Clients, please QUIT coming to me insisting that you have “the new acrylic/gel hybrid product” and assuming that because I refute its existence, I must not be familiar with it because it is so new.

I refute its existence because IT DOESN’T EXIST.

Seriously. It doesn’t. So stop. You’ve been had by a discount nail technician trying to use your ignorance to increase their bottom line.

At least once a week I have an exchange with a new client that goes something like this:

Client: Do you have the new acrylic/gel hybrid product?
Me: No. There’s no such thing as an acrylic/gel hybrid product.
Client: Yes there is. I have it. You must not have heard of it yet. It’s this very new thing. It’s strong like acrylics, but lightweight and gentle on your natural nails like gel.
Me: I can assure you, it doesn’t exist. There are acrylics and then there are gels. There is no such thing as “acrylic gel.”
Client: Yes there is! I have it right on my hands right now!
Me: Did your technician use a liquid and powder to construct your enhancements?
Client: Yes. They dip the brush in the liquid and then in the powder and that’s how my nail is made.
Me: Did your technician at any point pull out a tub of thick gel and apply it directly from the tub to your nail with a brush and then put your hands under a UV or LED lamp?
Client: No, my hands went under the drier, but that was it.
Me: Then you have acrylics.
Client: No! They charge me an extra $10 for these!
Me: You’ve been had. Gel is like premixed acrylic and comes in a tub. Acrylic requires the mixture of the powder polymer with the liquid monomer. The difference between acrylics and gels is the way the product polymerizes. Both cure with a free radical reaction, but the acrylic does so when the peroxide in the powder is exposed to the monomer and the gel does so when the photoinitiator in the resin reacts with the wavelengths emitted by the lamp. You can’t have both properties in the same product. It’s a scientific impossibility.
Client: Are you serious?
Me: Unfortunately, yes. They probably charged you an additional $10 or $15 for a simple UV topcoat.

So, don’t get screwed by some shady nail tech looking to con you into increasing her ticket total with promises of a miracle product. It’s fictional. I’ll go into the pros and cons and common myths about various nail enhancement products in my next post.
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Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of the book The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and the blog This Ugly Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.


  1. the differences:
    after the mixed with the liquid, applied and dried. the powder gel is much softer than how the acrylic is after its dried. therefore, the techs dont have to use the drill to file it as much as they would with the acrylic so less damage is done to your real nails. that’s what they mean by gel powder is healthier for your nails than the acrylic is. gel powder also go on much clearer, it should look see through so it looks more natural than the acrylic. that’s just the clear gel powder 1. theres a pink powder gel 1 *light & dark*, which go on with a pink tint which to me is the better 1 because that pink tint will help cover them lines, dirt, or whatever get stuck inside or under your nails a bit better than the clear 1 since thats see thru.
    when applied, the acrylic look more milky and foggy, depending on how cheap the product is it can look like you have them glue on nails that they sell at walmart. if you want to fact check you can always ask the tech to apply acrylic on 1 and gel powder on the other finger to see the differences yourself.

    yes a nail tech will always upsell you but you have to understand it comes with the job just like any job that get pay by commissions. just like you try to spend less and save your money for yourself and family they try to upsell to make $ to have something to save for theirs. they have families too. so try to be understanding.

    this is just 1 of the companies that we had bought it from—advanced-powder-products-41.php?page_id=60

    • Alright, so here are the problems I have with this, as a career nail technician. I’ll also bring Doug Schoon (cosmetic chemist) and Jim McConnell (cosmetic chemist) in on this to see what their responses are, as they are far more knowledgeable on the actual science than I am.

      By claiming this product is a “gel” you are confusing the consumers. Just because it has properties often associated with gel products does not mean it is a gel. This product is clearly, without a doubt, an acrylic product. It may be softer and clearer, but it is NOT a gel.

      By claiming that this product is “healthier” for natural nails simply because it requires less filing is also a flawed statement, as proper product placement negates the need for excessive filing also. At this point in my career, after fifteen years in, I hardly ever have to use my file to finish my enhancements because I ensure to place the product properly during initial application.

      I have used a wide variety of acrylic products in my career, many of them with exceptional clarity (see my review of Jim McConnell’s Light Elegance clear acrylic as an example). Many acrylics are not milky and foggy anymore, especially if you’re applying them correctly, utilizing the proper liquid to product ratios, a clean brush, and fresh monomer.

      Upselling is necessary and recommended, but not when the sale is made through consumer deception, which is exactly what you’re doing when you claim that a product is something that it isn’t.

  2. Haha Johnny, I can print a label marked “dog” and put it on a cat, however it does not make my cat a dog. The link you had sent says gel powder… It also says its a polymer, used w monomer… It is an acrylic powder… Not a “gel powder”.
    To touch on the comment about it feeling softer- Check the liquid you are using along with it. If you are using ema most of the time it will have that lighter feel. If you are using mma, most of the time it DOES have that tighter harder feel.

  3. Ok I just did a home test. I was curious. I took a clear gel polish base and applied to the nail then dipped it in regular colored acrylic powder, put under light few minutes then repeat. Buff lightly, wash hands and dry, then apply clear gel top coat, place under light for few minutes wipe with alcohol and done. It uses a gel base then the acrylic powder, it goes on so thin that filing is minimal if any. Over filing of the nail causes damage. This system does exist just not in a brand form like nexgen has created. My nails look great. In fact better than gel or nexgen. I’m impressed. It uses both product so therefore is a hybrid product.

    • What I was referencing in this article is the deceptive practice of telling a client they’re getting a special product, when really they’re getting nothing more than acrylic nails with a UV topcoat. Manufacturers may be finding ways now to merge gel products and acrylic products, but that doesn’t make them a “hybrid” product (whereby a single product is both a gel and acrylic at the same time–that’s scientifically impossible). So, the distinction here is important: it’s possible to use both gel and acrylic on the same nail, but it’s not possible for a gel to also possess the same properties as a traditional acrylic product, since the only real distinction between the two is the method of polymerization. It would be counterproductive to design a product to require both oxygen exposure and light exposure to cure.

      Additionally, the products you used weren’t designed to be used that way, or to be used in conjunction with one another. These technicians are claiming that the “hybrid product” they use is designed for that purpose. Doug Schoon, a cosmetic chemist, would be best able to explain to you fully why that’s a bad idea. He’s written a lot of really great stuff about the hazards of mixing product lines and using them in ways they aren’t intended to be used. (As a career nail tech, I was also a big fan of experimentation up until I read his information on it.)

      The method you used is interesting because it’s incorporating several pre-existing systems with superior products. Dip systems have been around forever, but traditionally required the use of gnarly resins. Clear gel is a preferable product to the resin, and would accomplish the binding of those particles better than the resin would. But it’s certainly not a hybrid (two-in-one) product. It’s a method utilizing two separate products to achieve a result.

  4. How do I express this at my salon? I asked for gel nails, listed on their services menu/flier right beneath acrylic nails, and I sat down and the man pulled out powder and liquid. When I questioned him “Isn’t this acrylic, not gel?” He pretended to be confused and to not understand, and then said “We don’t do that here”…… So yes, my nails look pretty, but he definitely applied acrylic and charged me for gel, and I was looking around and nobody else in there was having real gel nails applied, alllll acrylic, so I am confused why they think it’s okay to advertise that as gel nails. My hands never went under a UV/LED light until the gel polish topcoat……… It’s just discouraging because I’d heard this type of stuff gets pulled in salons all the time, and I’m pretty passive and non-confrontational, and it took a lot to even question him if he was actually applying acrylic. And I feel this happens allll the time, because a lot of my friends who have their nails done more than I do say they get gel nails and when I described what happened, they all said “No, that’s right, that’s what they do when I ask for gel nails”… I feel like a lot of people get taken advantage of this way. I was really excited to try gel nails, but I just kinda feel like they took advantage.

    • I’m so sorry this happened to you. It can be really hard for clients who have a difficult time being assertive. (I mean, you shouldn’t HAVE to be, right? You’re a customer in a salon. Nothing about that experience should be stressful.) It really does happen all the time, and it has for years. It’s frustrating for clients and for professionals like me who have to re-educate people who wrongly believed they were paying a premium price for a premium product.

      Next time you book an appointment, let them know that you’re looking for actual gel nails–not acrylic. Tell them that you need a more flexible enhancement product and if they can’t provide gel enhancements then you’ll have to book elsewhere. Speaking with someone over the phone might be less intimidating than talking to them in person. However, if you get there and they pull out the liquid and powder, you’ll have to stop the technician and insist on actual gel. If they can’t produce the product you asked for, get up and leave. At that point, you’ll hopefully have enough righteous indignation that it’ll cancel out any anxiety you may feel. 🙂


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