A Complete Guide to Acrylic Overlay

If your nails aren’t looking their best, acrylic nails are definitely an option. But what exactly is an acrylic overlay and how does it help protect your nails?

Photo Credit: Klimatis019/Shutterstock.

In short, an acrylic overlay is a protective coating applied to natural nails without adding length. Acrylic overlays can help strengthen nails and retain nail polish better. 

This article will dive deep into everything you need to know about acrylic overlay, including the benefits, cost, and whether it’s good for your nails. 

What Are Acrylic Nails?

Acrylic nails are a mixture of liquid monomer and powder that produces a dough-like substance shaped into beautiful nails. Acrylics are outstanding for those who, for whatever reason, have a hard time growing their nails out. 

Ensure your acrylics are applied correctly by seeing a professional. An inexperienced nail tech can cause damage to your natural nails. Acrylics will usually last six to eight weeks but plan to visit the salon at least every two to three weeks to fill them in.

As your natural nails grow, you will see a gap between your nails and acrylics. However, a nail tech can fill in the acrylics instead of applying new ones. 

What Is An Acrylic Overlay?

An acrylic overlay uses acrylic powder and a liquid monomer and hardens when exposed to air. The result leaves your nails looking stunning and fresh. 

In addition, they add thickness to your natural nails without adding any length. For example, you can apply overlays at home or in a salon by applying a layer of acrylic to your natural nail. 

Overlays can be applied to both short and long nails, allowing almost anyone to benefit from the application. 

Long nails can benefit from acrylic overlays because they can help them thicken as they continue to grow out. On the other hand, it helps give a polished look to those with shorter nails. 

You can also add designs and patterns to overlays, adding a bit of personality to your manicure. 

The most common type of overlay is acrylic, and most salons offer it. In addition, they tend to be more reasonable than other types, including:

  • Gel 
  • Polygel
  • Dip powder

Remember, if your nails are already thick and strong, you likely want to avoid acrylic overlays, as they can make your natural nail appear bulky and even thicker. 

Benefits of Acrylic Overlay

Well, there are several benefits of applying acrylic overlay to your nails that you won’t get from a set of acrylics. 

Here are the top benefits:

Minimize Breaking and Cracking 

An acrylic overlay will help prevent your nails from breaking or cracking, thus making them last longer.

Overlays also have a protective layer to your natural nails that make them strong.

As opposed to acrylics, you don’t have to worry about tips breaking off and causing damage to your natural nails. 

Longer-Lasting Polish 

Applying an acrylic overlay before adding polish will help your color last longer. For example, if you add an acrylic overlay before a gel polish, the acrylic can help prevent the polish from chipping.

A regular manicure may last a week, while overlays can last several weeks. 

Lighter Feeling Nails 

Overlays use fewer products than regular acrylics, making your nails feel lighter. Acrylics can feel heavy and add bulkiness to your nails since you add extensions.

Overlays can also fill in any dents on your natural nail, giving a smoother appearance. 

Shaped Easily 

Acrylic overlays can easily add almost any shape to your nail, letting you get a bit creative. Various shapes include:

  • Rectangle
  • Square
  • Oval
  • Hexagon 

Can Be Used on Short and Long Nails 

While you technically can get a complete set of acrylics on long nails, usually, it’s those with short nails who opt for that route. 

However, since the purpose of acrylic overlays is to help strengthen and protect, it allows all nail types to benefit from them. 

Ideal for Nail Biters 

If you’ve been trying to break your nail-biting habit, acrylic overlays may help. 

For example, people who bite their nails find them brittle and damaged, so adding overlays can help protect your natural nail as it grows. 

Therefore, a professional should remove the overlays to prevent damage to the natural nail. 

Is Acrylic Overlay Better Than Acrylic Full Sets?

The problem with comparing overlays to a complete set of acrylics is they offer different benefits and serve other purposes. It’s almost like the apples and oranges of the manicure world.

While the two are applied similarly, they are significantly different.  The main distinguishes are:

  • Acrylics extend over your natural nail, adding length 
  • An acrylic overlay covers your natural nail and no extensions are added 

Overlays won’t give you length like a full set of acrylic; however, they can add strength to usually brittle nails. 

So, if you want length, go with a full set of acrylic, but if you are content with your length and want to add strength, then opt for overlays. 

Aside from that, overlays tend to be cheaper than full acrylic sets since the tech must do less work to apply them. 

Finally, you can apply an acrylic overlay to your nails, no matter their length. So, for instance, if you are trying to help grow out your nails, an overlay can help achieve that. 

Does Acrylic Overlay Add Length?

An acrylic overlay does not add length, as it does not include extensions. 

Instead, you must go the acrylic route if you want length added to your nails. However, acrylic overlays can give a sleek, smooth look and almost appear like your nails are longer. 

Not adding length can also help prevent breakage since no additional tip protrudes off your natural nail. The thickest part of acrylic overlays is in the middle because that’s considered the stress-free zone.  

How Long Do Acrylic Overlays Last?

Acrylic overlays can last up to three weeks, but the time will vary based on how fast your natural nails grow and how well you care for your nails. 

The more you use your hands, the more likely you will chip or break your nails. 

However, you can have fill-ins done at the salon to help extend the life of your overlays. Also, adding a fresh top coat every two or three days will help prolong the life of your manicure. 

Here are a few helpful tips to prolong the life of your acrylic overlays:

  • Apply oil to cuticles and nails to keep them moisturized
  • Wear gloves when cleaning, washing the dishes, or using harsh chemicals
  • Avoid biting or picking your nails
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water 
  • Use a hand moisturizer
  • Don’t push down on your nails 
  • Avoid unnecessary scratching 

Can An Acrylic Overlay Be Bad For Your Nails?

Acrylic overlays have pluses and minuses, so you must consider whether it’s the right fit for you and your nails. Overlays can help your natural nails grow if they are prone to brittleness and breakage. 

However, when you remove overlays, they can cause damage to your natural nails.

Instead, always see a professional nail technician for overlay removal, as removing them at home can cause significant damage. 

The good news is that your nails will grow to their original shape after removing overlays.

While the process can take a few months, you can rest assured that your nails will look like their usual selves. 

Finally, remember that most acrylic products contain some chemicals. For example, you can find methacrylate in acrylics, and while the chemical can irritate, neither the skin nor lungs absorb it. 

How Much Do They Typically Cost?

Basic acrylic overlays usually start at $25 but can fluctuate depending on the salon you visit. For example, if you decide to add designs or patterns, the price tag will slowly tick upwards. 

Also, keep in mind that you need regular appointments to upkeep your acrylic overlays which will add to the overall price. 

While you can do at-home acrylic overlays, you want to ensure you follow directions thoroughly. For example, you can easily damage your natural nails if not done correctly. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a gel overlay?

Gel overlays use less harsh chemicals and feel lighter than acrylic overlays. While gel overlays provide excellent protection for your nails, they are more expensive than acrylic overlays. Gel overlays last about the same amount of time, 2-3 weeks. 

Are gel polish and gel overlay the same?

Gel polish and gel overlay are similar but have their differences. Gel polish consists of a top coat, color coat, and base coat, while gel overlay only has the base and top coat. However, you can use both to help strengthen your nails. 

Can you put an acrylic overlay on your toes?

You can apply an acrylic overlay to your toes, allowing your toenails to strengthen. Acrylic overlays on toes last at least two weeks, and you can reapply them as needed.