A Guide to Different Kinds of “Gel Nails”

Mar, 17 by Sofia S in
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Ever wondered about those salon menus that list down so many ‘gel’ services? Given the frequency of usage, it is easier to get confused about what these “gels” actually mean in the nail care world. 

Basically, there are two categories of ‘gel’ services — gel polish and gel builder. Let’s unpack them.


What is Gel Polish?

Gel polish works just like regular polish. It is a special lacquer that is applied to your nails and then usually cured under an LED or UV lamp. What makes gel polishes popular is their long-lasting properties. It comes in thousands of colors, just like regular polish. With proper care, gel polish applied to your nails can last up to 14 days without chipping.

Gel polish is economical for those looking for durable polish for natural nails. It gives a decent thickness after the application of two coats, and therefore, you don’t need to add nail enhancements. Some of the popular gel polish brands are OPI and Gelish.


What are Gel Builder nails?

Gel builder is used to increase the length of your nails with a special coating applied on top of your natural nails. It also helps to improve the thickness and strength of your nails. 

Gel builder nails are recommended for those who prefer lightweight and short nails for a natural feel. Gel builder is not as strong as acrylic, and they are definitely not recommended for creating long artificial nail extensions. CND and IBD provide some of the high-quality gel builders. 


Some of the gel-based services that you might encounter in a nail salon are:

Gel polish on natural nails

This is the simplest gel-based treatment, where a gel polish is applied directly to your natural nails for a durable manicure. 

Gel polish on artificial gel builder nails

This service combines gel polish and gel builder to give stronger nails and a long-lasting manicure. Here, gel builder is first applied over natural nails, followed by a coat of gel polish.

Gel polish on artificial nails

Just like on natural nails, gel polish can also be applied to artificial nail enhancements such as acrylic. 

Artificial nail extensions with gel builder or acrylic offer much flexibility in styles. They could be used stand-alone, in pink and white style, glitter, or with a clear gel coat. 


Ultimately, choosing between gel polish and an advanced gel builder technique depends on your style and preferences.