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What is a Structured Gel Manicure?

20 Sep 2023
What is a Structured Gel Manicure?

Nail enthusiasts will likely have heard of structured gel manicures, also known as BIAB or builder-in-a-bottle. This innovative nail enhancement technique has been making waves in the beauty industry for its long-lasting and durable results. 

In this article, we explain NotPolish’s secrets behind structured gel manicures, explore their application process, and delve into the world of creative possibilities the style has to offer.

So, what is structured gel, and how do you use it?

Whether you're looking for improved wear for your next extended vacation, just want to try something new, or you’re looking for a beautiful solution to brittle nails, these manicures have something special to offer!

What is Structured Gel Exactly?

Structured gel is a manicure enhancement technique that uses builder-in-a-bottle, or BIAB, to essentially create a semi-permanent nail structure that can then be painted. BIAB is applied over natural nails and offers length, strength, and a plump appearance.

These remarkable nail enhancements offer a host of benefits that have earned them a legion of devoted fans. From the durability that outlasts traditional polish to the ability to create stunning nail art designs, these unique manicures have become the go-to choice for those seeking flawless, long-lasting nails.

Structured gel manicures are a particular favorite among individuals planning extended vacations who want their manicures to look impeccable throughout their journeys. Additionally, those with naturally brittle nails that crave both beauty and resilience find these manicures to be a godsend. 

How Does a Structured Gel Manicure Work?

Structured gel manicures are achieved by applying a thick gel product over the natural nails or plastic nail tips and then curing it under UV or LED light. 

The product is made of multiple UV-reactive acrylic nail polymers and photoinitiators. By curing the manicure under UV light, the gel is hardened for long-term wear. One of this manicure’s greatest draws is that it lasts up to several weeks, keeping its shine and sculpted form (with good nail care practices, of course!). 

However, just as the product requires special treatment to apply, removal of the nails also requires the help of professionals (more on removal to follow).

How a Structured Gel Manicure is Done

To get a structured gel manicure, you should expect the process to be similar to applying soft gel products or shellac, but the thicker product is great for shaping and sculpting. 

Here's the step-by-step process so you know what to expect.

1. Nail Preparation

Your nail artist starts by preparing your nails. This involves cleaning, shaping, and buffing the nails to create a smooth canvas for the application.

2. Priming

Next, the artist applies a primer that dehydrates the natural nail, creating a strong base for the first coat. This step is integral for the long duration of the manicure.

3. Base Coat

The base coat will be applied from the nail’s base, along its length, and horizontally. This begins the building blocks for the nail and creates the desired structure.

4. Apex Molding

Structured gel manicures often involve apex molding, where the artist sculpts the product at the nail’s height to give the overall structure a balanced and strong foundation.

5. Curing

The layers are cured one at a time under a UV or LED lamp according to the specific product used. This hardens the polish and ensures it stays in place.

Each layer of structured gel may take around 2-3 minutes to cure under a standard UV lamp. LED lamps typically have shorter curing times compared to UV lamps. Each layer may take approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute to cure under an LED lamp. Again, this depends on the type of product used.

Keep in mind that the thickness of the layer, the wattage of the lamp, and the specific brand of product can influence the curing time as well. 

6. Color Application

Finally, the artist applies the structured polish in the color of your choice, curing each layer as needed.

7. Top Coat

The final coat, or top coat, is applied to seal the manicure and add shine.

8. Final Touches

After curing the final layer, the artist will wipe away any sticky residue with alcohol and add any desired nail art or embellishments.

Popular Nail Art for Structured Gel Manicures

Structured gel manicures are versatile and allow for various nail art options. Some popular choices include:

  • French Manicure: The classic French manicure looks stunning when done with this special polish.
  • Nail Stamping: You can use nail stamping plates to create intricate designs on your nails.
  • Glitter and Rhinestones: Add some sparkle to your manicure with glitter or rhinestone accents.
  • Ombre Nails: Achieve a beautiful ombre effect by blending two complementary polish colors.

How Long-Lasting is the Structured Gel Manicure?

One of the major advantages of structured gel manicures is their longevity. On average, they can last between three to four weeks. However, the exact duration may vary depending on how fast your natural nail typically grows.

Experts recommend getting a fill or redo every three weeks to maintain the manicure and protect the growth of your natural nails.

Taking Care of Your Structured Gel Manicure

Caring for structured gel manicures is essential to ensure their longevity and the health of your natural nails. Here’s how to maintain your manicure.

1. Avoid Excessive Water Exposure

Prolonged exposure to water can weaken the bond between the polish and your nails. Use gloves when doing dishes or chores.

2. Be Gentle

Avoid using your nails as tools to open packages or perform other tasks that could cause chipping or lifting.

3. Moisturize

Keep your cuticles and nails moisturized with cuticle oil or nail conditioner to prevent dryness.

4. Regular Maintenance

Consider getting a fill or redo every three weeks to maintain the appearance and integrity of your manicure.

5. Protect from Sunscreen

Apply sunscreen to your hands and nails when outdoors, as some sunscreen ingredients can affect these manicures.

6. Avoid Harsh Chemicals

Steer clear of products containing acetone, as it can weaken the polish. Use acetone-free polish removers if necessary.

By following these care tips, you can enjoy your structured gel manicure for an extended period while ensuring your natural nails remain healthy and strong.

What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Structured Gel Manicures?

Structured gel manicures offer several benefits, but they also come with some drawbacks.

The Benefits

  • Longevity: These manicures last significantly longer than traditional polish or soft gel manicures. They are less prone to peeling or lifting.
  • Strength and Structure: The thicker consistency of the product lends a strong nail structure for long-term wear.
  • Versatility: You can achieve various nail shapes and lengths with the product, from short and natural to long and dramatic.

The Drawbacks

  • Professional Removal: These specific manicures should be removed by a professional. Attempting to remove them at home can damage your natural nails.

​​The removal process involves soaking the nails in acetone-soaked cotton balls or pads, which are then wrapped with aluminum foil to create a sealed environment. After approximately 10-15 minutes of soaking, the softened gel is gently pushed off using an orange stick or cuticle pusher. 

It's essential to avoid forcing the gel off to prevent damage to natural nails. The process is typically performed by a professional nail technician to ensure a safe and thorough removal, followed by nail conditioning and inspection for nail health.

  • Time-Consuming: The application process for this type of manicure can be more time-consuming than traditional polish applications.
  • Cost: Structured gel manicures tend to be more expensive due to the application time, enhancements, extensions, added durability, and potential nail art.

What is the Average Price of a Structured Gel Manicure?

The cost of a structured gel manicure is higher than that of traditional or other gel nail services and can vary in exact price depending on the salon you choose, where you live, and the embellishments you choose to add. 

In all, you’ll find the cost is attributed to the application time, the skill required for sculpting and molding, the added durability, and any nail art or embellishments you choose to include in your manicure.

Who Should Consider Structured Gel Manicures?

Structured gel manicures have gained immense popularity among trendsetters and fashion-forward individuals worldwide. Influencers, celebrities, and fashion icons are often spotted flaunting these chic and long-lasting nail enhancements. 

For example, a several-week trip, whether for the lack of access to a salon for touch-ups or due to fiddly nails that tend to chip easily. If you're planning an extended vacation and want your nails to look flawless throughout, these beautiful manicures are a great option.

Also, If you have naturally brittle nails that are prone to breaking, structured gel can provide the support and strength needed for beautiful and resilient nails.

Who Should Avoid Structured Gel Manicures?

Structured gel manicures may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those looking to avoid UV exposure or nail lamps. If you have concerns about UV light exposure, discuss alternative options with your nail technician.

Alternatives to Structured Gel When They’re Not For You

Some options you might explore for similar benefits as structured nails include traditional gel manicures, which provide durability without the thickness of the product. 

Alternatively, you can explore strengthening treatments and nail care routines that focus on improving the natural strength and resilience of your nails, helping them remain healthy and beautiful without the need for extensive enhancements.

These alternatives offer a balance between convenience and maintaining the health of your natural nails.

Wrapping Up

If you’ve been wondering “what is a structured gel manicure,” now you know – and it’s time to get started!

While structured gel manicures come with some drawbacks, their long-lasting results and the ability to achieve various nail art designs make them a popular choice among nail enthusiasts. 

If you’re interested in trying out a structured gel manicure, NotPolish is the perfect place to start. Check out our product collections today!

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