  • You can add extensions on your nails using nail tips if you want a longer-looking nail.


  • Takes longer to apply than other options, and you’ll need t use a UV light to cure and dry the coat.
  • Gel polish is much more difficult to remove than regular nail polish and may take upwards of 10-15 minutes to remove.

6. Nail Stickers

  Image by @jellynailstickers via Instagram

Nail stickers are adhesive embellishments designed to enhance your nails with ease and style.

They come in various designs, from intricate patterns to simple accents, and are a quick alternative to traditional nail art.

To apply, peel off the sticker, adhere it to your nail, and smooth out any imperfections. Nail stickers are popular for those seeking creative, eye-catching manicures without the time or skill required for hand-painted nail art.


  • Nail stickers are incredibly convenient, especially for those who want stylish nails without the time and effort of intricate nail art. They can be applied quickly and easily.
  • They come in various designs, colors, and patterns, allowing you to experiment with different looks and styles without commitment.
  • Unlike traditional nail polish or gel manicures, nail stickers don’t require drying time. Once applied, they are ready to go, making them an excellent choice for those in a hurry.
  • Nail stickers are resistant to smudging and chipping, so your nail art looks fresh for an extended period.
  • They are beginner-friendly and don’t require any special nail art skills. Anyone can achieve a professional-looking manicure with nail stickers.
  • If you like to change your nail design frequently, nail stickers are perfect because they are quick and can be easily removed without damaging your nails.
  • Nail stickers are often more affordable than regular salon manicures or buying various nail polish colors for DIY nail art.


  • Nail stickers may not be as long-lasting as other nail enhancements. They can start to peel or lift at the edges after a few days, especially if exposed to water or if you use your nails for tasks like typing or opening packages.
  • While there is a wide variety of nail sticker designs available, they may not offer the same level of customization as hand-painted nail art. If you have a specific, unique design in mind, you might not find it in a sticker.
  • Although they are generally beginner-friendly, some people may still find it challenging to apply nail stickers smoothly and without air bubbles or wrinkles. It may take some practice to get the application just right.
  • The raised edges of some nail stickers can feel slightly different from the rest of the nail, which may bother some people.
  • If your natural nails are damaged or have ridges, nail stickers may not adhere as well or look as smooth.
  • Removing nail stickers can be more challenging than applying them. You need to be careful not to damage your natural nails during the removal process.
  • Nail stickers are primarily for temporary use. If you’re looking for a long-lasting nail enhancement, options like gel nails or acrylics might be a better choice.

Pro Tip

Consider alternatives to acrylic nails for a natural look. Opt for gel nails for a lightweight, durable option, dip powder nails for a long-lasting finish, or stick-on press-on nails for a temporary yet trendy solution. These alternatives offer a variety of choices to suit your style and needs.

Difference Between Gel Extensions & Acrylic Nails

Gel extensions and acrylic nails are popular nail enhancement techniques, but they differ in composition and characteristics.

Gel extensions are created using a gel-based product cured under UV or LED light.

They tend to have a more natural and flexible feel, with a glossy finish, making them less prone to cracking.

On the other hand, acrylic nails are made from a mixture of acrylic powder and liquid monomer, which air-dries to harden.

Acrylic nails are durable but are typically more complex and less flexible, and they can emit strong odors during application.

The choice between these two methods often comes down to personal preferences regarding appearance, texture, and sensitivity to odors.

Fun Fact

Press-on nails, an alternative to acrylic nails, have existed since the 1930s. They were initially made using adhesive tape, and their popularity has surged in recent years with modern designs, offering a quick and creative way to enhance your nail aesthetics.

Final Thoughts

So there we have it. Five awesome alternatives to using instead of acrylic nails. Hopefully, we’ve covered off the most popular options that vary in type and costs. But which do we think is the best option?

Whilst we’ve listed our pros and cons for each option, it really does depend on a few factors, and not every choice of the nail is going to suit everyone.

Some have much larger budgets and care more about the finish, whilst others want a simple at-home option that isn’t going to take a lot of time.

Or perhaps you want a durable option that isn’t going to be chipped or cracked as easily as some of the cheaper alternatives.

The good news is that you can still get that same quality from a nail technician by going with gen nail extensions or dip powder. These are going to be the most durable and have the best finish.

If you are looking for a cheaper alternative to the professional options, we like press-on nails as they look great whilst not costing as much.

Even though they are slightly less durable, they would be perfect for short trips or events such as weddings or birthday bashes. 

In terms of DIY, look no further than the gel nail polish and regular nail polish options. These are affordable solutions that will look glamorous, even when done solo.

Just be wary that you’re going to need a bit of practice coating the nail and avoiding a coat of polish around the skin area of the nail, which looks scruffy and untidy.

Ariel Coleman

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