Builder Gel is a remarkable product in the hands of a nail technician who truly understands its characteristics and functionalities. Contrary to popular belief, soak-off builder gels and hard (file-off) builder gels are distinctly different products. While a file-off product can replace a soak-off builder, doing the opposite can compromise the health and safety of your nail service.

Soak-off builder gels are specially formulated with a flexible and soluble polymer matrix, resulting in a hardened film on the nail surface. This product type was specifically designed to strengthen natural nails. A "natural nail" typically refers to nails of short to medium length. Naturally, most longer nails would break unless properly strengthened. While strengthening with a BIAB provides more structural support for natural nails than a traditional UV/LED gel polish manicure, there's a significant caveat. The chemical composition of a BIAB isn't suitable for application in thicker layers, which would be necessary due to the longer free edge. This has led to unintentional misuse of these types of products by nail technicians, largely because comprehensive application guidelines haven't been provided for this relatively new product type.

Meanwhile, hard builder gels (file-off) are formulated with different types of monomers and cross-linking agents compared to BIABs or brush-on, soak-off gels (with the exception of file-off BIABs). These formulations typically include stronger cross-linking agents, such as oligomers or pre-polymers, along with other ingredients. When exposed to UV or LED light, the photoinitiators trigger a chain reaction, leading to a denser and more rigid cross-linking network. This results in a harder, more durable gel layer that is resistant to acetone and must be removed by filing or buffing.

The anatomy of the nail plate means longer free edges need proper support, especially in the apex and stress zones. If you're wondering when to pick soak-off or hard gel, here's a guideline:

  • Use soak-off gel for natural nails with up to 2 mm of free edge.
  • For nails extending beyond this, a non-soak-off product is the way to go.

Are you certified in BIAB and hard gel? If you're keen to delve deeper into the rationale behind our recommendations or seeking step-by-step tutorials, check out our new Instagram subscription service launching this September.

< Earlier

Blog Index

Later >