What comes to your mind when you think of gel nails? Most people automatically assume gel polish provides vivid, opaque, and long-lasting color. However, gel nails can refer to multiple formulations all with their unique characteristics.
Hard gels and builder gels also fit into the gel nail category. It can be challenging to distinguish the two if you’re unfamiliar with gel applications. A nail tech will be able to identify various gels like hard and builder gel and when to apply them to the nails.
What’s the difference between hard gel and builder gel? These gels can both sculpt and create extensions, so it can be confusing to tell them apart. However, they have multiple distinguishing factors and greatly differ in their removal process.
One gel can be soaked off with acetone, while the other will need to be filed away. Also, hard and builder gels have unique characteristics that can help you decide which formula is best for your nails.
You’ll achieve long and strong nails with both gel formulas, but it’s crucial to understand how to care for them to preserve your natural nail beds. So, what else should you know about hard and builder gels before your next manicure?
What Is Hard Gel?
Hard gel is a classic gel formula.
It will quickly help build a new extension and be easier to apply than other enhancements like acrylic. In addition, you can create unique shapes and lengths with hard gel because they’re the most durable and long-lasting gel.
Hard gels can be used to repair broken nails and can handle everyday hands-on activities.
Pros Of Hard Gel
Many people opt for hard gel because it offers a natural finish that can last for weeks. In addition, while it has a thick consistency, the hard gel can easily be filed down after it’s cured, so it looks undetectable on the nails.
1. Adds Length
Square, almond, and oval-shaped nails are trending, but it can be challenging to achieve length if you struggle with growing your nails. Hard gel can instantly create an extension and offer support to your entire nail plate.
Also, hard gel can add length that looks natural and help grow your real nails, which is why many prefer this gel formula.
Hard gel will also provide longevity, which can benefit those looking to grow their nails. Also, you can reapply or get a hard gel fills every 2-3 weeks to maintain your natural nails underneath.
Depending on how fast your nails grow, you can prolong a refill to 3 weeks.
3. Natural & Durable
Hard gel can look underwhelming at first. It may look thick and chunky during the application, but it needs to cure under a UV light before you manipulate it into the perfect shape.
Afterward, you or a nail tech will file down hard gel to match your natural plates.
Now you can achieve a thin, natural finish that can handle the daily impact. In addition, this durable gel can withstand long nail extensions.
Cons Of Hard Gel
Hard gel may not be for the faint of heart or those who like to remove their nails at home. This gel formula is ideal for those looking for a durable canvas for nail art or who want to add extra length to their natural nail beds.
Hard gel doesn’t have an easy removal technique; removing them incorrectly can cause damage.
1. Not Ideal For Beginners
Beginners may have a difficult time with hard gel, especially if they aren’t familiar with other gel formulas. It can feel foreign to apply an extension with hard gel automatically. It may not be as straightforward to use and remove as other gels.
2. Challenging To Remove
Many people can mistake hard gel for gel polish or builder gel. Unfortunately, you can’t remove hard gel with acetone or a soak-off treatment. The safest way to remove hard gel is by filing it away with a nail drill.
You can easily overfile and damage your natural nails, which is why it’s best to visit a nail tech to eliminate hard gel.
How To Use Hard Gel
Hard gel may be easy to apply compared to some enhancements, but it can still be challenging to master. You’ll want to pick up a bead of gel to place on the nail, slowly form the apex, and drag down the product to create your extension.
Once the bead is placed and sculpted, it must cure in light and get filed down into your desired shape and length.
Take a look at the tutorial below!
How To Remove Hard Gel
Removing hard gel with a nail drill or electric file is best to break down the product without damaging your nails. Applying excessive force during filing or picking off gel can result in severe harm to your natural nails.
What Is Builder Gel?
Builder gel is also used to create extensions but is not as durable or strong as hard gel. Builder gels are available in hard and soft formulas. Now that we’ve covered hard gels, what are soft builder gels?
Builder gels offer an overlay for the natural nails, protecting them and creating a shorter extension.
Pros Of Builder Gel
Builder gel is much thicker than your regular nail polish. It can be used to create a soft extension or help you grow your natural nails.
Builder gel is an excellent option for those who love to do nails at home because it’s easier to apply and requires less sculpting.
1. Easy Application
Most builder gel formulas are self-leveling, which will greatly help during application. You can add a coat of builder gel to the nails and gently drag it into place before curing it with light.
It also works well on the natural nail plate or to create a shorter extension.
Builder gel is another wonderful option for anyone looking to grow out their natural nails and avoid extensions. This gel formula can also last 2-3 weeks with the proper prep and care. It will slowly promote and maintain your nails’ growth.
Builder gel withstands most daily or hands-on activities and is tougher than regular polish.
3. Protects Natural Nails
A huge advantage of builder gel is that it protects your natural nails. Builder gel isn’t challenging to remove or apply and can shield your nails from daily impact. This is why it’s excellent to opt for builder gel to grow out the free edge slightly.
Cons Of Builder Gel
You may not be fond of builder gel if you prefer extravagant or long nails.
Builder gel is much more delicate even though it provides a long-lasting result. You may be able to create a softer extension with builder gel, but it can be difficult to add extreme length.
Builder gel is more delicate thanks to its application and removal technique. Soft builder gels are designed to be soaked-off with acetone and don’t require any filing. However, this can be healthier for the nails to avoid excess pressure or impact.
2. Can’t Offer Extra Length
This gel formula may not be right for you if you love nails with a dramatic length. Builder gel is best to protect your natural nails and can be used for extensions, but it may not be durable. It’s fantastic to use builder gels to grow your nails out.
How To Use Builder Gel
Builder gel is generally flexible and simple to apply. You’ll want to efficiently prep your nails for builder gel to avoid them lifting or peeling prematurely. Builder gel can be built up, or you can apply it by bead and mold it within your nail plate.
Next, you can cure it under a light and continue with the rest of your builder gel manicure. Take a look at the tutorial below!
How To Remove Builder Gel
Soft builder gel is easy to remove and can be done at home. Most builder gels have a soak-off formula so they can be quickly dissolved with acetone. Acetone can eat away at builder gel, causing it to lift and gently flake off the natural nails.
Builder Gel Vs Hard Gel
Hard gel can’t be removed with acetone and needs to be filed off with care to avoid damaging your real nails. While both gels can create extensions, hard gels are ideal for long-lasting, durable, and lengthy nail extensions.
Builder gel is flexible while still offering protection for the natural nails. It’s more beginner-friendly because most soft builder gels have a soak-off formula and can be dissolved with acetone.
Which Gel Is Best For You?
Hard gel is ideal for anyone looking to achieve long or creative nails. This gel offers a wonderful canvas for nail art and can withstand most daily hands-on activities. Hard gel can be difficult to remove, so it’s best to see a nail tech.
Builder gel suits those looking to grow out or protect their natural nails and avoid damage. They are more beginner-friendly thanks to their application and removal methods which can be performed at home.