Nothing makes you feel quite as well groomed as a professional manicure. Some women, no matter how hard they try, cannot achieve the perfect nails they have always admired. Both silk wraps and gel overlays offer popular alternatives to give you beautiful, natural looking nails. Before you head for a nail salon, consider the differences between the techniques.

Silk Wrap Process

Pieces of silk are cut to the exact shape of your nails and applied using a thin coating of glue. Resin (thicker glue) follows, giving your natural nails additional strength. An activator is brushed or sprayed onto your nails to dry the resin. Once shaping is complete, your nail technician will apply the nail polish color of your choice or complete a French manicure.

Gel Overlay Process

Polymer and monomer gels combine to give you strong, glossy nails. Once the application is complete, the overlays are dried using UV light. If you want longer nails, tips are applied and trimmed to the length you want before the gel overlay process begins. Some nail salons now offer an activator or a process that dries the gel simply by dipping your fingers into water.

Silk Wrap Pros and Cons

Silk wraps produce a thinner, more flexible nail less prone to breaking than gel overlays. If you frequently have your hands in water, silk wraps are much more likely to separate than gel overlays. However, silk wraps are less likely to cause any type of fungal infection from separation. Most nail technicians do not recommend using tips with silk wraps since they are not as strong as gel overlays. A silk wrap provides a good alternative for natural nails when only one nail needs repair.

Gel Overlay Pros and Cons

Gel overlays provide a clear, glossy, non-porous surface to your nails that is more flexible than acrylics and less flexible than silk wraps. Many nail technicians offer a French manicure that is done using a pink gel for the nail bed and a white gel for the tips. It gives you a polish-free nail application that won’t chip. Gel overlays are far less prone to lifting than silk wraps. However, if lifting occurs, you run the risk of a fungal infection.


Both silk wraps and gel overlays involve a commitment of time and money. Once your initial set is complete, you will have to return to your nail technician every other week to get fill-ins done, depending on how fast your nails grow. Putting off regular maintenance is the primary cause of both silk wraps and gel overlays lifting from a natural nail bed.


Both silk wraps and gel overlays may be soaked off using an acetone solution at your nail salon. The skill and expertise of your nail technician determines whether either process causes damage to your natural nails.