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Gel Polish vs. Regular Polish: Which Manicure is Better?

Last Updated: October 12, 2021

We all get an extra bounce in our step after a fresh manicure. Whether you went to the salon or you did it at home, there is nothing better than walking around with gorgeous nails. However, it can be disappointing to see your polish chipping just a couple days later. 

While we wish we could get our nails done on the regular, it’s not exactly the most practical. Sometimes you either don’t have the time, money, or even just energy to invest in that practice. Sometimes you just need to make do with what you have. 

This is why gel polish has quickly become the next beauty stape. Known for lasting longer than regular nail polish, we will be sharing an in-depth comparison of gel polish vs. regular polish to help you decide between the two. 

Both have their pros and cons – should you keep buying regular nail polish or is it time you invest in gel polish supplies? Let’s take a look.

Gel Polish vs. Regular Polish

Keep reading for our full comparison of these two types of nail polish, starting off with regular polish. 

Regular Nail Polish


  • Accessibility & Price

The best part about regular nail polish is that you can pretty much find it anywhere. Whatever color you want, you’ll find it in the aisles of any drugstore. Plus, it won’t run you that much money. Even if you want something a little more specialty, you can find quite a few options from indie nail polish brands. 

Bottom line, if you want a specific shade, you’ll find it with no issue (and for a good price).

  • Easy to Use

Regular nail polish is also very easy to use. You don’t need any special equipment or extra steps. If you need your nails painted in a pinch, you can just grab a nice color and just brush it on!

  • Easy to Remove

Whether you don’t like the color anymore or if you just need something different, nail polish is the easiest to take off. Just a little bit of acetone and you can have whatever color or design you’d like. 


  • Long Dry Time

For some reason, everything and anything important happens right after we put on a fresh coat of nail polish. From unexpected phone calls, having to change your clothes, or simply just moving in any sort of way, any little thing can risk your nail polish getting smudged and having to start all over. 

The sad part is that those moments are just the accidents. That doesn’t even cover the times you either get a little brave or you really think that your polish is done drying, only for that little smudge to prove you wrong.

While the right nail polish will have a shorter drying time, it can still be too long if you’re impatient. 

  • Easy to Damage

While nail polish is pretty, it is not permanent. Whether it takes a few days or a few weeks, you can start to see the wear and tear in your nails as time passes. If you don’t apply it just right, you can even start to see it chip on day one. 

Try as you might, from base coats to touch ups, nail polish is not known for it’s longevity. If you are looking for something low maintenance and easy to take care of, regular polish might not be for you.  

Gel Nail Polish

While this is a relatively new product in the world of nail polish, it has quickly become a fan favorite for many. It offers the same gorgeous results, but with a different process. While some find it easy, others find it to be too much of a struggle. 

Are the extra steps worth it? Keep reading for the pros and cons of gel nail polish. 


  • Long-Lasting

The best part about gel nail polish vs regular polish is that it does withstand a lot more wear and tear than regular nail polish.

While regular nail polish is prone to chipping, gel polish can actually stay intact for about 2 weeks or even longer with the proper care. If you aren’t one for constant touch ups, gel polish is the choice for you. 

  • Easy Dry Time

UV gel polish also takes very little time to dry. Unlike regular nail polish, UV gel polish doesn’t dry on its own. You have to cure it under a UV lamp for the polish to harden. 

This process usually takes about a minute. If you are pressed for time, you are better off going for a gel manicure than a regular one. 

  • Easy to Work With

The great thing I’ve found with gel polish, specifically when it comes to nail art, it’s the fact that the polish won’t dry unless it goes under UV light. This means that if you want to do a complicated nail art design, you have a pretty big window of time to do it. 

You can easily move the polish around to get the look you want and if it doesn’t look as good as you’d like, you can wipe it off and start again. 


  • Extra Steps and Equipment

While UV gel is praised for being quick and long lasting, it is definitely not easy at first. Giving yourself a gel manicure is quite the process. Like previously mentioned, you need to get a UV lamp to cure the polish properly. This is not optional, it’s required. 

That said, it’s not too expensive, especially considering the money you’d save compared to getting a gel manicure at the salon. A gel polish starter kit that includes the UV light and polishes can cost anywhere from $20 – $50. 

There are also other required steps you need to take. Unlike regular polish, you need to add a base and top coat for the polish for your manicure to last. Not to mention, UV polishes can get a sticky residue after curing, so you have to handle that by wiping it off with alcohol. 

  • Difficult to Remove 

Gel manicures can last you quite a long time, which is great when you like to stick with one color for weeks at a time. However, if you like to change up your look on the regular, gel polish is harder to remove than regular nail polish. 

If you change your mind before the curing process, you can easily wipe off the polish with a tissue and be fine. However, if it’s a few days later and you want a different color, your nails are in for a long acetone bath. 

Bottom Line

Overall, our vote is for gel polish! That said, when comparing gel polish vs. regular nail polish, the best polish for you will depend on your preferences and what you’re looking for in a manicure. 

If you’re looking for the longest lasting manicure with little-to-no chipping, gel polish is perfect for you! However, if you like to change up your nails every few days or don’t want to make a small investment upfront for the needed supplies, you might want to stick with regular polish.

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