I graduate from a nail esthetics school and currently work at a nail salon.
They are good for splitting and breaking nails because it allows your natural nails to grow for a period of time without breaking or splitting. This continuous growth allows your nails to adjust to the environment so it will continue to grow back without splitting or breaking. If you do notice that they are continuing to split or break, it may be due to your diet, it is recommended to take calcium pills.
Gel nails are the way to go if you want a more natural looking look.
Again gel nails last longer than acrylics.
And again, gel nails cause the least amount of damage, because it is not powder based.
I use to have the same problem as you - before my nails would grow pretty long but always split/cracked.. I've been getting my nails professionally done for the longest time (Solar gel, not acrylic) and love them. It does get quite expensive though since you may have to get them filled or re-done about every month.
I get the french tips and their relatively short, so it looks pretty natural. I actually get complimented on them by guys on how natural they look. (though depends what you get). I've been getting them done consecutively since December and my nails underneath are fine, I would suggest taking them off once in awhile though letting your nails breath.
They're more expensive, but I don't really care. I'd rather pay more for my nails then get Acrylic any day.
I only had acrylic. Gel probably looks more natural but is a lot more expensive, and acrylic can look fairly natural, some places do a better job than others so it really depends.
While the stuff is on your nail they will stay strong, but it weakens the nail underneath it.
I think they both last about the same. 2-3 weeks between fills or so, after 2 they start to look bad though.
I think gel is less damaging but more expensive.
When I got my acrylics off my nails were weak for months. They all damage the nail underneath but not permanently, once your new nail that has not been done with acrylic or gel grows in, it will be back to normal.
My main reason for getting them off was money, I kinda liked them.
gel lasts longer but it's more expensive and harder to remove