What’s The Difference Between Gel Extensions and Gel Polish

Making the world of nail treatments a little more confusing, there are different types of gel services. Unlike acrylics which use a chemical compound – which can then be painted over with a colour of your choice – gel treatments fall into two categories: Gel Extensions and Gel Polishes.

So what’s the difference between the two gels?


Gel extensions are a ‘false nail’ used for nail sculpting and extension.  The Gel extension is still created using a gel that is then cured using a LED or UV lamp. Gel nails often need much more maintenance, and you’ll need a number of filler appointments which will help sustain them for a longer period of time.

Similar to acrylic nails, the gel nails are for adding a stronger and durable protective layer over the nail which stops nails breaking or becoming weak when they have grown longer.  However, unlike acrylics, the gloopy formula for get nails is odourless, and the process is much less chemically orientated.

Gel nails are made using a colourless gel, which can then be coated in polish of your choice.

Meanwhile, when talking about gel polishes, this is a little simpler: The nail polish has a gel viscosity in the bottle and – like gel nails – is cured and hardened by a UV or LED lamp.  The polishes don’t enhance the nail or change its length or shape, and is painted directly onto the natural nail.  Therefore, the gel polish treatment also doesn’t need filler appointments, and can be removed using an acetone soak – which we would advise to get done by a professional, rather than trying it yourself at home.


Gel polishes are great for using both on your natural nails, or acrylic and gel artificial enhancements that you might choose.

The benefit of the gel polishes as opposed to typical nail varnishes is that they are much more durable and long lasting, with just the same amount of colours and shades to choose from. They’re also smudge free and can last up to two weeks without chipping.

One of the biggest brands of gel polish would of course be OPI or Shellac.

The simplest way to remember the difference is that Gel Polish is just a nail polish, whereas a Gel Extensions are a nail enhancement using a tip or sculpting shape, and will need a polish on top.

Both gel treatments are known to withstand daily use and are great for anyone with a busy schedule, who may not have the time to visit the salon as often as they’d like. Lasting for weeks before showing any wear and tear, they are great for giving your natural nails a protective cover. If removed correctly using an acetone soak, or the manufacturer’s chosen remover, both methods can actually encourage nail growth and strengthening.

If your nails are naturally long and beautiful, stick to a long lasting gel polish. But, if you’re looking to re-shape and extend your natural nails, use gel extensions and fillers.