There may not be a miracle method to add length to your natural nails, but luckily you can always count on nail extensions to save the day! Extension types vary by application method and properties. Knowing the differences between nail extensions will help you make the best choice for your next nail set.
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What are nail extensions?
Even if you struggle with getting your nails to grow, it doesn’t mean you’re sentenced to having short nails forever. Growing your natural nails out isn’t always an option but getting nail extensions is. Nail extensions are a way to lengthen your nails artificially, and there are a few types of nail extensions you can choose from. Each type of nail extension has its own unique set of benefits and application process. This guide covers all the nail extension types to help you decide which nail extension method is right for you.
Acrylic nail extensions
Starting strong, we have the original nail extension, aka acrylic nails. Acrylic extensions are the oldest nail extension system around. And it also remains the most popular. The acrylic formula is made by mixing two materials together: a liquid monomer and a powder polymer.
When the two ingredients are combined, they form a substance that can be applied to the natural nail and sculpted to form an extended tip. There’s a wide range of acrylic powder colours to choose from, which opens up a new world of design possibilities. Ultraviolet or LED lamps aren’t necessary for creating acrylic nails. And acrylics are a suitable DIY choice if you’re heavy-handed. But note that acrylic isn’t self-levelling and dries quickly during application. So, it can be tricky to handle if you’re a beginner doing your own acrylics. Apres gel extensions may be a better fit for newbies to the nail scene.
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The acrylic nail extension system is best for those who value durability or want extra-long nails. Acrylics are built to be strong and long. Their sturdy nature makes them resistant to breakage. But keep in mind there may be better options for those sensitive to strong odours. The chemicals used to create an acrylic extension disperse a potent smell. So, acrylics should always be applied in well-ventilated areas.
Hard gel extensions
One of the acrylic extensions’ biggest modern-day contenders is hard gel. Unlike acrylics, hard gel nail extensions don’t have an odour and are self-levelling. Both of these are pros when it comes to the application process! Hard gel extension nails are sculpted using a thick gel formula. A few layers may be necessary to strengthen your extensions. After applying the gel, they’ll require hardening under an LED or UV nail lamp. A downside to this, however, is that the curing process can cause heat spikes which can temporarily cause a burning sensation.
Hard gel nail extensions are a durable option with a more natural aesthetic than acrylics. Nail gel extensions will be thinner and more flexible, giving a softer look. They may not be the right choice for attaining extra-long nails or if you have an active lifestyle. But long, medium or short gel nail extensions are doable. Because most varieties of hard gel have to be filed off, they can withstand contact with acetone and other chemicals. And if you’re wondering how long gel extensions last—similarly to acrylics, you’ll get two to three weeks of wear out of hard gel.
Polygel nail extensions
If acrylic and gel nail extensions had a baby, you’d get polygel extensions. Polygel nail extensions are also known as acryl gel or hybrid. The polygel nail extension system brings all the advantages of gel and acrylics, fusing them into one extension style. The formula comes in either a pot or a tube and has a dense texture that doesn’t self-level. A UV or LED lamp is needed for curing, but the outcome is a natural-looking nail made from a light material.
It may not be stronger than acrylic, but the polygel extension is still a sturdy and flexible extension style. Polygel extensions can be sculpted on tips, forms, or dual forms. They’re used as nail extensions, but they can also be used to fix a broken nail or to strengthen your natural ones.
Like hard gel, they won’t get damaged by acetone or household cleaning products. As a bonus, they’re easy to work with overall. Polygel nail extensions are hypoallergenic, have no odour, and aren’t challenging to file down. The dust produced when filing is heavier than acrylic dust. So, you won’t have to deal with it flying all over the place.
BIAB nail extensions
What are BIAB nail extensions, anyways? Builder in a bottle, or BIAB, is essentially a type of hard gel. However, this type of hard gel differs from the standard variety in a few ways. As you can guess from the name, BIAB comes in a bottle rather than the classic gel pot. Both require curing under a nail lamp. But BIAB has a much thinner consistency, so it can be time-consuming to apply.
You’ll likely need multiple thin layers to reach an adequate thickness. Because BIAB extensions are naturally thin, they need to be formed correctly with the inclusion of an apex to prevent breakage. BIAB gel nail extensions are achievable with patience and skill. But builder in a bottle is most often effective when used as an overlay to strengthen nails or mend a broken corner.
Otherwise known as dip powder nails, SNS extensions are done using a powder that coats the nails. The SNS system requires three products to build an extension: powder, resin, and activator. There’s a multitude of SNS dip powder colours to choose from. However, apart from the gradient effect, other designs are rather difficult to achieve. If you want nail art, painting over with gel is possible, but you may find that the nails appear too thick.
The SNS extension system isn’t for lovers of long nails. It’s hard to build the proper nail structure along with an apex using SNS. So, this style works best as a nail overlay or a short extension at best. Multiple layers are imperative to make the nail thick enough. But thankfully, SNS powder is easy to apply. Since it’s a quick process, you won’t have to spend excessive time on your manicure.
The easiest way to elongate your nails is through express nail extensions. Express, or apres extensions, require little to no skill. So even if this is your first ever experiment with an at-home nail extension application, you’ll confidently be able to achieve fabulous nails via apres. Apres gel-x extensions look somewhat like clear press-on nails. The transparent tips cover the entire length of the nail, and the idea is to use gel for bonding instead of nail glue.
To apply express nail extensions, the gel is painted on the underside of the extension piece and cured under a nail lamp. With pre-cut shapes and lengths and a simple application method, the entire process is a breeze. When it’s time for a change, express nails are also easy to remove and can be soaked off in acetone. But unlike other extension types, apres nails are less strong and typically last a shorter amount of time. To make them last as long as possible, ensure you’ve perfectly matched your falsies to your natural nails. Gaps or air bubbles can make your express extensions fall off prematurely.