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What is Base Gel?

05 Sep 2023
What is Base Gel?

Having stunning nails helps us feel put together and polished! Using top-quality products doesn’t just make you feel great; it can strengthen your nails and make them last longer – and base gel is where it all starts.

So what is base gel?

This blog will take you through everything you need to know. We’ll describe how it’s applied, explain the different types available, and cover general manicure-related questions.

The team at NotPolish is here to explain all – so let’s get into it.

What Are The Different Types Of Gel?

What is base gel? The simplest explanation is that it’s a base layer under your nail polish.

This can be left on its own or topped with color polish. There are two distinctive types of gels, outlined below.

Hard Gel

Hard gel is strong, long-wearing, and yet lightweight. You can’t soak hard gel off with acetone at home, it must be filed off in the salon.

However, since it lasts 3-4 weeks you can justify this compromise. Hard gel is also odorless and hypoallergenic, and it can be used if you’re pregnant too.

Soft Gel

Soft gel, on the other hand, can be soaked off using acetone. Sometimes, it can be referred to as ‘soak-off’ gel.

This is great specifically for shorter or mid-length nails. It can be used on its own or even on top of gel polish to provide extra strength. The downside to these gels is that they won’t add length to your natural nail, and the edges will wear over time.

These gels can be further split into two categories: hybrid gels and pure gels. The former is what you usually receive in the salon.

Meanwhile, pure gel is exactly that - it’s not mixed with any other solvents. This means you don’t need as many layers, and this also means they’re easier to work with. You can still soak this type off while having the added benefit that they last longer.


Gel Polish

Gel polish is sometimes referred to as Shellac. It’s a thin consistency that resembles regular polish. Unlike hard and soft gels, it has to be cured for 30 seconds under UV or LED light.

This polish can only be applied in ultra-thin layers, which means that it doesn’t strengthen the natural nail. It can only give a longer-lasting manicure and ensure you don’t get any smudges.

It can be put on natural nails or after hard or soft gels. It can last anywhere between two and three weeks, but you should go to the salon to have it removed.


Dip powder nails and acrylics can last much longer than regular gels (around four weeks). However, acrylics can take a toll on your regular nails by needing a harsher removal method than gel.

Acrylics are typically better for people with very long nails – gels are more suited for natural nails.

Benefits Of Using A Base Gel Coat

A base coat is even more important to apply than with regular nail polish. Regular nail polish is just that: regular, simple, and can be used on its own. On the other hand, gel polish was made with the intention of using it together with a base layer.

1. Makes Your Polish Stick To Your Nails

The principal reason you should always apply a base coat with your gel mani is that it adheres to your nails much better. This means that you’ve created a surface for the product to bond with, and also means your polish won’t peel off as easily.

2. A Smooth Look

A gel base coat can mean that you achieve a smooth look for your manicure. It’s like putting a base layer of foundation on before your finishing touches of makeup.

The base coat is to smooth over any cracks, surfaces, and damages on your natural nail plates, which in turn, gives you a smooth and even manicure.

3. Prevents Your Natural Nails From Getting Discolored

Have you ever had yellow stained nails? This can happen easily to those who don’t apply a base coat.

It’s also common for darker colors, like navy, to leak through and stain your nail plates. Another common offender is a bright red.

A base coat acts as a barrier and prevents your natural nails from being stained and discolored.

Should You Use A Gel Top Coat?

After wondering ‘what is a base gel coat?’ you may be asking what a top coat is too. Just like a base coat, a top coat can work to protect your nails and is very worthwhile putting on.

 Protecting Your Nails With A Top Layer

The main benefit of using a top coat on your gel mani is to make sure that it lasts longer. The top coat acts as a protective layer meaning your manicure is less likely to be chipped or scraped away.

A top coat acts as a hard and durable final layer over your polish which prevents damage and stains. It can also prevent chips as it insulates your polish from harsh chemicals. For example, if you happen to be cleaning or doing the dishes.

Add Some Shine

The reason you get your nails done is to look good, so why stop halfway? A high-quality top coat can add a lovely gloss to your gel manicure. This can make it look more sleek and professional.

Of course, if this isn’t the look you’re aiming for, you can opt for a matte gel top coat instead for the added protection without the shine.

The Process Of A Gel Manicure

Now that we know what a base gel is, what a top coat is, and the benefits - let’s take a look at the steps involved.

Step 1: Remove Old Polish

Removing old nail polish is the first step to preparing your nails for a new mani. This depends on the type of polish you have on: this will determine whether you need to have them filed, can use an acetone soak, or simply use nail polish remover.

Step 2: Prepare The Cuticles

Use your file to prepare the cuticles and push away from the nail bed. You may need to cut, trim, and shape.

Step 3:  Prepare The Nail

File the nail surface to make it smooth and even it out. Use this moment to wash your hands and cleanse the nail bed.

Step 4:  Apply Base Layer

Apply a thin layer of base gel and build the shape you’re looking for.

Step 5:  Apply Color

Apply the color you want or even art with your gel polish.

Step 6:  Apply Top Coat

The final step is to add a top coat to finish off your mani. If required, set it with LED or UV light.

Dazzle With Your Nails: Shop the NotPolish Store

Now you know how to do the best manicure from base to top coat – you’re ready to dazzle the world with stunning, healthy nails.

Where to get started? Check out the NotPolish store and discover our amazing range of nail products, from our selection of kits to a stunning range of gels and polishes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Benefits Of A Structured Manicure?

A structured manicure is intended to reinforce the strength of your natural nails with a supportive layer of gel to prevent your own nails from breaking and getting damaged. The added bonus of a structured manicure is that it mends broken edges.

This is done by layering with builder gel. So, what is base gel used for in a structured manicure? It’s used to reinforce the nail through building layers of gel polish to add strength and shape the nail too.

Is Structured Gel The Same As Hard Gel?

In short, yes. Indeed, the names ‘structure gel’ and ‘builder gel’ are used as synonyms, and this includes both hard and soft gels. These are simply different names for the same thing.

What Is The Difference Between Shellac And Structured Gel Nails?

Gel nails use a semi-permanent color to color your nails, while shellac uses semi-permanent polish. Gel can be built and used to strengthen your nails, while shellac is used for ease and shine.

What Is The Difference Between A Structured Manicure And Gel Manicure?

A structured gel manicure is a gel-based technique. The aim is to focus on restructuring both the look and the shape of your natural nails.

The technique itself is meant to reinforce your natural nail by adding supportive layers of gel to prevent breakage and also prevent frayed edges, which can be super frustrating. Since the focus is on this 3D effect, it takes more time and patience than regular polish.

Do Nails Need To Breathe?

We’ve all heard that between manicures, you should give your nails time to breathe before popping on another coat of polish. But is there any truth to this?

In fact, no - nails do not need time to breathe between manis. They get all the oxygen and nutrients they need below the surface, and your polish doesn’t affect this at all.

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