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Nail Extensions Types – How to choose?

Since we are the only salon in Birmingham offering such a variety of nail extension services, our clients sometimes are confused and ask us about their difference and what to choose.

This is the absolute guide you all need for choosing your next set

We briefly present you the pros and cons of each technique, while below you can find more details




  1. Durable

  2. Strong even when used to create extra-long nails

  3. A prefered system for people who are very heavy-handed

  4. No UV/LED lamp needed

  5. Variety of Acrylic powder colours

  1. Strong odour

  2. Can be damaged by acetone/ chemicals

  3. Prone to allergic reactions

  4. Does not self-level

Hard Gel

  1. No odour

  2. Flexibility and strength

  3. Less sensitivity to acetone and household chemicals

  4. Self-levelling

  5. Variety of colours to choose from

  1. UV/LED lamp is required

  2. Heat spikes can be felt while curing

  3. Not suitable for extremely long nails and an active lifestyle

  4. Can come into contact with the skin and cause allergies


  1. Hypoallergenic

  2. No odour

  3. Reduces skin contact – limited overexposure

  4. Light material

  5. Strong but flexible

  6. Doesn’t get damaged by acetone or household chemicals

  7. Natural-looking

  1. ​Does not soak off

  2. Currently, brands offer only a limited choice of colours

  3. Not as strong as Acrylic

  4. UV/LED lamp needed

  5. May produce heat spikes when curing

  6. Does not self-level

Dipping Powder

  1. Provides strength

  2. May not require the use of UV/LED lamp

  3. It May be suitable for you if you have allergic reactions to other nail products

  4. Easy to remove with acetone

  1. ​Multi-layers needed which may make the nail thick

  2. Not suitable for long nail extensions

  3. Can only be used on top of tips or natural nails

Flexi tips / Apres

  1. Pre-made shapes and lengths

  2. Easy to remove with acetone

  3. Healthier for your nails

  1. Does not last as long as the other systems

  2. Not as strong as the other systems

  3. Limited choice of shape and length

  4. Can be damaged by acetone and household cleaning products


  1. No odour

  2. Easy to remove

  3. Use it instead of Gel Polish base to improve durability

  1. ​Can not be used for building long extensions

  2. Requires UV/LED lamp

  3. Gives heat spikes when curing


The acrylic system is the oldest and most popular way of extending nails in the UK. The system consists of acrylic powder and liquid also known as polymer and monomer. The nail tech dips the brush in the liquid followed by dipping it in the powder. This creates a bead of product that is used to build your nail. It dries up by itself and does not require a UV/LED lamp.

The nail extension can be built on top of forms (sculpting) or on a pre-shaped plastic nail tip.

The acrylic powder can be colourful hence the nail design can be done straight away with the acrylic.

The liquid part has a very strong specific odour, therefore, it is recommended to work with the system in well-ventilated salons.

It is possible to get an odourless monomer, however, this changes the way it is used and a UV/ LED lamp is required in order to cure the product.

It is easy to spot nail extensions that are made with acrylic. The most popular designs would be ombre nails, french smile lines, marble, encapsulated glitter or transparent extensions. This is also a prefered product for building 3D shapes.

The longer the nail – the thicker it needs to be. All encapsulation, 3D embellishments, deep french smile lines etc look good only on long nails because they require a certain thickness. The nail tech will not be able to do the same design on a short-medium nail because it will look bulky, there will not be enough space for the gradient blend, marble or the Swarovski crystals.

When creating a shorter extension, the artist may prefer to do a design with Gel Polish on top.

The acrylic in some salons is considered dangerous because it contains the chemical MMA (Methyl Methacrylate).

In our salon we DONT use MMA

MMA acrylic cannot be soaked off with acetone. Regular acrylic can. Therefore, it is necessary to avoid the contact of acrylic with acetone and other solvents, as they can affect the shape and texture of the nail. Thus acrylic is not recommended for people who frequently come in contact with water, detergents and other chemicals.

Hard Gel

Hard Gel Extensions are the most popular type in Europe. The consistency of the gel resembles a very thick varnish. It is applied in a few layers which are cured under a UV/LED lamp. The application can be done on forms (sculpting) or on tips. The curing can cause heat spikes.

The gel system allows for a more natural appearance. The extension is thinner and more flexible than acrylics.

Hard Gel is a file off system so it cannot be dissolved by acetone. However, some brands offer ‘soak off’ gels.

Hard Gels can be colourful. Similar to acrylic, the gel can be used to encapsulate, to do gradient designs, french manicures, marble etc. However, most nail technicians who use Gel, to build the nails, then do a design on top using Gel Polish.

This is a prefered method when the artist wants to do detailed artwork.

AcryGel (a.k.a. Polygel or Hybrid)

Acrygel is a new product and on-trend at the moment. It takes all advantages of Acrylics and Hard Gel nail extensions and combines them into one. It can be used to build nail extensions, strengthen your natural nails or fix a broken nail.

Currently not many brands offer this product and the ones that do not have a large variety of colours. This means that if the client wants another colour or design it has to be done on top with Gel Polish.

Nail extensions can be sculpted on forms, tips or using dual forms.

When opting in for dual forms, the product is applied inside the form and then pressed against the natural nail. It is cured under a UV/LED lamp and then the form is removed. It is a great way of building a nail fast but it is very limiting in terms of shape and structure.

When using tips or forms, the product is placed on the nail and moved around with a brush until the desired form is achieved. Then it is cured in the lamp. Usually, one scoop is enough to build the nail.

Flexitips (a.k.a. Gel-X or Apres)

Flexitips are the fastest way to get nail extensions. The consists of a full coverage tip and gel.

The gel is applied underneath the tip and pressed onto the nail. It is cured under UV/LED lamp. It resembles the way you would stick on a press on a fake nail. However, it is more durable because instead of glue you use gel.

Flexitip Nails come only as transparent tips so if you want colour on top and nail art, this is performed using Gel Colour.

Dipping Powder (a.k.a. SNS)

Dip Powder Nails, a popular brand is SNS, is a coating that can be used for short extensions. It is hard to build an apex and correct nail structure so it is more recommended as a natural nail overlay rather than creating nail extensions.

It is a system that consists of powder, resin and activator (some brands use gel).

BIAB (a.k.aBiogel, Rubber Base, Builder Gel, Sculpting Base)

BIAB is a type of Hard Gel. However, it comes in a bottle and is with a thinner consistency. When building a long nail, the nail technician needs to build up an apex so that the nail is structured correctly and doesn’t break. Due to its thin nature, this is very time consuming to do with BIAB. Therefore, this product is used primarily as a natural nail overlay (to provide strength), as a means to secure a broken nail, correcting chipped corners or for short nail extensions.

It is applied in thin layers, each of which is cured under UV/LED lamp. The curing process may cause some temporary heat spikes.


  • Get Acrylics if you are really into extreme nail lengths and encapsulated glitter. Best for long – extra long nails.

  • Get Hard Gel if you are looking for a lighter version and more natural-looking nails. Best for short – long nails.

  • Get Acrygel or Flexitips if you want to have the best of both worlds and are looking for a natural look or a Gel Polish Design. Best for short – long nails.

  • Get BIAB if you want to strengthen your natural nails but don’t want additional length.

  • Get Dip Powder if you are allergic to Gel Polish or you do not like the use of UV/LED lamp.

None of these systems is damaging to the nail when used correctly. Visit our awarded nail technicians who know how to take care of your natural nails.

If you wish to remove the nail enhancements do so only by going to a professional.

Don't Forget:

Use cuticle oil at least twice a day and get regular nail appointments to maintain the beautiful look of your hands.

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