Home Nails What Is Gelish Structure Gel? (Complete Guide)

What Is Gelish Structure Gel? (Complete Guide)

by Gabbi

Perhaps one of the most enviable beauty traits that don’t involve any features of the face is having long, strong, glamorous-looking nails.

The power a good set of nails holds is rarely talked about, but anyone who’s ever stepped out of a nail salon following a particularly great manicure appointment can attest that having pretty hands makes you feel confident. 

This is why so many of us do some deep digging on what the best kinds of manicures you can get are! Sure, painting over a natural nail is nice- but if you want your design to last a little longer, what are your options?

What is Gelish structure gel? Gelish makes a structure gel that is different than a classic gel manicure, despite the similarity in name. It works wonders for those who want to maintain the health of their natural nail and is a great alternative to more popular styles of manicures.

Consider this article your complete guide to the Gelish structure gel manicure. We’ll guide you through all the ins and outs: including what it is, what to expect when you get one, and more!

What Is Structure Gel?

The secret is in the name! Structure gel is a gel-based process, but unlike a standard gel polish, it completely restructures the shape of your natural nail.

Gelish is just one brand that sells one of the best versions of structure gel.

Unlike a gel manicure or acrylic manicure, which people tend to gravitate towards when they value longevity in a manicure, a structure gel manicure offers a layer of security for your natural growth.

Though the finished result of a structure gel manicure may look similar to other faux-nail styles, there are some serious differences between this and a standard acrylic or gel application.

The Difference With A Structured Gel Manicure

Compared to the two most popular methods of nail application (gel and acrylic), this is how a Gelish structure manicure stands:

Structured Gel vs. Gel Manicure

If you’re used to getting gel manicures done, the biggest difference you’ll see when your nail tech uses a structure gel polish is the viscosity. It’s a bit thicker than a standard gel. It moves a little slower (which is important, but we’ll get into that later), and the consistency of the gel is gluier.

When cured, that thickness turns into resiliency. A structured gel manicure is much stronger than your classic gel manicure and can take on wear and tear more effectively. Since the manicure acts as a shield for your natural growth, it only makes sense that it can take the pressure!

Perhaps one of the biggest differences you’ll notice during your manicure treatment is the distinct lack of fumes. Structured gel application, due to the unique formulation of the products used, is a no-smells situation, which in our eyes is nothing short of a major win. 

Structured Gel vs. Acrylic Manicure

Now, if you’re well versed in the art of acrylic nails, you may think that a structured gel polish would leave your nails more vulnerable. The polish used is thinner than acrylic, but that doesn’t make it any less strong!

In fact, you can consider the thinness of the structure gel to work to your advantage. That thinness offers flexibility that acrylic manicures just don’t have.

No longer do you have to worry about your nails snapping and breaking when you’re opening a car door or kitchen drawer – the bend of a structured gel polish moves when it should, so breakage is a thing of the past.

Thankfully, you’ll also notice a major difference in your natural growth once you remove your manicure. Acrylic manicures, especially when incorrectly applied or removed, can leave your natural length broken, peeling, and frail, whereas structured gel preserves the health of your nail. 

Who Should Get Structured Gel Polishes?

Honestly, considering the quality of the manicure, this technique is something that we would recommend everyone to try out! The biggest reason why is due to how much healthier the Gelish structure technique is on your real nails.

Also, because the polish style is so pliable, it can actually last you longer than a standard gel or acrylic treatment (saving you money in the long run).

Though we recommend structure gel to everyone, we can’t deny that there’s definitely a demographic of people who would especially benefit from this manicure style:

  • Chronic acrylic users
  • Those with brittle nails
  • Recovering nail biters
  • Those with crooked nails
  • Those dealing with other structure issues

If the strength of your natural nail has never been quite where you want it to be, or if growing your nails out to your desired length has always been a challenge, a structured gel manicure offers a sense of hope that gels and acrylics can’t offer.

Due to its gentle nature, the chances of this style of manicure damaging your natural nail are slim to none. Since one of the biggest reasons people avoid getting fake nails done is because of the damage, this emits the worry entirely. 

Outside of the realm of damaged nails, this manicure process could be great for:

  • Manicure newbies
  • Young teens
  • Those worried about acrylics
  • Those who want to grow their nails out

The last reason is undoubtedly one of the most popular reasons people get structured gel done. Since it keeps the natural nail strong, and shields them from potential tears, rips, and chips, when you remove your structured gel, you’ll be greeted with healthy, untainted growth! 

This is why this manicure technique is so popular for recovering nail-biters: it allows your nails to grow at their own rate in a safe “bubble” like environment. We’ve yet to see a gel or acrylic manicure do that!

The Process Of A Gelish Structure Gel Manicure

The first thing you need to be prepared for once you book your Gelish structure gel manicure is that you’ll be in the chair for quite some time (a couple of hours or so). In spite of the time it takes for you to leave the salon, it’s definitely worth clearing out your day for.

Cuticle Prep

When you first sit down in the chair, your nail technician will take you through the steps of, what is essentially, a dry manicure.

Here, your nail will be cleaned and groomed thoroughly. The reason the process is dry rather than traditional, is paramount. When your nails are soaked, it changes the absorbency rate, shape, and strength of your cuticle.

Since the cuticle is actually the most important area of the nail in a Gelish structure, it makes sense that your tech will want to preserve it as much as possible. 

That being said, your cuticle area will be given primary focus. It will be trimmed and shaped accordingly, while the rest of your nail will be cut down to shape and slightly buffed (to give the Gelish structure gel something will a bit more grit to adhere to).

Nail Prep + Gel Application

There are two different ways your technician can go about this next step. If your nails are already at the length that you want, your tech will just go ahead and fine-tune the edges: make sure that everything is smooth and even, free from any microtears and hatching.

But if you want a little bit more body to your nail, you also have the option of using the Gelish structure gel as a nail extension! If you’ve ever gotten gel extensions done, it’s the exact same method. Your tech will wrap metallic foil sheets around the body of your finger and use it as a structure to build a new nail shape for you. 

The rubber gel application may seem similar to traditional gel polish, with one caveat. A bit of a thicker gel round is added to the base of the nail, and instead of the nail technician taking the time to smooth it out, they’ll instead allow gravity to do the work for them!

Turning your hand on its axis, the structure gel will fall with the natural length of your nail, settling in the exact shape it needs to (this is where the thickness of the formula comes in handy). You’ll notice that the structure gel honors the shape of your nail apex, also known as the highest point of your nail.

The thickness in that area is integral to the protection of your nail and is actually what sets this manicure apart from other styles. 

Curing And Clean Up

After that, the curing step of the process is fairly straightforward!

Your technician will let the gel polish set underneath a UV or LED lamp. If you’re doing extensions, you’ll do this step with the metallic foils attached to assure that your nail hardens in the shape that you desire.

Once removed, your new gel nails will then be shaped and filed down, cleaning up any inconsistencies or uneven edges, and buffing the gel down to ensure that it looks nice and even from all angles.

Final Touches

If you’re going for something simple, you won’t be in the chair much longer!

For those who want their manicure to have a little more pizzaz, you can decide to get a nail design or color done during this step. There’s no shortage of ideas and styles. You can do any design you could think of with this polish technique.

As for the topcoat, your technician will do the same technique as they did when they applied the initial gel coat, applying a thick dollop of clear structure gel, flipping your hand, and allowing the gel to shape with your nail’s natural apex. 

After one last cure, you are good to go!

DIY Structure Manicure

For those of you who know your way around a gel polish and an LED light, you may be wondering if you can do a structure manicure at home. Though you may not have the exact tools that your technician would use, it actually isn’t impossible!

Here’s a great tutorial by Vanessa’s Nails on YouTube about the process:

How To Remove Gelish Structure Gel Polish

Even though the application process may look slightly different, the removal process is basically indiscernible from the removal process of a traditional gel manicure.

If you’re a bit of a noobie when it comes to the faux nail game, or you don’t want to risk your natural nail when it comes to removing your polish, there’s absolutely no shame in booking an appointment at the salon for a removal.

Ask them to walk you through the process. They should be more than happy to help you build some confidence to do a DIY removal.

And once you’re all ready to try your hand at removal, here’s what you’ll need to do…

What You’ll Need:

How To Do It:

  1. File – Go ahead and use a nail file for the first step, taking the time to break the seal of the topcoat on top of the gel. Use a light hand! It’s easy to go a little too trigger-happy here, but the goal is for the shade of the polish to become faded and hatched. The structure of the nail shouldn’t change.
  2. Soak and wrap – For this step, we would recommend a cotton pad. They tend to hold onto acetone better than a cotton ball (and they can evenly surround the nail!). Work one finger at a time, soaking the cotton in acetone and surrounding the length of the nail with it. Then, wrap this finger in aluminum foil. The foil will retain heat, allowing the acetone to penetrate the polish. 
  3. Wait – Now, you are left to your own devices! Go ahead and watch your favorite show or listen to some music for the time being since you can’t use your fingers. You’re going to want to allow your fingers ample time to soak in the solution, about 15-20 minutes. For extra security, you can wait up to 30 minutes.
  4. Remove – After the time is up, place a firm grip onto the aluminum and slide it off your finger, applying a bit of pressure onto the nail area to ensure any polish is stripped away. If you see some polish left over, fight the urge to pick at it, and instead use a designated orange stick to gently scrape it away. 
  5. Moisturize – Acetone can be super drying on the hands, and also damaging your newly exposed natural length! From here, give your hands a thorough wash in some warm soapy water and follow with your favorite hand lotion. For some added nourishment, a cuticle oil can work wonders on your fingers (and help maintain the health for your next structured manicure!).

Final Thoughts

A Gelish structure gel manicure is rising in popularity in the beauty world, and because of the long list of benefits it has, there’s no wonder why!

Gelish structure gel reserves the natural health of your nail and is a great manicure choice for those who have existing nail conditions that impact the health of their growth (peeling, brittleness, damage from acrylics, nail-biting, etc.).

A structured gel polish not only looks great but helps your natural nail length grow with maximum health. And that’s something that other manicures just can’t replicate!

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