Home Nails PolyGel Vs Builder Gel

PolyGel Vs Builder Gel

by Gabbi

Whether you are a professional manicurist or someone who loves to create gorgeous nails at home, you’ve probably run into the confusion of the sheer variety of different nail building materials.

We’re talking acrylic, hybrid gel, PolyGel, builder gel, and more…

It can be hard to navigate, especially when you’re just starting out. Most of these materials can be used for the same purpose: to strengthen and lengthen the nail. They can also be applied over nail tips or forms to give you a longer nail shape. But despite the similarities, there are quite a few differences between them as well.

While most people know and understand acrylics well, things are a little more blurry when it comes to PolyGel and builder gel, so today we’re going to focus on those two.

So what’s the difference between PolyGel vs builder gel? The main difference is in the thickness of the products and the application techniques. At the end of the day, both of these nail building materials are used for the same purpose and look similar when they are done. 

But it’s important to understand how to apply them, and which one might work better for you. In this post, we will go over the differences, similarities, application steps, and how to pick the right product for your nails.

What Is PolyGel?

PolyGel is a brand name for hybrid gel, but it’s such a big name brand, that these days it’s used interchangeably with all hybrid gels. 

A hybrid gel is a type of nail building material that combines the strength of acrylics and the flexibility of gel composites to create strong and flexible nails.

It can be used over your natural nail to add some thickness and a little bit of length. You can also use it to put over nail tips or nail forms to build a longer nail shape.

PolyGel has a thick consistency. You can manipulate it easily with a brush to create the shape and length that you want.

Because of how thick and sticky it is, you also have to use a slip solution while working with it. A slip solution is a liquid (usually alcohol-based) that you dip your brush into as you’re working with the Polygel in order to prevent the PolyGel from sticking to the brush and to help smooth it over the nail.

The main way Polygel differs from acrylic is that it requires a UV lamp to cure. This is a great advantage because it means you can take your time to shape it before you decide to cure it.

Acrylics start drying quickly, so you are on a timeline and need to work fast. With PolyGel, you don’t have to rush at all, giving you the ability to perfect the nail before you’re done with it.

What Is Builder Gel?

Builder gel is another gel-based product that is used similarly to PolyGel, but it has some differences.

Builder gel has a much thinner consistency than PolyGel and requires no slip solution to work with it. It’s far less sticky and tacky. It’s closer to regular gel polish in consistency than PolyGel.

However, it’s still strong and thick enough to create strength and length on the nail. Much like PolyGel, you can use it to strengthen your natural nail or put it over nail tips or forms to create a longer shape.

Just like PolyGel, builder gel requires the use of UV light to cure it, which gives you plenty of time to work with it before you decide it’s ready to dry. 

Because it’s thinner than PolyGel, you need to build it up using multiple layers before it becomes durable enough to wear. And between each layer, you must cure it under the UV lamp. 

As you can imagine, this requires a little more work time than PolyGel. Also because the material of builder gel is softer, it can be a little harder to shape and requires more practice.

Because of this, it’s considered to be more suitable for more advanced nail techs, but with a little bit of practice – anyone can learn it.

PolyGel Vs Builder Gel

Now that you’re a little more familiar with each material, let’s discuss how they compare in practice.

PolyGel And Builder Gel Similarities

Both products typically require the use of a base coat. The base coat is a thin clear layer of material that helps the PolyGel and builder gel stick to the nail. It’s a crucial step that improves the longevity of your nail treatment.

Both PolyGel and builder gel also require the use of UV light to cure them. This is a commonality with all gel-based nail products, including gel polish. UV light hardens the nail and sets it in place. Prior to curing, the materials remain soft and malleable, so you can take your time working with them until they look ready.

Another similarity between PolyGel and builder gel is that they’re both very durable materials that can last on your nails for 2-4 weeks. Although PolyGel is a little bit stronger, builder gel can last just as long with proper application.

Both products can strengthen and add length to your nails, and both can be shaped into whatever form you like – we’re talking almond, stiletto, coffin nails, and everything in between!

PolyGel And Builder Gel Differences

There are some differences between the two that you should be aware of.

First of all, the consistency of PolyGel and builder gel is different. PolyGel is thick and sticky. It usually comes out of a tube or container in the shape of a pea and you have to use a brush to spread it over your nail bed and the length of your nail to shape it.

The best part about it is that PolyGel doesn’t “run” so it won’t get out of control. It goes where your brush goes, giving you a lot of control over the shape of the final result.

Builder gel is a bit thinner. It’s thicker than regular gel polish, but it’s thinner than PolyGel. Because it’s thinner, it can get a little runny and sometimes pool at the sides of your nails near the cuticle line.

Because of this, you need to work with smaller amounts and cure the builder gel between each thin layer. This means it might take you much longer to do your nails with builder gel than it would with PolyGel.

Due to the difference in consistencies, each product calls for different application methods. With how thick PolyGel is, you need to use a special liquid known as a slip solution. You can buy it with your PolyGel or make it yourself out of alcohol.

A slip solution is used to dip your brush into to work with the PolyGel and shape it into place. It allows your brush to control the PolyGel without it sticking to your brush. 

For builder gel, you don’t need to use a slip solution since the material isn’t so sticky, to begin with. You can use a regular gel nail brush to spread it over your nail.

You should also use different brushes for each material. PolyGel, due to it being a little thicker and harder, requires a brush with shorter and stiffer bristles, while builder gel can use a regular gel brush with soft bristles.

PolyGel Vs Builder Gel Comparison

Here’s a summary of the main differences and similarities between the two products:

PolyGelBuilder Gel
Base CoatRequiredRequired
Slip SolutionRequiredNo slip solution necessary
BrushHarder brush bristlesSofter brush bristles
CuringMust be cured with UV lightMust be cured with UV light
Curing TimeQuicker – can apply all at onceSlower – build up using thinner, cured layers
PrecisionEasier to controlHarder to control
Wear Time2-4 weeks2-4 weeks
CostSlightly more expensiveSlightly less expensive

Application Process Differences

You’ve probably already gathered that the application process is slightly different for PolyGel vs builder gel due to their differences in consistency. 

The main difference is that PolyGel is easier to control and shape, while builder gel is runnier and requires more layers to be built on top of each other. 

Below we’ll go over each application process step-by-step to give you a better idea of what to expect.

PolyGel Application Process

If you are doing your nails with PolyGel, here is everything you will need:

These are the basic tools you’ll need. If you want to use nail tips or nail forms to extend the length of your nails, you’ll have to get those as well.

And if you want to add some color to your nails other than the color your PolyGel comes in, make sure to have that readily available too!

Here are the steps:

  1. Start with clean and prepped nails. If using nail tips or forms, apply them now.
  2. Apply a base coat to your nails and cure it under UV light.
  3. Pick up a pea-sized amount of PolyGel with a brush and spread it over the first nail.
  4. Dip the brush into your slip solution as needed to spread and shape the PolyGel.
  5. Once the PolyGel is formed how you like it, cure it under the UV light for 60 seconds (or follow the time given with your PolyGel instructions).
  6. Now that the PolyGel is hard, file it to remove any irregularities and shape it further.
  7. If applying a color polish, do that now and cure it as needed. You’re done!

Your PolyGel treatment should last for 2-4 weeks if you applied it correctly. The thicker the layer of PolyGel, the more durable the nail will be. This is especially important to consider if you’re adding a lot of length.

As your natural nail grows out, you might find a gap between your cuticles and the base of your PolyGel nail. This part can be filled in with more PolyGel if you’d like.

If you’d like to see how to see a tutorial, take a look at the video below from Jessica Angelique Matini on YouTube.

Builder Gel Application Process

If you’re using builder gel, the steps are slightly different. Here’s everything you’ll need to apply your builder gel nails:

Much like PolyGel, builder gel can be used over nail tips or forms, so if you choose to use those, you should have those handy. You might also want to add a colored polish over your builder gel nails, so add that to the list if you need to.

Here are the basic steps of builder gel application:

  1. Start with clean and prepped nails. If using nail tips or forms, apply them now.
  2. Apply a base coat to your nails and cure it under UV light. 
  3. Pick up a small amount of builder gel with your brush and spread it over the first nail. Make sure to start at the bed and stretch it towards the tips. Start with a thin layer to avoid pooling and spilling.
  4. Cure the first layer under UV light.
  5. Repeat the process by adding more thin layers of builder gel to your nails, curing them under the UV light after each layer. Eventually, you’ll have the thickness, length, and shape you want.
  6. Once your nail looks the way you want it to, file it down to remove any imperfections and get the right shape.
  7. Apply a top coat and cure it under UV light.
  8. If using a color polish, apply it over your builder gel nail and cure it as needed. Your nails are done!

If applied correctly, the builder gel nails can last a really long time, up to 4 weeks. It’s important to make sure that you’ve applied enough layers of builder gel to get them thick enough so they won’t break easily.

The application process for builder gel usually takes a little bit longer and requires more precision than PolyGel because it’s thinner. You’ll probably have to apply at least 3-4 layers of builder gel to get it to the thickness that one “blob” of PolyGel can create in one sweep.

If you’d like to see how to see a tutorial, take a look at the video below from Amber Riley on YouTube.

Which One Is Best?

So which one is better – PolyGel or builder gel? The answer depends on personal preference! Both products create similar results – strong, long, and durable nails that can last weeks.

It’s up to you to decide which will work better for you. If you’re a beginner, PolyGel might be a little bit easier to learn. It’s easier to maneuver and doesn’t create a mess.

If you’re more experienced and know how to work quickly, builder gel might be a better option for you. If you have the technique down, you won’t have any problems with builder gel.

If you’re short on time, PolyGel might be better because you don’t have to spend as much time on it. 

But ultimately, the results are very similar regardless of which material you use. Both types of nails look beautiful, shiny, and durable. They’re more flexible (and therefore more break-resistant) than acrylics and last for several weeks. Both can be used to add strength, thickness, and length to your nails.

So is PolyGel or builder gel better? Depends entirely on your preferences and your skill level! We hope this post helps you understand the differences and pick the right product for you!

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