What Are Builder Gel Nails? Are They Truly Long-Lasting?

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Do you want long, beautiful, chip-free nails? We all do!

Many opt for acrylic if they want long and long-lasting nails. But now, a new player has changed the nail game. Builder gel nails might be your new best friend if you want a strong, gorgeous, long-lasting manicure.

But what are builder gel nails?

manicurist wearing black gloves lengthens client's nails with acrylic builder gel sticker with the help of a pink nail clipper

In this article, we provide you with the ultimate guide to builder gels.

Whether you’re a nail enthusiast or simply someone looking to learn about this technique, read on to discover how using builder gels can take your nail game to a whole new level!

What Are Builder Gel Nails?

So what is builder gel for nails? What is builder gel used for? These are the questions that pop into mind for beginners in nail art.

Builder gel is a type of thick, viscous gel used in nail extensions and overlays.

Unlike regular nail polish or traditional gels, which primarily offer color and shine, builder gels are designed to add strength, structure, and depth to your nails. 

You can use it to strengthen and thicken your natural nails or create nail extensions for gorgeous, long-lasting nails that make a statement.

Builder gels also come in different colors, but the most common ones are clear to neutral colors like gentle nudes and soft pinks.

A woman is getting her nails done with builder gel and letting it dry using uv lamp

Types of Builder Gel

There are two types of builder gels: soft gel and hard gel. Both varieties are applied with a nail brush and cured under a UV or LED light.

However, you can distinguish their unique attributes regarding their longevity and removal. Let’s take a closer look at the two types of builder gel:

CharacteristicSoft Builder GelHard Builder Gel
ConsistencySoft and flexibleFirm and rigid
FlexibilityMore flexible than hard gelsLess flexible than soft gels
Curing MethodUV or LED lamp required for curingUV or LED lamp required for curing
Soak-OffTypically soakable with acetone, but the time required may varyMay or may not be soakable with acetone; some hard builder gels require filing or other removal methods
Removal TimeGenerally shorter soaking time compared to hard builder gelRemoval time may vary, and some may require additional filing or other methods
Nail TypeSuitable for various nail types, including natural nails and extensionsSuitable for various nail types, including natural nails and extensions
FinishingLeaves a softer finish on the nailsTypically leaves a harder, more durable finish
VersatilityMore versatile for various nail enhancementsCommonly used for creating strong, durable enhancements
Recommended Skill LevelSuitable for both beginners and experienced techniciansMay require more skill and experience due to the firmer consistency
A woman receiving builder gel application at a nail salon.

Builder Gel Ingredients

Now that you know more about builder gel and the types of builder gel available. Let’s learn more about what they are made of and how each ingredient works. 

Generally, builder gel nails are made of special ingredients that work together to make your nails look good and last long.

Here are the common ingredients you will find in builder gels:

  • Silica: Contributes to nail textures and consistency; ensures easy application for a smooth foundation.

Quick Tip

Opt for products without harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate, often called the “toxic trio.”

When inhaled or come into contact with the skin, these chemicals may cause allergic reactions, cancer, and reproductive toxicity.

A woman is getting builder gel applied to her nails with the help of nail clippers and uv lamp on the sides

How To Use Builder Gel on Nails

When applying builder gel, following the instructions provided by your chosen builder gel brand is essential.

If you want to see an actual application of builder gel overlay on natural nails, check out this helpful video:

While there may be some differences depending on your nails’ condition, generally, this step-by-step guide is how to use builder gel on natural nails for a lasting and beautiful manicure.

Step 1: Gather the Materials

Before you begin, make sure you have all the necessary materials and tools.

Here’s a list of what you need:

  • Builder gel: Choose a high-quality builder gel with your desired thickness and color. One of the best nail builder gels is the beginner-friendly Morovan Builder Nail Gel.

    It’s formulated without toxic ingredients, can last up to 28 days without breakage and scratch, and has a non-yellowing formula.
  • UV or LED nail lamp: Invest in a reliable UV or LED nail lamp that cures the builder gel efficiently, such as the SUNUV UV LED nail lamp, which is gentle on the skin.
  • Cuticle pusher: Look for a gentle cuticle pusher to carefully push back and clean the cuticles for a neat application. For a salon-quality look, try the two-sided dual-action cuticle tool from Utopia.
  • Nail dehydrator: Use a good nail dehydrator like the Morovan Nail Prep Dehydrator to remove any moisture or oils from the nail surface, ensuring better adhesion for the builder gel.
A woman is applying a base coat nail polish to her fingernails.
  • Base coat: Pick a compatible base coat with good adhesion to natural nails and helps the builder gel adhere securely. Morovan Gel Base Coat is easy to apply and has healthy ingredients.
  • Compatible top coat: Get a top coat suitable for use with gel products to seal and protect the builder gel after application. The IBD Building Gel Top Coat is ideal due to its long-lasting formula.
  • Nail brush: Invest in a high-quality nail brush for precise application of the builder gel, helping to create smooth and even layers.
  • Lint-free wipes or cotton pads: Use lint-free wipes or cotton pads with a gentle nail cleanser to remove any residue and clean the nails between steps for a flawless finish.

    Teoyall Lint-Free Nail Wipes are made of non-woven nail fabric, making it safe for your nails and skin. 

If you want a complete builder gel nail set, you can opt for the Saviland Builder Nail Gel Set. It includes clear nude nail extension gels, a mini UV/LED lamp, a base and top coat, nail forms, and a nail brush.

A woman getting her nails done with builder gel in a salon.

Step 2: Prep Your Nails

Begin by cleaning, filing, and buffing your nails. 

Push back and trim your cuticles, then wipe your nails clean with a lint-free pad and nail cleanser or acetone.

Apply a nail dehydrator to the surface of each nail to remove oils so that your products will stick to the nails.

Step 3: Apply Base Coat

Depending on your builder gel brand, you might need a base coat. 

If required, apply the base coat on your nails and cure it under your nail lamp. If a base coat is not needed, you can skip this step for a quicker process.

Step 4: Form Your Nails

Cure your nails under an LED/UV lamp. Curing time is usually a few seconds, depending on your chosen product’s instructions.

When the gel is cured, put on the nail forms. Begin sculpting your builder gel. Sometimes, you may find spaces or imperfections, and you can address them now by filling them in with more builder gel and curing your nail again.

When you are satisfied with your builder gel nail, wipe off the inhibition layer from each nail, which is the thin, tacky film that develops on the nail’s surface as the gel cures.

Female hand with manicure nails in gel polish lamp in beauty salon

Step 5: Cure and Remove the Form

Cure your nails under an LED/UV lamp. Curing time is usually a few seconds, depending on your chosen product’s instructions.

When the gel is cured, gently remove the nail forms. Sometimes, you may find spaces or imperfections, and you can address them now by filling them in and curing your nail again.

When you are satisfied with your builder gel nail, wipe off the inhibition layer from each nail, which is the thin, tacky film that develops on the nail’s surface as the gel cures.

Step 6: Shape the Nails

Shape your nails carefully to your desired nail shape using a nail file.

Step 7: Apply Color and Seal

When your nail is perfectly shaped, you can apply your desired nail polish color. You can use regular or gel polish and paint your nails as usual.

When you’re done, wipe your nails clean with lint-free wipes or cotton pads and cure them to complete the manicure.

A woman's hand with pink builder gel nails on a white background.

How Long Do Builder Gel Nails Last?

A builder gel manicure can last two to three weeks, depending on the brand and its application method.

The durability of your nails also depends on how frequently you apply builder gel and how much wear and tear your nails undergo.

Here are some tips if you want to make builder gel nails last longer:

  • Product consistency: As much as possible, try using products from the same brand when maintaining your nails for a consistent look. 

    Plus, mixing builder gel brands may not work due to potential incompatibilities with ingredient formulations, leading to unpredictable results with curing and adhesion.
  • Apply mani properly: Proper builder gel application is essential for long-lasting nails. Prep them properly by making sure you clean them with acetone and a cuticle pusher.

    Then buff them gently and apply your base coat before builder gel application.
  • Use the correct LED/UV lamp: Using a good quality UV/LED lamp is another important step in longer-lasting builder gel nails and a chip-resistant manicure. It guarantees efficient and safe curing by emitting the necessary UV wavelength. 

    An incorrect lamp choice may cause your nails to chip, peel, or weaken due to incomplete curing.
A woman's hand being dried with an white LED nail lamp.
  • Proper aftercare: Aftercare is important in maintaining builder gel nails. Avoid certain activities like washing the dishes without gloves or working with chemicals.

    Also, be sure to regularly moisturize nails and avoid picking or peeling them.
  • Regular touch-ups: Lastly, while builder gel can chip and fade over time, getting touch-ups every two weeks from your nail technician helps keep your manicure looking fresh. 

    Maintaining builder gel nails ensures that your nails look even and perfect longer.

If you follow these steps, you can make your builder gel mani last longer.

How To Remove Builder Gel

The two types of builder gel come with different removal methods. Knowing both ways is key to ensuring a safe and effective removal process.

The following sections will discuss the general guidelines for properly removing builder gels at home.

However, if you find it challenging to remove builder gel safely, it’s best to consider seeking assistance from a trained nail technician. They can help remove nail extensions safely without damaging your natural nails.

A woman's hands are covered in silver foil for gel polished removal

How To Remove Soft Gel Safely

Soft builder gel, known for its flexibility, has a more straightforward removal process than hard builder gel, which requires specific techniques due to its robust nature.

Taking off soft builder gels requires a cautious approach to keep your natural nails healthy.

Here are the materials you’ll need:

  • Nail polish remover or acetone
  • Cotton balls
  • Cuticle pusher
  • Tin foil pieces
  • Bowl of lukewarm water
  • Moisturizing cream or oil

Step-by-step process for safely removing soft builder gels at home:

  1. Clean the nails. Begin by removing any remaining polish using polish remover or acetone-soaked cotton balls or pads.
  1. Wrap with tin foil. Individually wrap each nail tightly with tin foil. This prevents the acetone from evaporating too quickly during the removal process.
  1. Soften the gel. Dip your wrapped fingers into a bowl of lukewarm water for around 10 minutes. This technique softens the gel layers, facilitating easier removal.
  1. Gently release the gel. One by one, remove the tin foil and gently slide a cuticle pusher under the softened builder gel. Begin from one side and work across to gradually release and remove the builder gel.
  1. Buff and moisture. After the builder gel is released, gently buff the nail surface to eliminate any residue. Wash your hands and apply moisturizing cream or oil to keep them hydrated.

    Once the product is removed from one hand, repeat the process for the other hand.
  1. Let your nails recover. Give your nails a break from enhancements for a few days. Apply a strengthening nail treatment to help restore natural strength.
an image of a girl's hands with two coconut oil in a serum bottle

How To Remove Hard Gel Safely

There is a different removal process if you’re dealing with hard gel.

To do this, you need the following tools:

  • E-file
  • Nail buffer
  • Cuticle oil

Here’s how to remove hard gel safely:

  1. Buff the top layer. Start by gently buffing off the top shine layer of your manicure using a buffer. Take your time, though, as this layer is tough.
  1. File the gel. Switch to an e-file and slowly file down the hard gel enhancement. Work carefully to remove the enhancement entirely.

    Be patient and thorough to prevent damage to your natural nails. Take breaks if needed and proceed cautiously.
  1. Post-removal care. Once the builder gel is successfully removed, gently buff your nails for a smooth finish. Apply cuticle oil to nourish both your nails and the surrounding skin.
a woman's hand in frame with perfectly trimmed cuticle laid in brown fabric

Pros and Cons of Using Builder Gel on Nails

While builder gel offers various benefits, it also has a few considerations. Evaluate and weigh these factors to help you decide whether builder gel is the correct type of mani for you.

If you want to know what builder gel nails are good for, we’ve outlined the advantages and disadvantages of using builder gel for your nail enhancements.

Strengthens natural nailsTime consuming application
Creates a protective layer over the natural nailsHard gel can be challenging to remove
Adds noticeable smoothnessRequires UV or LED lamp for curing
Prevents breaking or peeling of natural nailsThey may not be as strong as acrylic
Offers more flexibilityTreatment can be expensive
Long-lasting finish up to three weeksThey may damage natural nails if left on too long
A woman's hands with pink nails and lilies.

Does Builder Gel Damage Your Nails?

Builder gel is meant to enhance and strengthen nails. But it’s also essential to know if it can harm your nails. 

The answer is no, not on their own. Any damage that may happen is not from the gel but from incorrect application and removal practices. Knowing how and when to remove builder gel is essential to safeguard your nail health.

Quick Tip

To prevent damage to your nails, here are things to remember:

  • Follow the instructions to apply and remove them properly.
  • Do not peel off the gel prematurely as doing so can cause significant damage. This action strips layers from your nails, weakening them and leading to long-term harm.
  • You should not leave builder gel on your nails for too long. Leaving it on too long may contribute to damaged nails and can lead to eventual brittleness and weakness.

Women's hands with a beautiful matte oval manicure in a warm purple knitted sweater.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Use Builder Gel on Natural Nails?

Yes, you can! You may apply builder gel directly to natural nails for an elegant overlay or use it for bold extensions.

In fact, builder gel overlay on natural nails is commonly used to strengthen the nails and avoid chipping.

Can You Use Builder Gel as a Top Coat?

Yes, you can use builder gel as a top coat. However, it’s crucial to use it properly. Be cautious about over-applying, as it might make nails thicker and more susceptible to breakage and becoming brittle.

Use builder gel in thin layers to ensure this doesn’t happen and maintain healthy nails.

What Is the Difference Between Builder Gel and PolyGel?

PolyGel and builder gel have their strengths and weaknesses.

Builder gels are made of monomers and polymers that form a protective coating on natural nails. PolyGel combines acrylic and gel elements, offering flexibility and sculpting potential.

PolyGel is the best choice if you want a natural-looking option that’s light and bends with your nails. But if you’re after super durability and a manicure that lasts, builder gel is a solid choice.

Is Builder Gel Better Than Acrylic?

It depends on your preference.

Builder gel is known for its flexibility and natural finish, making it a good choice for those who want a comfortable feel. On the other hand, acrylic nails are durable and can be sculpted easily, but they might feel heavier on the nails.

Choose builder gel if you prefer strong nails with a natural look, but opt for acrylics if you appreciate more durability and versatility.

A woman's hand with builder gel-coated pink nails on a gray sweater.

Try Builder Gel for Durable and Stylish Nails

Now that you know what builder gel nails are and what they are for, you can decide if they can help you achieve the mani of your dreams.

With its ability to strengthen, protect, and enhance natural nails, builder gel provides a range of benefits for beginners and experienced nail enthusiasts.

Proper care and maintenance are crucial to ensure long-lasting results and minimize potential damage.

So if you want a strong and stylish mani, try builder gel nails! They provide a durable and creative canvas to express your style while keeping your nails looking super fabulous!

Want To Read More About Nail Gels?

Check out these articles:


  • Stephanie Martin

    Stephanie Martin blends her beauty industry background with expertise in communications to lead in the fashion and beauty world. As a fashion and beauty editor, she is known for engaging and informative articles. Her lifelong passion for fashion, makeup, and hair shines through her work, earning her widespread respect among readers and clients. Stephanie's style, a mix of classic and contemporary, makes her a dynamic and influential figure in the industry, inspiring others with her knowledgeable and approachable insights.

  • Jasmine Moore

    Jasmine Moore, a licensed nail technician with 3 years of expertise, offers specialized services in Acrylic, Gel X, and Dip Powder applications. Trained by Lena Fam and a graduate of NexGen Nails and Beauty School, Jasmine's accolades include nominations for "Best New Nail Tech" (2021) and "Best Nail Artist" (2023). As the founder of Jazzy Belle Beauty she stays updated on the latest nail trends.

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