Hard Gel vs. Soft Gel: Which Nail Polish Is Better?

Green Gel Color Londontown

So you’ve finally decided to try gel nail polish. Fun! Next order of business: choosing between hard gel and soft gel. 

Before a woman commits to anything, it’s important to fully know her options. In this article, we’ll go over the similarities, differences, benefits, and drawbacks of each type of gel polish, helping you nail your next manicure.

What Are Hard Gel Nails?

Hard gel nail polish is known for its durability and strength, so they’re the way to go if you want a resilient, enduring manicure. A viscous gel that literally hardens under UV or LED light, hard gels can withstand no small amount of wear and tear for an impressively long-lasting finish. 

Unlike soft gels, though, hard gels can’t be soaked off; they require filing for removal. Perfect for intricate nail art and extending the length of your nails, hard gel nails are popular with both professional nail technicians and at-home enthusiasts who demand high performance.

What Are Soft Gel Nails?

Also known as soak-off gels, soft gels are a flexible, versatile kind of nail polish that nets a longer-lasting, natural-looking finish. Soft gels are painted on and then also cured under UV or LED light, resulting in a glossy manicure that can last for a few weeks without chipping. 

Soft gel nails can be soaked off with acetone, making them easy to take off at home. And soft gel nails are a fabulous fit for someone who prefers a less rigid feel and/or frequent color swaps.

What’s The Difference Between Hard Gel and Soft Gel?

Composition and Texture

  • Hard Gel: Hard gels are thicker and more viscous, which is what gives that strong, hard finish. They’re made to create a solid, inflexible layer that can withstand wear and tear.
  • Soft Gel: Soft gels have a thinner, more flexible consistency similar to traditional nail polish. They offer a natural-looking finish that’s less rock-solid than hard gels.

Application Process

  • Hard Gel: Layers of gel are built up, each of which is cured under LED or UV light. This process takes time but results in a highly durable nail enhancement.
  • Soft Gel: Soft gels are applied like standard nail polish, with each layer being cured under LED or UV light. The process is generally much quicker than with hard gels.

Durability and Strength

  • Hard Gel: Loved for their exceptional strength, hard gels are less prone to chipping and can last for weeks without showing signs of wear. They’re also amazing at extending nail length and creating intricate nail art. 
  • Soft Gel: While still super durable, soft gels tend not to last as long as hard gels; their flexible, natural feeling is also what makes them more prone to chipping.


  • Hard Gel: Removing hard gels means filing them down. To avoid damaging the natural nails, it takes time and professional assistance.
  • Soft Gel: Soft gels can be removed by soaking them in acetone for a process that’s quicker and gentler on natural nails. This makes soft gels good for anyone who changes up their nail polish a lot.

Ideal Uses

  • Hard Gel: Best for those craving an infinite mani, hard gels are also awesome at adding length and creating a canvas for professional nail art. 
  • Soft Gel: Tailored to those who prefer a natural look and feel, soft gels are the winner for those who change nail designs on the regular. Thanks to their simple application and removal process, this can all be done conveniently at home.

Cost and Maintenance

  • Hard Gel: Hard gel applications and maintenance are typically more expensive because of the complexity of the process and the need for professional removal.
  • Soft Gel: Soft gels are generally more cost-effective and easier to maintain, as you can DIY their application and removal.

Is Hard Gel Better Than Soft Gel?

Asking whether hard gel is better than soft gel is like asking if coffee or tea reigns supreme: The answer comes down to individual needs, wants, and likes. Hard gel offers superior strength and durability, making it the best choice for long-lasting nail extensions and intricate nail art. Soft gel provides a more realistic look and feel with less effort, not to mention quicker and easier on and off. 

Does Soft Gel Polish Last Longer Than Hard Gel Polish?

While soft gel gets more life out of your manicure than regular nail polish does, soft gel polish generally doesn’t last as long as hard gel polish because it’s more flexible. If it’s endless results you’re after, choose hard gel polish. It forms a solid, inflexible layer that can withstand serious wear and tear for longer.

Which Manicure Is More Popular: Hard Gel or Soft Gel?

The popularity of hard gel versus soft gel manicures varies, but soft gel manicures tend to be more popular among more people—soft gels are easy to paint on and to take off, and they’re generally more affordable than hard gel nails. 

How To Decide Between Hard Gel vs. Soft Gel

  • Durability:
    • Choose hard gel if you need a long-lasting manicure that can withstand forces of nature.
    • Opt for soft gel if you want a manicure that holds up but isn’t a long-term commitment.
  • Application Process:
    • Go with hard gel if you’re okay with a more time-consuming application process that helps with durability.
    • Try soft gel if you’d rather sit for a quicker application process similar to traditional nail polish.
  • Removal Process:
    • Pick hard gel if you don't mind a longer removal process that requires filing.
    • Do soft gel polish if you’d rather an easier removal process (soaking in acetone).
  • Nail Art and Extensions:
    • Go with hard gel if you want to create intricate nail art or extend the length of your nails.
    • Soft gel wins if you like a more natural feel, look, and length.
  • Frequency of Change:
    • Use hard gels if you don't plan to vary your manicure much.
    • Use soft gels if you like to change up your nail color or design.
  • Cost and Maintenance:
    • Spring for hard gels if you’re willing to invest time and money into a more resistant manicure.
    • It’s soft gels for you if the priority is a more affordable, low-maintenance option.
  • Professional vs. DIY:
    • Choose hard gel if you’re a professional nail tech or comfortable with a more advanced DIY approach.
    • Take the soft gel route if you’re looking for an at-home manicure solution, or the typical time commitment at the salon.

Hard or Soft Gels? Decision Time Made Easy

Clearly, both hard gel and soft gel nails have their own strengths and solve different concerns. Hard gel is ideal for a long-lasting look, intricate nail art, or nail extensions. Soft gel looks and feels natural but has added strength, plus the convenience of easy application and removal, making it the solution for those who love to switch up their nail designs. By considering the factors we just talked about—durability, application, removal, personal preferences—you can make the right call on which kind of gel manicure works best with your life.

That’s what we do at Londontown: deliver the finest nail care experience through an extensive collection of top-tier products that help you achieve flawless nails, whatever that means to you. Our premium nail concealers and vibrant nail colors are here to meet your needs. Transform your manicure with Londontown, and experience the confidence and sophistication of perfectly manicured nails all the time.


  1. https://www.byrdie.com/gel-nail-ideas-for-june-8635895
  2. https://www.allure.com/story/hard-gel-manicure-review

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.