What Is Builder Gel?

What Is Builder Gel?

Have you ever wondered how to create a long-lasting glossy manicure without the hassle of mixing, ratios, and messes? Builder gel allows the nail professional to form and shape beautiful nails quickly and effectively. It is essential to understand the different types of gels to know which gel to use and when.

What Are Gel Nails?

Gel nails are known for their glossy finishes and long-lasting color. Builder gel is a popular product among nail techs, and it is used to create many salon manicures every day. 

Builder gel is more flexible and is applied more quickly than acrylic. It also provides a more natural-looking nail set than other artificial nails. Builder gel is available in both soft gel and hard gel forms.

Builder gel is used to create nail extensions and nail overlays over natural nails. It is available in many viscosities and colors. Knowing which type of gel to use and when allows you to create beautiful manicures in a time-effective manner.

What Are the Two Types of Gel?

Builder gel is available in soft gel and hard gel forms. Both types of gel are applied with a nail brush and cured under UV or LED light. Hard gels and soft gels wear differently and are removed differently. 

What Is Soft Gel?

Gel polish and builder gel are forms of soft gel. Soft gel is a type of gel that is more flexible than hard gel. Gel polish manicures have become increasingly popular over the years for their longevity.

Soft gel is not strong enough to create or support a nail extension. It is applied with a small nail brush, just like traditional nail polish. Soft gel is either used as a colored gel polish or as a nail overlay using soft builder gel for strength. Once the soft gel is applied, it is cured under a UV or LED light until dry. 

This type of gel is available in a variety of colors. Soft gel is worn alone as gel polish or a nail overlay for two to four weeks, much longer than traditional nail polish. The soft gel will wear thin on the nail’s free edge over time, requiring touch-ups every few weeks. 

Because the soft gel is porous, it can be removed using cotton balls soaked in 100% pure acetone. 

What Is Hard Gel?

Hard gel is non-porous and creates an added length extension to natural nails. It is usually applied to a nail tip or nail form. The thick, hard gel is laid in tiny beads onto each nail, and then the nail tech will manipulate the bead around each nail to create the length and shape that the client desires. The customization and variety of colors make hard gel nails a popular set for long, durable nails.

Hard gel cures underneath an LED light or UV lamp until it becomes hardened and dry. The nails are then filed and buffed to the proper shape and length, and then the nail color is applied. Hard gel nail sets typically last for three to four weeks, depending on the client’s lifestyle and how fast their natural nails grow.

Always remember to protect the integrity of the nails. Never damage the natural nails when removing hard gel. The hard gel should be removed by the professional nail tech with an e-file or nail file. A nail tech will ensure that the integrity of the natural nails underneath the hard gel remains intact.

What Is Gel Polish? Is It Soft Gel?

Gel polish is a thin, soft gel that is available in many colors. Gel polish is applied like regular nail polish and is one of the quickest nail services available. Traditional nail polish will chip within a few days; however, the gel polish will remain glossy and chip-free for up to two weeks. 

Gel polish is a perfect option for the client with brittle nails because it creates a thin protective layer on top of the nails. It is applied to natural nails, hard gel extensions, acrylic, or other nail overlays. Gel polish must be dried under a UV or LED lamp.

The polished gel nails must be soaked in pure acetone to remove the polish. Usually, the nail tech will place a cotton ball soaked in acetone over each nail, then wrap each nail in foil. The foil remains on the nails for about ten minutes until the gel can be easily wiped away.

Gel polish will begin to peel when it is time for a polish refresh. When this occurs, avoid peeling the gel away from the nails. Peeling gel polish will cause damage to the natural nails. It can take months to years to regain the integrity of damaged nails.

When To Use Thin Gels or Thick Gels?

Hard gels are typically thicker than soft gels. They do not self-level, making them ideal for using over nail tips and nail forms. In contrast, soft gels self-level and are best used for adding a delicate nail overlay on natural nails.

When To Use Thin Gels

Thin gels add a light, strong layer over natural nails or the nail body for nail extensions. Thin gels are self-leveling, meaning that their thin viscosity allows the gel to move around on the nail quickly. These gels are more challenging to use on nail forms due to their light, runny consistency.

Thin gels require less filing because the gel will lay smoothly on the nail. This smooth finish results in fewer bubbles and a more rapid application process. The nail tech must work quickly with thinner gels. For this reason, thin gels are recommended for the experienced nail tech.

When To Use Thick Gels

Thick gels are used to form a nail extension over nail forms and tips. Its thicker viscosity allows the nail tech to cover more areas of the nail at one time. Thick gels should be used carefully. If too much gel is used, peaks and valleys will form, causing the need to finish filing later. 

Thicker gels do not move around on the nail and are easier to control than thin gels, making them a suitable gel for the beginner nail tech.

How To Apply Builder Gel

Builder gel adds strength and length to natural nails. It is a flexible overlay for all nail types. The proper application of builder gel is vital for designing a long-lasting gel manicure. Here are some basic instructions on how to apply builder gel.

  1. Buff the nail plate with a nail buffer.
  2. Apply a nail dehydrator to each nail’s surface to remove oils.
  3. Apply the base gel (foundation gel) and cure it under UV or LED light.
  4. Adhere the nail form onto the natural nail.
  5. Brush a builder gel bead onto the apex of the nail, down to the free edge. Tap and drag the gel to avoid gel streaking. Apply the builder gel down the nail form to create and shape the long nail extension. Make sure to apply the gel only as far down as you want the nail length to be.
  6. Cure the nails until dry, then file and shape the nails.
  7. Wipe the inhibition layer from each nail with a cleanser.
  8. Remove the nail forms carefully from each nail and remove residual dust from each nail.
  9. Apply gel color polish if desired and finish with a gel-compatible top coat.
  10. Cure the nails to complete the manicure.

Summing It Up

Builder gel is a popular gel nail overlay used to create strong, long-lasting length to natural nails. Builder gel is available in an assortment of colors in both hard and soft gel types. The different gel options make designing custom gel manicures possible for beginners and seasoned nail techs.

Soft gel is ideal for creating a smooth overlay on short to medium natural nails because of its thin viscosity. It is also used in combination with hard gel for nail extensions. 

Hard gel works well for shaping long nail extensions on nail forms and nail tips. The thicker viscosity of hard gel allows it to form a hard, durable layer over the nails. If too much of this gel is used, bubbles and an uneven texture will occur on the nail’s surface. A rough surface requires additional filing.

Valentino Beauty Pure offers highly pigmented gel collections. Each soak-off gel lasts for 14 days when used with the Valentino Beauty Pure base coat and top coat. The pigmented gel covers in one coat for a beautiful finish. Try Valentino Beauty Pure gels for your next gel manicure.


  1. Difference Between Shellac And Gel | Difference Between | Difference Between
  2. 7 Types of Manicures for 2021 - Best Manicure to Try for Your Nails | Cosmopolitan
  3. Hard Gel Nails vs. Soft Gel Nails vs. Gel Polish (How to Choose the Best Gel Service for Your Nails | Head Curve