I have been doing my own acrylic overlay on natural nails for over five years, and I can tell you that it is a great way to get the look of acrylics with minimal damage.
If you are like me, you don’t take your nails’ health and appeal lightly. After all, our nails are one of the first things people notice about us when we meet them. Whether you’re shaking hands with a new colleague or getting your nails done for a special occasion, making sure they look their best is important to many of us.
That’s why acrylic overlays are popular for those who want to ensure our nails look their best.
I also love how easily I can apply the overlays by myself, so I don’t have to spend more each time I want to do my nails. So read on to learn everything about acrylics on natural nails based on my experience.
What are acrylic overlays?
Acrylic overlays are a layer of acrylic that is applied over your natural nails to improve their appearance. The overlays can add strength and durability to your nails and help protect them from damage.
The acrylic overlay is a relatively new technique that has recently gained popularity. It is often confused with acrylic nails, but there is a big difference between them.
- Acrylic nails are nail extensions made from a mixture of acrylic monomers and polymers. They are usually glued or glued on top of the natural nail bed.
- Acrylic overlays are thicker and only cover the surface of the natural nail. They do not add length to the natural nail.
Three types of overlay nails
Before we jump into the overlay tutorial, let’s first look at the three main types of overlay nails so that you can choose the right one.
An acrylic overlay is an acrylic nail applied directly over the natural nail. It is made from a mixture of acrylic monomers and polymers and is usually glued or screwed onto the natural nail bed.
Acrylic overlays are strong and durable and can last up to 6 weeks with proper care. However, they can be damaging to the nails and can cause them to become weak and brittle over time.
PRO TIP: Dip vs acrylic powder, these are not the same! Dip powder is a finer texture than acrylic and requires a resin-based activator that act’s like glue (technically it is a glue called cyanoacrylate). Acrylic powder needs a monomer solution plus the acrylic polymer to work.
A gel overlay is a way to go if you want a lighter, more natural-looking overlay. Gel overlays also do a great job of protecting your nails, and since the overlays feature fewer chemicals, there are lower chances of damaging your nails.
Gel overlays can serve you up to 4 weeks, depending on how well you take care of them. They are also much easier to remove than acrylic overlays, which is another big advantage.
The only downside of gel overlays is that they aren’t as strong and durable as acrylics. So an acrylic overlay is better if you want something that will last longer.
For a deep dive on the differences between gel and dip, check out “Gel Vs Dip Powder Nails.”
A dip overlay is a type of acrylic overlay applied using a powder instead of liquid acrylics. The powder is usually made from polymers or other materials and is applied over the natural nails using a brush.
Dip overlays are very strong and durable, just like acrylic overlays. However, they are also very damaging to the nails and can cause them to become weak and brittle over time.
If you want to do your own dip powder nails at home, check out my favorite “Dip Powder Nail Kits.”
Acrylic overlay on natural nails tutorial
Now that you know everything about acrylic overlays, it’s time to learn how to apply them. Follow the steps below, and you will have perfect acrylic overlays.
If you’re just starting out a don’t have all the materials you need, I recommend this acrylic starter set from Morovan. It has all the essentials but won’t set you back too far if you end up deciding that doing your own acrylic overlays isn’t for you.
Step 1: Prepare your nails
The first step is to prepare your nails for the acrylic overlay. Start by trimming your nails and pushing back your cuticles. You can use an e-file to clean up your cuticles and make sure there is not any leftover polish or cuticle.
Next, use a nail file to shape your nails and then buff them to create a smooth surface. Once you are done, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water to remove any dust or debris.
Step 2: Apply the base coat
After you have prepared your nails, it’s time to apply the base coat. The base coat helps to create a barrier between your nails and the acrylics.
Start by applying a thin layer of base coat to your nails, then cure it under a UV or LED light for 2 minutes.
Step 3: Apply the acrylic overlay
Dip your brush into your monomer liquid, then into your acrylic powder to pick up a small bead of acrylic.
Place the small bead of acrylic on your nail toward the tip of your nail, then use a brush to spread it out evenly.
Apply a second bead closer in toward your cuticle and blend it out toward the sides of your nail and down toward the tip so it blends with the first beat you applied.
Make sure that the acrylic isn’t too thick or too thin. Once you are happy with the thickness, cure it under a UV or LED light for 2 minutes.
Step 4: Apply the top coat
After you have applied the acrylic overlay, file around your nails to remove any acrylic that is stuck to your skin. You can use an e-file to carefully smooth out the top of the acrylic.
Now it’s time to apply the top coat. The top coat helps to protect the acrylics and creates a shiny look.
Start by applying a thin layer of top coat to your nails, then cure it under a UV or LED light for 2 minutes. And that’s it! You have now learned how to apply acrylic overlays on natural nails.
Acrylic overlays vs. acrylic nail extensions
Acrylic nail extensions (acrylic tips) and acrylic overlays are two popular choices for artificial nails. But what’s the difference between the two?
Acrylic overlays are made from a mixture of acrylic monomers and polymers and are glued or screwed onto the natural nail bed. They are very strong and durable, but they can also damage the nails if they aren’t applied correctly.
Acrylic nail extensions
Acrylic nail extensions are made from acrylic monomers cured with a UV or LED light. They are much thinner than acrylic overlays and are applied directly to the natural nails.
Acrylic nail extensions are less damaging to the nails than acrylic overlays, but they are also not as strong and durable.
If you want to learn how to do acrylic nail extensions or tips yourself, check out our article on “How to Do Acrylic Nails.”
So, which should you choose? Acrylic overlays are the right choice if you want something strong and durable. But acrylic nail extensions are the better choice if you want something less damaging to the nails.
How long do acrylic overlays last?
The period in which your acrylic overlays will serve you depends on how you maintain them. Also, the type of activities you do with your hands will determine how long they will last. For instance, if you constantly wash your hands or use harsh chemicals, your acrylics won’t last as long.
Generally speaking, acrylic overlays can last anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks. However, if you take good care of them and avoid activities that damage them, they can last up to 6 weeks.
Will acrylic overlay damage my natural nails?
Acrylic overlays can damage your natural nails if they aren’t applied correctly. If the acrylics are too thick, they can put a lot of pressure on the nails and cause them to crack and break.
If the acrylics aren’t cured properly, they can lift off the nails and take the natural nail with them.
The main reason you’ll see damage to your nail plate is if your acrylic overlays or gel polish is improperly removed. The number one cause of damage to the nail plate is over-filing during the removal process. The second is the use of harsh primers during the application process.
Check out our article on “How to Take Off Acrylic Nails” for a guide on safely removing your acrylics at home.
If you take good care of your acrylics and they are applied and removed correctly, they shouldn’t damage your natural nails.
Be sure to give your nails a break every couple of months. For example, if you wear acrylics for six weeks, take two weeks off to let your nails recover.
Are acrylic overlays on natural nails better than gel polish?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It depends on your personal preference.
Acrylic overlays are much thicker than gel polish, and they last longer. But gel polish is less damaging to the nails and easier to remove. So, it comes down to what you want in your overlay.
Takeaways on using acrylic overlay on natural nails
Acrylic overlays are a great way to create artificial nails that are strong and durable. But the overlays require proper techniques and application to get the perfect finish that can serve you for weeks. Also, if you don’t apply the acrylic overlays correctly, you risk damaging your natural nails.
Follow the above tutorial and check out more videos on acrylic overlay applications to get tips from professionals.
Also, find a good quality acrylic overlay kit that has all the necessary items for a perfect acrylic overlay application. Lastly, take a break from acrylic overlays every few weeks to give your nails a chance to recover. And if you aren’t confident about your skills, seek professional help.
Laura is a beauty expert with 5 years prior experience working in cosmetics and lash salons. When not writing you can find her experimenting with the trending makeup looks, or reading a good book snuggled up with her French Bulldog Max. Laura is currently a contributing writer and Beauty Editor at BeatyStack.