Discover the Best Alternatives to Gel Nails: The Ultimate Guide

gel nail alternatives

Hey, you! Yeah, you, the one with the beautifully polished nails. You might be wondering why you should even bother reading this article-after all, your gel nails look great and there’s no reason to change that, right? What’s that? You’re fed up with gel nails? Do you want an alternative, something that lasts longer or is less damaging? I hear ya. Don’t worry, there are plenty of alternatives to gel nails, and we’re going to explore them all in this article. Keep reading to learn more!

In a hurry?

Here’s a shortlist of alternatives to gel nails:

Some alternatives to gel nails include acrylic overlays, acrylic extensions, press-on nails, regular nail polish, dip powder nails, nail stickers, silk wraps, or going natural.

Let’s look at alternatives to gel nails in more detail so you can see what’s the best fit for you!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

The benefits of gel nails (in case you wanna keep ’em!)

Gel nails – the negatives

Alternative to gel nails – Acrylic overlays

Acrylic extensions

Alternative to gel nails – Press on nails

Regular nail polish

Alternative to gel nails – Dip powder nails

Gel nail alternative – Nail stickers

Alternative to gel nails – Silk wraps

Alternative to gel nails – Going natural

The benefits of gel nails (in case you wanna keep ’em!)


Ah, gel nails. So pretty, so shiny, and so damaging!

First of all, let’s talk about the benefits of gel nails. That way, we can see how the alternatives to gel nails compare.

Gel nails are artificial nail enhancements that go over your own natural nails.

The gel acts like a very strong (and shiny) glue and holds on to your natural nails, which can cause damage if they’re removed too frequently.

The main benefits of gel nails are:

They are quick and easy to do (even by yourself at home).

Gel nails are also super shiny.

They can last for up to 3 weeks (if you look after them well). Check out our guide on how to make your gel polish last longer

Gel nails are fairly easy to remove.

Gel nails – the negatives

So, if their benefits are so great, why bother looking for a gel nail alternative?

Well…let’s look at some of those negative aspects of gel nails that you should consider before you decide whether or not to keep them.

I do my own gel nails at home with gel polish and a UV lamp.

But my nails get badly damaged when I remove the gel.

My nails were chipping, peeling, and thinning out so much that I had to take a 3-week break every couple of months.

If you’re fed up with having paper-thin nails that bend and break easily, then you might want to consider one of these alternatives to gel nails.

Alternative to gel nails – Acrylic overlays


If you want a long-lasting alternative to gel, you could try acrylic overlays.

Acrylic overlays are different from extensions. They involve applying acrylic but only to the natural nail.

So acrylic overlays won’t make your nails any longer.

Overlays are usually done by a nail tech, but you can learn to them at home too if you have the patience to hone your skills.

You can do this by following the steps below:

Step 1 – Choose your color(s) of acrylic, and mix it with a monomer to form a bead.

2nd step – Apply a thin layer of acrylic to your natural nails.

Step 3 – Once you’ve applied all the layers you want, cure them under a UV or LED lamp.

Here’s a great video that shows you how to apply an acrylic overlay on natural nails:

Acrylic extensions

If you want longer nails that last the same amount of time as gel nails, then acrylic extensions might be your answer.

Acrylic extensions involve using plastic nail tips or removable paper forms to make your nails longer.

They can add length and volume to your natural nails, but the disadvantage is that you have to keep returning back for fill-ins every 2-3 weeks if you want them to last longer.

Alternative to gel nails – Press on nails

donut gel nails

Press on nails are cheap, easy to apply, and available everywhere. They come in lots of different sizes, shapes, colors and patterns.

Press on nails are really quick and easy to apply. You don’t have to do any filing or shaping, you just stick them on and go!

But they only last for 2-3 days, so it’s not really worth your time and effort if you want longer nails that last longer than that.

If you want to try out press on nails, you can do these yourself at home by following the steps below:

Step 1 – Apply a thin layer of liquid or powder glue to your natural nails.

Step 2 – Once the glue is tacky, place the false nail tip on your nail and hold it down for 30 seconds to secure it in place.

Regular nail polish


If you don’t want artificial enhancements, then investing in good quality, long-lasting nail polish might be your best option.

The main benefits of using regular nail polish instead of gel nails are:

They won’t damage your natural nails. In fact, they can help strengthen them by providing a protective layer. You don’t need any UV lamps or special tools to apply nail polish.

They are also easier and faster to remove than gel nails.

The downside is that they don’t last as long as gel nails, and they can chip more easily.

You also need a steady hand.

Alternative to gel nails – Dip powder nails


Dip powder nails are basically acrylic nails but done in a different way.

They involve applying a base coat, dip powder (a form of acrylic), and top gloss.

If you want to learn the process for doing dip nails, check out this post.

Dip powder nails are a long-lasting alternative to gel nails.

There are some disadvantages though:

They are more expensive than gel nails.

They can damage your natural nails if they’re not applied properly.

You’ll need to go to the salon every 2-3 weeks for them to be refilled or repolished.

Gel nail alternative – Nail stickers

Nail stickers are a fun alternative to gel nails. They’re easy to apply, and they come in lots of different designs, shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns.

They are made from flexible plastic material that comes with a sticky back that you can peel off.

All you need to do is stick them on your natural nail like you would with press-on nails.

Nail stickers are designed to last for up to 10 days, but they may start peeling after 3-5 days.

If you don’t mind starting over every few days, then nail stickers might be the best alternative to gel nails for you!

Here’s a great tutorial that shows how easy it is to apply a nail sticker:

Alternative to gel nails – Silk wraps

Silk wraps are small pieces of material applied to the natural nails and then cut to shape.

They are then coated with a sealant and buffed to create a shiny, even surface.

These wraps are perfect for people with thin, brittle, porous, and damaged nails.

Silk wraps are a type of fiberglass that gives you the appearance of longer, thicker nails without actually improving the condition of your natural nails.

They also last much longer than gel nails without chipping or peeling!

The downside is they can be difficult to apply, and they may irritate your skin.

Silk wraps are perfect if you have short nails, and they last for around 2 weeks.

Alternative to gel nails – Going natural

natural nails

The final alternative to gel nails is to just go natural.

This can be such a relief!

Simply grow your natural nails as long as you want and shape them nicely.

I recommend a crystal nail file.

There are lots of different nail shapes you can choose from if you want your nails to look professional without going for a gel manicure.

You can also use nail strengtheners and/or a buffing block to improve the appearance of your natural nails.

Push your cuticles back gently with a wooden cuticle pusher (don’t use metal – they are too rough on the nail).

Take good care of your natural nails so that they grow back healthy and strong!

Final thoughts:

There are many different types of nails that can be applied, and the right one for you really depends on what your personal preferences are.

 Silk wraps may not be a good option if you have thin, brittle, or porous natural nails because they don’t actually improve their condition but they’re perfect for people with short nails who want to grow their nails longer without damaging them!

Press-on nails aren’t as long-lasting as gel but offer an easier way to change up your look from time to time. 

Dip powder is another great alternative in between acrylics and gels; it’s more expensive so make sure you know how much work goes into maintaining this type of manicure before committing. 

The most important thing about any type of nail application is that you take care of your natural nails. They’re the only ones you’ll have, so make sure they’re always moisturized and healthy!

Did you enjoy learning about all these different options?

Which one would fit your lifestyle best?

Until next time, tata my lovelies!

you might also like our best acrylic nail brush article here:


  • Phoebe Meadows

    Phoebe Meadows is a self-proclaimed nail addict, always on the lookout for the latest trends and techniques. When she's not creating stunning nail designs, you can find her researching the latest nail care products or experimenting with new techniques.