Everything you need to know about builder gel manicures

Get ready to revolutionise your manicure.

It feels like every other week, we’re getting whiplash from the endless stream of nail trends. From glazed donut nails to blueberry milk nails, there’s always something new and shiny to try at the salon. Recently however, the nail community has been touting the builder gel manicure – and if you love a manicure but you also love an acrylic full set, you’re in luck because a builder gel manicure is the best of both worlds.

What is a builder gel manicure?

Builder gel – also sometimes referred to as Builder in a Bottle (BIAB) – is a type of gel polish that has a thick viscosity that can enhance and strengthen nails. 

“The nail is built up with a soft gel to create a much stronger and lasting overlay than traditional gel polish (shellac) due to the thicker viscosity,” explains Mavala Manicurist, Oli Antunes. 

“A builder gel manicure can add length, thickness and protection to the natural nail, making them stronger.”

Builder gel can come in an array of colours but the most common is a baby pink or clear gel. This nifty nail hero can be used to give acrylic-like extensions to your natural nails, or a thin amount can be applied over the top of a traditional manicure to provide an extra protective layer to preserve your nails.

Whilst this method has existed for a while, it’s really taken off recently thanks to social media.

“My clients love the look, longevity and natural nail health builder gel offers. A much kinder alternative to Acrylic and SNS, it has the same durability and strength to acrylic and other powders but with much more flexibility,” Oli tells The Weekly.

“It is also a much more ‘natural nail’ look that is less traumatic for the nail plate. Builder gel is extremely versatile, as it can also be used with pre-shaped full contact nail tips, forms etc, giving the client many different choices and the manicurist efficacy when using it.  

“It elongates, adds shape to your nails as desired while helping you grow your natural nails underneath.”

Is builder gel good or bad for your nails?

Whilst acrylics, sns and manicures require excessive drill filing and can leave your nails as thin and flimsy as paper, builder gel is quite the opposite.

“Builder gel is a much more flexible option than acrylic and less likely to break with contact or trauma due to it being a thin overlay, nails grow healthily underneath,” Oli says. 

“The builder gel removal method is also much gentler, requiring soaking in acetone, like gel polish. But the versatility of this does not end there, as you don’t need to fully soak to remove every time, instead, you can simply get infills on your returning appointments.”

How long does builder gel last?

Unlike acrylics, which can start to peel off within two weeks, or a gel manicure which can sometimes peel within days – builder gel has better longevity.

“Depending on general wear and tear of the hands and nails, Builder gel can last about 3-4 weeks,” Oli explains.

The ability to last weeks is another reason why builder gel has gained rapid popularity. As we’ve become more cost-conscious in the last few years, a $40 shellac manicure every other week is becoming a luxury few can afford. 

Can I do a BIAB from home?

Whilst many of us became totally adept with learning to do our extensive regimes from home during the lockdowns a few years ago, a builder gel manicure should be left to the experts.

“It’s not recommended as it is an expert craft and if applied incorrectly or without learned technique can result in injury or thick, uneven, and bumpy nails,” Oli explains. 

Whilst you can’t do a builder gel manicure from home, you can go to the salon and enjoy some much needed self-care and downtime. However, if you’re convinced that a builder gel manicure is your new obsession and you’ve already booked in an appointment, you begin boosting your nail health and appearance in the lead up to your appointment with these products.


Mavala Nail Shield Two Phase Protective System For Nails


If you naturally have flimsy nails, or they’re suffering a bit of damage after an intense set of acrylics, the Mavala Nail Shield acts like an armour, making your nails more resistant to breakage.


OPI Repair Mode™ Bond Building Nail Serum


The OPI Repair Mode™ Bond Building Nail Serum works to strengthen and improve the nail’s keratin structure. It dries instantly so you can wear it on the go or pop it on your nails before you sleep.


Lanolips Lano Milk & Honey Hand Cream Intense


Famous for their ointments, Lanolips’ Lano Milk & Honey Hand Cream is also a staple product in the brand’s repertoire. With nourishing ingredients this cream will keep your hands, and your cuticles, soft for the salon.


L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream


If you’re looking to keep your hands and cuticles soft and moisturised in the lead up to your builder gel appointment, then L’Occitane’s super nourishing Shea Butter Hand Cream will do the trick.

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