What are Overlay Nails? Which is Best: Gel, Acrylic, or Dip?

overlay nails

In recent years, the beauty industry has witnessed a surge in nail art trends, and one such popular trend is overlay nails. Overlay nails are a fantastic way to add strength, durability, and style to your natural nails.

If you’re someone who loves flaunting gorgeous nails but struggles with weak or brittle nails, overlays might be the perfect solution for you. 

By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of each type, enabling you to choose the best one for your needs.

What are Overlay Nails?

Overlay nails are a type of nail enhancement applied over your natural long nails or short nails to add strength, prevent breakage, and provide an extended canvas for beautiful nail art. It does not depend on the length of your nails. 

Unlike nail extensions, overlays do not add length to the nails; instead, they create a protective layer that allows you to grow nails without the risk of chipping or splitting. The result is a polished and flawless look that lasts longer than traditional nail polish.

Overlay nails are an excellent option for individuals with weak or brittle nails who want to enhance the appearance of their nails and protect them from external damage. These nails come in various materials, with gel, acrylic, and dip being the most popular choices.

Advantages of Overlay Nails

Overlays offer numerous advantages, making them an appealing choice for individuals seeking durable and beautiful manicures. Some of the key benefits include:

  1. Enhanced Nail Strength: These nails reinforce your own nails, reducing the likelihood of cracks or breaks. This is especially beneficial for those with naturally weak nails.
  2. Versatility: They can be customized to suit individual preferences, allowing for a wide range of designs and colors. Whether you prefer a classic French manicure or vibrant nail art, overlays can accommodate your style.
  3. Longevity: With proper care, overlays can last for several weeks, maintaining their beauty and strength. This durability ensures that you can enjoy your manicure for an extended period without frequent touch-ups.
  4. Low Maintenance: Compared to other nail enhancements, they require minimal upkeep, making them convenient for busy individuals. While regular nail polish may chip or fade within a few days, these nails retain their shine and appearance for an extended duration.
  5. Non-Damaging: When applied and removed correctly, such nails do not cause significant damage to your own nails. Proper application is crucial to ensure that the nails remain healthy and unaffected after the removal.

Gel Overlay Nails

What are Gel nail Overlay Nails?

Gel nails involve applying a gel-based nail product over your own nails and curing it under a UV or LED lamp. These are available in various colors, and it provides a glossy finish, giving the nails a sleek appearance.

Pros and Cons of Gel Overlay Nails


  • Natural Look: Gel overlays offer a more natural appearance and flexibility, resembling real nails. The gel is thinner and lighter than acrylic, giving the nails a more natural feel.
  • Quick Drying: The curing process is fast, reducing the risk of smudging or denting the nails. As soon as the gel is cured under the UV or LED lamp, it dries instantly, allowing you to resume your regular activities without fear of ruining the manicure.


  • Less Durable: Gel overlays may not be as durable as other overlays, and they are prone to chipping. While polygel nails offer reasonable durability, they may not withstand heavy-duty tasks as well as acrylic nails.
  • Limited Lengthening: Gel overlays are not suitable for significant nail lengthening. If you desire longer nails, gel extensions or acrylic overlays may be a more suitable option.

Application Process

The process of applying gel nails typically involves the following steps:

  1. Nail Preparation: The nails are cleaned, shaped, and buffed to ensure a smooth surface. This step is crucial for optimal adhesion of the gel.
  2. Base Coat: A clear base coat of gel is applied and cured under the UV or LED lamp. This base coat acts as a bonding agent, ensuring that the gel adheres securely to the natural nails.
  3. Gel Application: The chosen gel polish color is applied in thin layers, with each layer being cured under the lamp. This layering process creates the desired depth of color and ensures even coverage.
  4. Top Coat: A clear gel top coat is applied and cured for a lasting shine. The top coat not only provides a glossy finish but also adds an extra layer of protection to the manicure.

Acrylic Overlay Nails

What is Acrylic Overlay on natural nails?

Acrylic overlays involve using a mixture of acrylic nail powder and liquid monomer, which is applied over the natural nails and air-dried to form a sturdy layer.

Pros and Cons of Acrylic Overlay Nails

Acrylic overlay nails offer their own set of advantages and disadvantages:


  • Robust and Durable: Acrylic overlays are highly durable and less likely to chip compared to gel overlays vs acrylic overlays. The sturdy nature of acrylic makes it ideal for those with more active lifestyles or jobs that involve frequent hand use.
  • Lengthening Potential: Acrylic overlays can add length to natural nails. If you desire longer nails, acrylic is an excellent option as it allows for more significant extensions.


  • Odor and Fumes: The application process may produce strong odors and fumes due to the liquid monomer. Adequate ventilation is essential when getting acrylic overlays to reduce exposure to these substances.
  • Thicker Appearance: Acrylic overlays may appear thicker, especially if applied incorrectly. Proper shaping and buffing are essential to achieving a natural and flattering look.

Application Process

The process of applying acrylic overlay nails typically involves the following steps:

  1. Nail Preparation: The nails are cleaned, shaped, and roughened to ensure better adhesion. The roughening process creates tiny grooves that allow the acrylic to bond securely to the natural nails.
  2. Liquid Application: A liquid monomer is applied to the nails. This monomer acts as a catalyst when combined with the acrylic powder.
  3. Powder Application: Acrylic powder is dipped in the monomer and applied over the nails, forming a paste that air-dries into a solid layer. The nail technician sculpts the acrylic to achieve the desired shape and length.
  4. Shaping and Buffing: The acrylic layer is shaped and buffed to achieve the desired look. This step ensures that the nails have a smooth and natural appearance.

Acrylic overlay nails are an excellent choice for those seeking durable and long-lasting nails with added length.

Dip Overlay Nails

What are Dip Overlay Nails?

Dip overlay nails, also known as SNS nails, involve dipping the nails into a colored powder multiple times to create a protective overlay to protect your nails.

Pros and Cons of Dip Overlay Nails

Dip overlay nails offer their own set of advantages and disadvantages:


  • Odorless: The application process produces minimal odor, making it more pleasant for those sensitive to strong smells.
  • Lightweight: Dip overlays feel lighter on the nails compared to acrylics, providing a more natural feel.


  • Limited Color Choices: The powder color options may be more limited compared to hard gel nails and acrylics. However, the available color range is still vast and can cater to various preferences.
  • Removal Process: Removing dip overlays may require more effort and time compared to acrylic and layer of gel overlays. It is essential to have them professionally removed to avoid damage to the natural nails.

Application Process

The process of applying dip overlay nails typically involves the following steps:

  1. Nail Preparation: The nails are cleaned, shaped, and a base coat is applied. The base coat ensures that the dip powder adheres securely to the nails.
  2. Dipping: The nails are dipped into the colored powder multiple times, followed by an activator to set the powder. This dipping process creates a durable and protective overlay on the nails.
  3. Shaping and Buffing: The overlay is shaped and buffed to achieve the desired look. Proper shaping ensures that the nails have a polished and well-groomed appearance.

Dip overlay nails are an excellent option for those who want a lightweight and odorless alternative to gel and acrylic overlays.

Comparing Gel, Acrylic, and Dip Overlay Nails

When choosing between dip, acrylic, and gel overlay nails, several factors should be considered:

Gel OverlayModerately durable with a risk of chipping.Natural and flexible appearance.Requires less maintenance.Moderately priced.
Acrylic OverlayHighly durable and less prone to chipping.Strong and thicker appearance, suitable for lengthening.May need infills after they grow their nails.Generally more expensive.
Dip overlayDurable but may require extra care during removal.Lightweight and feels more natural.Requires regular maintenance due to the dip removal process.Falls within the moderate price range.

Which is Best for You?

The best type of overlay nails for you depends on your individual preferences, lifestyle, and desired appearance. If you prefer a natural look and have weak and brittle nails, gel nails might be a good option. 

However, if durability and nail lengthening are your priorities, acrylic nails could be the better choice. For those who want an odorless option and don’t mind the extra maintenance, dip nails might be the perfect fit.

To make an informed decision, consider factors such as your daily activities, tolerance for maintenance, and any specific nail concerns you may have. Additionally, consult with a professional nail technician who can assess your nail condition and provide personalized recommendations.

Tips for Maintaining Overlay Nails

While overlay nails are durable and long-lasting, proper maintenance is essential to prolong their beauty and protect your natural nails. Here are some helpful tips to keep your nails in top condition:

  1. Regularly Moisturize: Moisturize your cuticles and nails regularly to keep nails healthy and prevent dryness. Dry nails are more susceptible to breaking and peeling.
  2. Wear Gloves: Wear gloves when doing household chores or tasks that may expose your nails to harsh chemicals or excessive water. This protective measure prevents damage and helps preserve the longevity of your nails.
  3. Avoid Using Nails as Tools: Resist the temptation to use your nails as tools for opening containers or scraping surfaces. Using your nails for such tasks can lead to chipping or lifting of them.
  4. Schedule Touch-Ups: Depending on the type of overlay, schedule regular touch-ups or infills to maintain the beauty and integrity of your manicure. Regular maintenance ensures that your nails continue to look flawless and well-groomed.
  5. Seek Professional Assistance: If you experience any issues with your nails, such as lifting or chipping, seek professional assistance from a licensed nail technician. They can address the problem effectively and offer guidance on proper nail care.


Q: Are overlay nails damaging to natural nails?

A: Overlay nails, when applied and removed correctly, are not damaging to natural nails. However, improper application or removal can cause damage. It’s essential to have them done by a skilled professional.

Q: How long do overlay nails last?

A: With proper care, overlay nails can last between two to four weeks, depending on the type and your nail growth rate. Regular maintenance and proper aftercare contribute to the longevity of your nails.

Q: Can I do overlay nails at home?

A: While some DIY kits are available, it’s recommended to get nails done by a professional nail technician for the best results and to avoid potential damage. Nail professionals have the expertise and tools to apply them accurately and safely.

Q: Can I switch between acrylic, and dip overlays?

A: Yes, you can switch between different types of such nails. However, it’s advisable to let your natural nails breathe and recover between applications. Continuous use of them without breaks can weaken your natural nails over time.

Q: Are overlay nails suitable for everyone?

A: These nails are generally suitable for most individuals. However, if you have specific nail conditions or allergies, consult a professional before getting these nails. They can assess your nail health and advise on the best nail enhancement options for you.


These nails are a fantastic way to enhance the beauty and strength of your natural nails while allowing you to express your creativity through nail art

Whether you choose gel or acrylic overlays of dip powder nails, each type offers unique benefits that cater to different preferences and lifestyles. 

Remember to consider your individual needs before making a decision and enjoy flaunting your stunning nails with confidence. These nails help your short nails to look long nails without extending the length. 

If you wait for your short nails to grow longer it will take much time and that’s what you don’t have. 

If you want you can make overlay nails using acrylic or gel substances and at the meantime, you can keep your natural nails grow healthy. It is not harsh on your natural nails. 

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