Hard Gel, Soft Gel, or Gel Polish - Featured Image

Hard Gel, Soft Gel, or Gel Polish: How To Choose The Best Gel Service for Your Nails

Repainting your nails constantly is time consuming and frustrating. So is ruining your perfectly painted nails the moment you leave the salon.

You want your manicure to last longer. However having your polish smudging or chipping is inevitable as you use your hands constantly throughout the day.

So what can you do?

Well, you can try out hard gel nails. These are way more durable than regular nail polish, plus they last for a heck of a lot longer.

There are also a few other types of nail treatments that give you similar results.

If you want to know more about this and other types of manicures, and how they can make your hands look fantastic for even longer, keep reading!

What Are Hard Gel Nails?

Hard gel nails are also called traditional gel and are a type of nail enhancement.

Hard gel nail services by Sunday Beauty Boutique

It contains monomers or oligomers, plus a few other ingredients. Together, these make it easy to work with, stick to the nail and harden properly. It also keeps activities like cooking, smoking, or even brushing up against your jeans from staining them.

Hard gel can add some length and lets you shape them however you like. Since it acts as a base, you can also add soft gels, gel polish, or even normal nail polish right over top. You can even add some nail art for a bit of style.

Hard gel can be used on all nail lengths — they can extend short nails and strengthen long ones.

Hard gel nail coating in a bottle

It can also protect them from bending or breaking since it can withstand a lot of pressure.

This nail coating is applied by dropping a bead of the gel onto the nail and working it out towards the edges with a brush. Then it’s cured using a UV or LED light. There is a tacky film left at this point, which needs to be removed with a nail cleanser.

A hard gel application can cost about $60 to $80, which may seem pricey, though it lasts 3 to 4 weeks. This means that if you’re careful, you only need one appointment a month for gorgeous nails.

 If you notice that the nail has started lifting, do not pick it off yourself. Instead, see your favorite manicurist to have it filed off, so a new coat can be put on.

Gels can certainly weaken the nails if they are peeled or pried off the nail, which can strip layers of the natural nail.

Jenna Hipp, Selena Gomez’s Manicurist

What Are the Different Types of Gel Nails?

Since there are a few different types out there, let’s take a look at them all to see what sets them apart.

Hard Gel

Hard gel has a structure that’s tightly woven. This makes it lightweight, yet strong and durable, which is why it can’t be soaked off. [1]

It is also odorless, hypoallergenic, and safe for pregnant women.


  • Good for all nail lengths.
  • Long-lasting.
  • Flexible without breaking.


  • Must be filed off for removal by a nail professional.
  • Must be replaced every 3 to 4 months .

Soft Gel

Soft gel nail coating in a bottle

Soft gel is also called soak-off gel, which has molecules in it with high weight and elongated structures. This leaves space between them, which lets solvents inside to break it down. This is why it can be removed by soaking it off with acetone.

This product is best for short to mid-length nails that are a bit weak since it can strengthen them and correct their shape.

It’s applied on the natural nail like regular nail polish, except it gets cured with a UV or LED light between coats. [2]

This treatment can last about 2 to 4 weeks, with some wear on the free edges. You can use it alone or as a base. It’s also perfect for nail art.

Soft gel nails start at $45 for each salon visit.


  • Strengthens weaker nails.
  • Corrects nail shape.
  • Great for nail art.


  • Wears on free edges.
  • Doesn’t add length.

Gel Polish

Gel polish coating in a bottle

Gel polish is sometimes called Shellac, which isn’t entirely accurate since Shellac is a product line made by the CND brand. [3]

It’s similar to traditional hard gel, although it’s a much weaker form of it.

It is kind of runny, so it can be easily brushed over your nails like regular polish. It also cures under a UV or LED light, which only takes about 30 seconds.

This quick-drying time is one of the reasons why gel polish is so much more popular than traditional gel.

Gel polish is great for short or long nails, plus can be used on natural ones or over hard gel, soft gel, or acrylic nails.

This type of treatment can last up about 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the client, with some wear on the free edges during that time. To remove gel polish, just soak them in acetone and they’re ready for a new coat.

It also costs about $45 for applications, making this the least expensive option.


  • Can be easily removed by a nail technician.
  • Quick-drying.
  • Has lots of color options.


  • Won’t last as long as hard or soft gel on natural nails.
  • Wears on free edges.

Types of Gel Nail Polish

Hard Gel

Soft Gel

Gel Polish

What is it used for?

Extending nails, strengthening, nail growth, base for nail enhancements

Strengthening a base for nail enhancements

Strengthening a base for nail enhancements

Long-lasting polish, nail art

What nail length is it best for?

All lengths

Short to mid-length

All lengths


Thick gel

Medium gel

Runny gel


Pulled over the nail with a brush

Brushed on

Brushed on

How long does it last?

3-4 weeks

2-4 weeks

2-3 weeks

How do you remove it?

Removed by filing

Soaked off with acetone

Soaked off with acetone

Usual cost

$60 - 80



Gel Nails Vs Gel Polish: Are Gel Nails Better than Shellac?

Comparison of nails with gel nails and nails with gel polish

Gel nails are better than Shellac because gel is thicker, which makes it last almost twice as long as Shellac and protects your nails at the same time.

If you remember, the terms “gel polish” and “Shellac” are interchangeable, although not entirely accurate since Shellac is the name of a specific product line.

Hard and soft gel usually costs a bit more than gel polish/Shellac.

Hard gel can be used on all nail lengths — they can extend short nails and strengthen long ones.

All three options are cured using UV or LED lights, plus come in a wide variety of color options.

Gel nails are more durable and can withstand more punishment than gel polish/Shellac, so they do last a bit longer in terms of wear and tear.

However, keep in mind that improper removal of both gel nails and gel polish/Shellac can damage the nails.

Gel Overlay vs Gel Polish

Comparison of nails with gel overlay and nails with gel polish

When comparing gel overlay vs gel polish, you’ll see that the overlay has a couple of benefits over the polish.

Gel overlay is done by applying the gel right on the surface of the nail. This adds a layer of protection, which keeps nails from cracking and splitting. [4]

This makes gel overlay perfect for short, brittle nails, so the nails can grow long and healthy.

Gel polish, on the other hand, doesn't protect or lengthen your nails.

And while it can add a touch of beauty and style for a couple of weeks, the overlay lasts longer and won't come off as fast.


Are hard gel nails bad for you?

What's the difference between soft gel and hard gel nails?

Can gel nails be filed?

Can you put gel nails on very short nails?

What's the difference between gel and acrylic false nails?

Which lasts longer: gel or acrylic nails?

Are dip nails better than gel?

Do nails need to breathe?

What Gel Nail Services are Available at Sunday Beauty Boutique?

We have a couple of gel nail services available at Sunday Beauty Boutique.

First is the Gel Polish/Soft Gel Custom Set, which includes trimming, filing, and cuticle work as well as a gorgeous application.

Gel polish and soft gel services by Sunday Beauty Boutique

We also offer Hard Nail Extensions, which are our specialty. You can get a total nail makeover or just a touch-up — whatever you need to give you the perfect nails. 

Hard nail extensions services by Sunday Beauty Boutique

If you want some flash, we also have some fantastic Swarovski crystals for some sparkly nail art.

Here at Sunday Beauty Bo​​​​​utique, we take pride in our work, providing our clients with advice as well as the best nail care possible.

Products I Use

Akzentz nail products

At Sunday Beauty Boutique, I only use products from Akzentz. They’re a local company from Burnaby, B.C., Canada, though they are used by nail professionals around the world.

Every product they sell is high-quality, odorless, and 100% gel. They sell their products exclusively to nail professionals.

Akentz also offers tips, training, and refresher classes for their products. They even help troubleshoot if you have any issues with their stuff, which is why I prefer them over other brands.


There are a wide variety of gel services available. Each one has its benefits and flaws, though all of them can give you fantastic nails that you’ll love to show off to everyone around you.

At Sunday Beauty Boutique, we offer a lot of them, plus we can help you decide which of these nail treatments is best for you. If you’re interested in one of these stylish options, don’t hesitate to book your appointment with us today.


1. https://www.vox.com/2016/9/7/12631314/gels-acrylics-dip-fake-nails-science

2. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/gel-manicures

3. https://cnd.com/

4. https://www.nailsmag.com/599063/what-causes-the-tips-to-crack-but-the-gel-overlay-to-remain-intact


About the Author Catherine

As a kid, I happened to discover a magazine entirely focused on intricate nail designs. This sparked an interest that has grown over the years. Though I completed a bachelor’s degree in Food, Nutrition, and Health, office work wasn’t for me. So, I focused on my dream instead. I earned my diploma from Blanche Macdonald’s Nail Technology Program in 2015. I worked in a salon and received certified training with YUMI Lashes in January 2017. Then, in March of 2017, I opened Sunday Beauty Boutique. These days, I spend my time focusing on my customers, customizing my services for each of them. I’ve created a relaxing space where they get the attention they deserve. My biggest goal is to help them to feel as good as they look. Seeing this transformation is the best part of my day!