What Is Acrylic Overlay on Natural Nails?

The mani-pedi industry has expanded significantly over the past few decades, offering enthusiasts many new options. One such option that’s grown immensely popular is the acrylic overlay.

Overlays are simpler, lighter, and easier to install and remove. Moreover, they’re more cost-effective than real acrylics and most other artificial nails.

So, should you get them? We’ve developed this guide to help you better understand this innovative artificial nail product and decide whether it’s the right choice for your next mani-pedi.

Acrylic Overlays On Natural Nails: Are they Worth It?

Yes, acrylic nails are worth it. They are simple, affordable, and super easy to apply. Also, acrylic overlays are lighter than gel nails, making them extremely comfortable. Above all, they are more durable than real acrylics, often lasting several weeks to a few months.

What’s an Acrylic Overlay? 

An acrylic overlay is a protective coating comprising acrylic powder and liquid monomer. It’s applied onto the natural nail plate, curing to form a hard shell that lasts several weeks to a few months.

Those who wear acrylic overlays intend to make their nails thicker. In addition, you can shape the nails, create an apex, and protect the natural nails to prevent chipping and breaking. Also, overlays are perfect for shielding the natural nails as they grow.

Unfortunately, overlays don’t add length to the natural nails. So, you should consider them only if you’re not interested in “elongating” your nails. But you can use them as a base for other nails, allowing you to achieve longer nails.

What’s the Difference Between Acrylic Overlay and Acrylic Nails? 

The main difference between acrylics and acrylic overlays is in their purposes. Acrylic nails technically “replace” your natural nails. Meanwhile, overlays merely enhance or complement the natural nails.

This is best evident when nail-biters wish to improve the appearance of their nails. Overlays are ill-suited for such cases because they don’t add length. Instead, you want a complete acrylic set to strengthen the nails while adding length. 

Types and Shapes of Acrylic Overlays

The three main acrylic overlay types and shapes are oval, square, and almond. All are beautiful. But they’re different and suit different occasions.

  • Oval-shaped overlays: These are the most common type of acrylic overlay. They provide a highly polished finish, suiting formal and informal settings. Moreover, you can file them into various shapes.
  • Square-shape overlays: This is the most popular style among celebrities. It’s more high-end than oval-shaped overlays and costs more. Also, you can shape it into different styles.
  • Almond-shaped overlays: These feature a more pointed shape, making them unique. But they’re highly fashionable if you’re outgoing.

Acrylic Overlays Pros and Cons 

Acrylic overlays can be highly beneficial in specific circumstances. But they’re just as bad in other settings.

Acrylic Overlay on Natural Nails Benefits 

  • Ease of application: Installing acrylic overlays is much simpler than real acrylics. Also, it takes less time.
  • Longer-lasting nail polish: Applying nail or gel polish over acrylic nails guarantees longer lasting manicure than natural nails as the overlay prevents chipping and slows down degradation.
  • Strengthen and protect the natural nails: Overlays are the best way to prevent weak nails from peeling and breaking without indulging in a lengthy acrylic nail process.
  • They’re lightweight: Acrylic overlays use significantly less product than regular acrylics, resulting in lightweight manicures for maximum comfort. Also, they’re more natural-looking than regular acrylics.
  • Easy to shape: You can easily shape acrylic overlays into the desired shape, from rectangle to square and oval to round.
  • Usable on long and short nails: Though overlays don’t increase nail length, you can use them on all nail lengths. For instance, they’re perfect for strengthening and protecting long nails.

Acrylic Overlay Cons

  • May damage your natural nails: Though less invasive than real acrylics, installing and removing overlays can damage the nail plate and injure the nail bed.
  • Increased risk of nail infection: Unfortunately, injuries from artificial nails can cause fungal and bacterial infections, among others.
  • You can’t extend overlays: Consider other options for nail extensions, as overlays don’t increase nail length.

Can you Put Acrylic Overlays on Natural Nails? 

Yes, you can put an acrylic overlay on natural nails. It’s a great idea if you have weak or cracked nails. Acrylic overlay nails protect the natural nail plate, shielding it from weather and physical elements. Moreover, you can apply gel or nail polish directly on the overlay for a longer-lasting manicure.

How to Apply Acrylic Overlays on Natural Nails 

It’s best to get acrylic overlays at a professional nail salon. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t build cute overlay nails at home.


  • Acrylic polymer powder
  • Acrylic monomer liquid
  • Acrylic nail brush
  • Nail glue
  • Nail file

How to Install Acrylic Overlay on Natural Nails: Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Prep the natural nail: Begin by washing the nails with soapy water. Then trim them using a nail file and push back the cuticles. Ensure no polish is left on the nail, as it affects adhesion. Next, shape the nails and buff them to a smooth surface.
  2. Apply a base coat: The base coat creates a barrier between natural nails and acrylic products, protecting your nails from harsh chemicals. Apply a thin layer and cure with UV light or an LED lamp. It takes two minutes for the base coat to cure fully.
  3. Apply the overlay: Like regular acrylics, dip your brush in the monomer liquid, then the acrylic powder, to make a small bead. Then, place the bead on the nail and spread it evenly down to the tip. Then apply another bead, if necessary, to cover the entire nail.
  4. Cure the nails with UV light: Overlays can dry naturally without artificial light or heat. However, UV light or an LED lamp accelerates the drying process. Wait at least two minutes for the product to cure fully.
  5. Smoothen and buff the nails: First, file around your nails to remove the wayward acrylic product. Then buff the nail surface with a nail file (or e-file).
  6. Apply a top coat or clear nail polish: The top coat is a protective layer that doubles as a beautifying coat. Again, cure it under UV light for two minutes.

Are Acrylic Overlays Good for Natural Nails? 

Yes, acrylic overlays are great for natural nails. First, they’re a wonderful alternative to acrylic nails as they’re cheaper and easier to install but just as strong and durable.

Also, they’re thinner, more lightweight, and more natural-looking than regular acrylics. Additionally, overlays come off more easily because they’re thinner.

Similarly, acrylic overlays are a great alternative to gel and other artificial nails. For instance, they’re much more affordable than gels but stronger. They are also more durable than dip nails. So, it’s a wonderful choice if you love artificial nails.

The only significant downside to acrylic overlays is they don’t create extensions. So, you can only have short overlays for short nails. Consider standard acrylics for strong, durable extensions. 

Can Acrylic Overlays Damage Natural Nails? 

Unfortunately, yes. As all false nail products do, those cute acrylic overlays may damage the natural nails.

Interestingly, few consequences originate from the ingredients. For instance, some hard acrylic monomers like methyl methacrylate (MMA) are highly damaging. They harm the nail plate, cause allergies, and may cause fingernail damage.

Additionally, MMA increases the risk of contact dermatitis, nail deformity, and permanent nail loss. Yet the nail-prepping and acrylic removal process causes more damage.

Consider nail prep work, for instance. It involves aggressively filing the nail plate to create a smooth surface and remove minor blemishes that may affect the manicure. So, there’s a high risk of removing too much material from the plate, making it weak and vulnerable.

As a result, you’re at a bigger risk of nail splitting, cracking, and chipping. Additionally, you can suffer nail bed injuries more easily. These injuries easily become fungal and bacterial infections that may cause complete nail loss.

That’s not all. Pushing back the cuticles increases the risk of wounds that invite germs and harmful microorganisms. The process of removing acrylic overlays is just as invasive.

Acrylic Overlay Safety Tips: How to Keep your Nails Healthy and Prevent Damage

The first step to healthy and safe manicures is professional service. Yes, DIY is fun and cheaper. But you’ll likely make grave mistakes that can cost you those beautiful nails.

So, find a reputable nail salon and insist on qualified nail technicians.

In addition;

  • Keep your hands and nails clean before and after applying acrylics.
  • Avoid wet working environments, and don’t soak your nails in water frequently
  • Be wary of cleaning chemicals and strong detergents as they can damage acrylics
  • Avoid picking, scratching, or biting your nails. It weakens nails.
  • Be careful when trimming acrylic nails. You don’t want to harm the nail bed. 
  • Remove artificial nails safely at a nail salon.

Can you Wear Acrylic Overlays on Natural Nails Without Tips 

Yes, you can wear acrylic overlays on natural nails without tips. Indeed, it’s the standard way to wear acrylic overlays. Apply the acrylic bead to the natural nail and use a top coat to protect the manicure.

However, a few people use tips. In this case, stick the tips to the natural nail using nail glue, then apply the overlay. It makes stronger overlays that are easier to remove. However, the thicker overlays are unnatural and often bulky.

Acrylic Overlay Cost

Acrylic overlay prices start at $25 a set. However, the actual prices are as high as $120/set, depending on various factors. For instance, getting overlays in New York costs more than in Texas. Also, the price is higher if you want nail art.

DIY overlays cost significantly less, often as little as $10/set. But most people prefer professional manicures.

How Long do Acrylic Overlays Last on Natural Nails?

Acrylic overlays last 6-8 weeks, depending on various factors. For instance, a gel top coat significantly extends acrylic overlays’ life.

So, you should be able to wear the nails for a maximum of eight weeks. Meanwhile, regular nail polish only lasts 4-6 weeks.

Also, it depends on the frequency of infills. You can wear acrylic overlays for up to eight weeks if you fill the overgrowth every 2-3 weeks.

Finally, the quality matters too. Professionally installed overlays typically last longer as they’re more resistant to chipping and general wear. Meanwhile, DIY processes are often riddled with mistakes, resulting in weak nails that come off easily.

How to Remove Acrylic Overlays

Removing acrylic nails is similar to regular acrylics. You need 100% acetone or any other nail polish remover, cotton balls, and aluminum foil.

  1. Soak cotton balls or pads in acetone and apply them to your nails. Ensure the ball covers the entire nail.
  2. Wrap the fingers in aluminum foil for 15-20 minutes to soak off the acrylics. It may take slightly longer.
  3. Remove the aluminum foil, and cotton balls, then use a cuticle pusher to scrape off the acrylics.
  4. Wash your fingers with water to remove the debris. Then dry your hands and apply cuticle oil to soothe the cuticles and surrounding skin.

Acrylic Overlays vs. Gel Overlays: Which One is Better? 

It’s difficult to pick between acrylic and gel overlays because they have unique strengths and drawbacks.

Generally, acrylic overlays are stronger and more durable. So, you can expect the manicure to last a longer period. As such, acrylics are more cost-effective in the long term. Also, the exceptional strength makes acrylic overlays more protective against blunt forces, such as banging your nails against the wall.

But acrylic nails are bulky and extremely rigid, making them highly uncomfortable. This is easily felt when clenching a fist or wearing long nails. Also, acrylics are more expensive in the short term.

On the other hand, a gel overlay is super flexible. It’s almost like wearing an extra set of natural nails. This makes them highly comfortable. Also, gels are more lightweight, natural-looking, and classier.

The main problem is that gel nails, including overlays, are more difficult to remove, increasing the risk of injuries and nail damage.

But if we must choose, gel overlays are slightly better. Their flexibility is invaluable and makes life a lot more enjoyable. Additionally, gel nails are more resistant to cracking and breaking.

Acrylic Overlays vs. Nail Extensions: Which is Better? 

A few people confuse overlays with nail extensions. They are substantially different. Overlays and acrylics are two of the four types of acrylic nails, the others being regular and dip acrylics.

If you’re still lost, overlays are like regular acrylics but lightweight. They are primarily protective coats intended to shield the natural nails. Therefore, overlays match the length of the natural nails.

On the other hand, extensions, as the name suggests, are primarily intended to elongate the existing nails. So, it’s technically longer regular acrylics. Nail techs use forms to elongate the acrylics and shape the extensions to the desired shape.

So, which is better? This time it’s easier. A nail extension is practical only if you desire extra nail length. So, it’s a great choice if you have short nails and wish to attain a more natural nail length. It’s also a wonderful choice for long-nail lovers.

On the other hand, overlays are ideal if you wish to maintain the natural nail length while strengthening and protecting the nails. They shield the natural nail without significantly altering its physical properties.

Acrylic Overlay on Natural Nails vs. Dip Powder 

Overlays and dip nails are the newest manicure technologies in the nail industry. Both are lighter than regular acrylics while offering similar durability. Moreover, both are easier to install than regular acrylics.

However, they are different. Overlays closely resemble regular acrylics. But they’re thinner and primarily designed to strengthen the natural nails. Also notable is that overlays don’t extend the natural nail length. A few people use tips to extend their nails. But it’s not advisable as overlays are lightweight.

The application process is similar to regular acrylics, except for the special base product and top coat. First, apply the base coat, then make a bead and apply it to the nail. Finally, apply a top coat.

Applying dip nails is a slightly different process. Instead of making a bead, the nail tech applies the monomer and dips the nails into dipping powder. Dip powder is more finely milled than regular acrylics, but the monomers are identical.


An overlay is a wonderful alternative to a full manicure if you’re happy with the length of your natural nails. The overlays strengthen and protect the nails, guaranteeing a durable polish that lasts 6-8 weeks.

Moreover, overlays are lightweight, beautiful, and easy to shape. So, we strongly recommend them if you’d like to try something different from traditional acrylics.

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