SNS vs gel: Which is the Better Choice For You?

Welcome my lovely. What can I do for you today? If you’re looking for an SNS vs gel comparison, then I can certainly help you with that!

Let’s take a good look at how SNS and gel nails stack up against one another, shall we?

How about we start with a brief explanation of what we mean by SNS and gel nails exactly.

Then we’ll compare SNS vs gel based on these key areas:

  • How easy it is to DIY at home
  • The simplicity of the application process
  • How long they take to apply
  • Tools and equipment required
  • Ease of removal
  • Impact on your nail health
  • Cost of the treatment
  • Durability and longevity of the nails
  • Comfort level of wearing the nails
  • How long the nails will last

Let’s get into it.

Here’s a contents table for navigation:

SNS nails explained

You may already know that SNS nails stand for Signature Nail Systems.

It’s basically a brand of dip powder.

It’s made from finely milled acrylic and has some nail-friendly vitamins and nutrients like B5, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E added to promote nail health.

Gel nails explained

This category is a little more difficult to explain, so bear with me.

There are 2 gel nail types. Hard and soft.

Hard gels, like polygel for example, are the closest product to SNS nails.

They can be used to sculpt and create overlays and extensions just like SNS nails.

So it makes sense to use hard gels in our comparison.

However, I know that some people think of gel nail polish manicures (soft gel) when they think of “gel nails”.

So for those lovely folks, we’re going to talk a little bit about how SNS compares to both hard gel (polygel) and soft gel (gel polish).

The main difference between hard gel nails and gel nail polish manicures is that you can’t use gel polish to create nail extensions.

Ok, now that we’ve cleared that up let’s compare the application process between SNS and gel nails.

Are SNS and gel nails applied in the same way?

The application process between gel nails and SNS nails is very different.

The basic nail prep is the same (file, buff, push cuticles back).

But that’s where the similarities end.

The application method for SNS nails

SNS nails are applied by first applying a primer (optional) and then a gel base.

Then the nail is dipped (2 to 5 times) into the powder. A base coat is applied after each dip to allow the powder to stick.

Or alternatively, the colored powder is spooned over the nail until the desired result is achieved.

Once the colored powder is on, the nail is coated with a sealant that sets and hardens fairly quickly.

Once set, the nails can be buffed, filed, and reshaped.

Finally, 1 or 2 layers of topcoat are applied and your nails are done.

You may have noticed that there is no UV or LED lamp involved in the application of SNS nails.

This is one of the key differences between how gel nails and SNS nails are applied.

How gel nails are applied

The first step in applying polygel nails is to use a dehydrator.

Next, you need to apply a primer or gel base.

The gel base needs to be cured (for 30 to 60 seconds) under a UV or an LED lamp.

For extensions, nail forms would need to be added at this point.

Then, a blob of gel is applied to the nail plate using a brush or a metal spatula tool.

The brush is dipped in a slip solution then the nail is sculpted into shape.

The nails are cured again, then filed, buffed, and reshaped before a top coat is added and cured under the nail lamp.

How gel polish is applied

With gel polish, the nails are prepped in the normal way and a gel base coat is applied.

Two coats of colored polish are painted on (curing after each coat) and then a topcoat is applied and cured under the nail lamp.

As you can see, both the gel nail options use a nail lamp, whereas SNS nails dry without the need to use UV light.

How long do they take to do?

Time can be a major factor in deciding which type of manicure to go for.

Let’s see how long gel nails take vs SNS nails.

SNS nails take around 45 minutes to complete in a salon.

That’s if you go in with clean nails and your nail tech is familiar with SNS.

It takes a little longer to do extensions than it does to do an overlay on natural nails, so allow an extra 15 to 30 minutes for those.

If you already have a set of nails on or you’re wearing polish, you’ll need to take this into account too.

Gel nails (a full set of polygel) takes between 45 mins and an hour and 15 mins.

The time depends on the length and shape you want and whether you’re having extensions or overlays.

If you need to remove your old set of gel nails before applying a new set, this will add an extra 20 minutes or so.

Gel polish manicures are much quicker. They take around 30 minutes in the salon.

That’s including prep time, polishing time, and curing.

How easy is it to do gel vs SNS at home?

Gel nail polish is the easiest and quickest way to get your nails looking good at home.

But when it comes to comparing hard gel and SNS, SNS is the clear winner.

Dip nails are much easier to do yourself because you don’t need to have any technical skills like sculpting with a brush.

With practice, you can get just as good results at home as you would in a salon.

Gel nails are much harder to do yourself because of the need to master the proper technique and how to use slip solution.

You also need to have some technical skills like sculpting with a brush.

There are plenty of great tutorial videos to help you do your own gel nails.

So I’d recommend watching a few of those before you attempt to do your own gel nails.

What equipment do you need for gel vs SNS?

what equipment do you need sns vs gel

Let’s break down what tools and equipment you need for each type of nail.

To do SNS nails at home, you’ll need:

  • SNS natural set nail powder
  • SNS colored nail powder
  • Brush to remove dust
  • Gelous base coat
  • Dappen dish for dipping
  • Topcoat
  • Sealant (natural set sheer)
  • A dehydrator (optional)
  • Primer (optional)
  • A nail file (100-180 grit) or a nail drill
  • Cuticle pusher

To DIY hard gel nails in the comfort of your own home, you’ll need:

  • Nail file
  • Cuticle pusher
  • Isopropyl alcohol or nail cleaning solution
  • Lint-free wipes
  • Base coat
  • Colored or clear polygel
  • Spatula/brush tool
  • Slip solution
  • UV lamp
  • Buffer
  • Topcoat

To do a gel polish manicure you’ll need:

  • Nail file
  • Buffer
  • Cuticle pusher
  • UV or LED lamp
  • Gel base coat
  • Gel top coat
  • Gel nail polish
  • Lint-free wipes
  • Isopropyl alchohol

Now that we’ve gone over all the tools and equipment, let’s talk about how easy it is to remove gel nails vs SNS nails.

How does the removal process compare?

The removal process for hard gel nails and SNS nails is very similar.

However, SNS nails, since they tend to be thinner, are easier to remove than polygel nails or other gel nails.

Both (hard) gel nails and SNS nails need to be filed down and then soaked off using acetone.

Acetone can be very drying and damaging to your natural nails.

If you want a step-by-step guide for exactly how to remove polygel nails without causing any damage check out this post.

Gel nail polish is much easier to remove than either hard gel or SNS nails.

To remove gel polish you just need to soak a cotton ball in gel polish remover.

Then hold it firmly against your nail and swipe across after about 20 seconds.

Is SNS or gel better for your nails?

sns or gel

When it comes to nail health, all three methods have their drawbacks.

Hard gel nails require the use of UV light, which can be damaging to your skin.

If this is a concern for you then SNS nails might be the better option.

All three nail types are generally removed using acetone.

Acetone is terrible for drying out your nails, cuticles, and the surrounding skin.

It can also make your nails brittle after a while too.

There are ways to remove both gel nails and SNS nails without using acetone.

However, these methods are not as effective and they are time-consuming.

Does SNS or gel last longer?

This one is pretty even.

Polygel nails last 3 to 4 weeks.

SNS nails also last 3 -4 weeks.

Gel manicures last 7 to 10 days.

Of course, your lifestyle and how well you take care of your nails will also affect how long your manicure lasts.

One of the major advantages of SNS is the fact that the color is part of the nail itself.

This means that with SNS you don’t need to worry about polish chipping.

Long-wearing color is a major advantage for SNS over gel nails, which can chip much easier.

SNS vs gel price

So, how much do SNS nails cost?

Well, depending on the type of salon you go to you could expect to pay anywhere between $35 and $100.

SNS nails are slightly more expensive than acrylic nails, approximately $10 to $30 more per set.

Between $40 and $60 is a good average.

How much do gel nails cost?

For a full set of gel nail extensions, you’re looking at a cost of $50 to $150.

The average cost of gel nails in the US is $51.29.

However, this can vary widely depending on the salon you go to and the area you live in.

Is gel or SNS more comfortable to wear?

Dip nails like SNS nails are lighter and a little more flexible than hard gel nails.

This means that SNS nails are going to be slightly more comfortable to wear than polygel nails or other hard gels like builder gel for example.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, both SNS nails and gel nails have their own advantages and disadvantages.

SNS nails are easier to apply and they don’t chip because the color is built-in.

SNS nails may also be the better option because they don’t require the use of UV light.

Gel nails last just as long as SNS nails but can chip easier.

And finally, SNS nails are quicker to apply and more comfortable to wear than gel.

So, there you have it, a complete guide to SNS vs gel nails.

I hope you found this helpful.

Thanks for reading!

Check out our best polygel nail kits 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.