What Is A Structured Gel Manicure

Structured Gel Manicures – Why You Need To Get One Now

Can you imagine having a manicure last up to 4-6 weeks? Well, that’s not a dream anymore because that’s exactly why structured gel manicures exist. Not only will you have a long lasting gel colour, you’ll also have added strength to your nails!

Keep reading to find out why gel structure manicures are so popular, and why we love offering them to our clients!

Table Of Contents

What Are Structured Gel Manicures?

What Is A Gel Overlay On Nails?

Structured Gel Manicures VS Gel Manicures – 3 Main Features

Apex VS No Apex Nails

How Long Do Structured Gel Manicures Last?



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What Are Structured Gel Manicures?

For this type of long lasting manicure, a high quality soft gel is usually used. Soft gel, also known as non-tradition gel, can come in a bottle or pot. If it comes in a pot, a gel brush is required for applying the gel.

When soft gel isn’t strong enough, hard gel can be used.

The nail gel is applied using a special technique that will give the nail a stronger structure. This helps the nails withstand everything we put them through daily like household chores, and using our nails as tools.

Most soft builder gels are clear or nude. For colour and art, nail artists use gel polishes and coloured soft gels over top.

Acetone is used to remove soft gels. For clients who want to continue getting structured manis, they should come back to the salon for a fill, ideally in 3 to 4 weeks.

Hard gel needs to be filed off for removal because acetone doesn’t break it down.

What Is A Gel Overlay On Nails?

Gel overlay is a manicure service in which hard gel or soft gel is applied to the natural nail to give it strength. The names gel overlay and structured gel manicure are often used interchangeably.

Structured Gel Manicures VS Gel Manicures

There are 3 main features that sets apart a structured gel manicure from a gel polish manicure:

Thicker Soft Gel Viscosity

Self leveling soft gel has the consistency of honey, which is much thicker compared to gel polish. This thicker type of gel plays a key part in helping to build up the nail and give it strength and durability.

Gel polish has a consistency similar to regular polish. It’s runny and applies as thin, flat layers across the nail bed.

Thicker Gel Application

Now we’re not talking about applying a big blog of gel to the nail because that’s not very attractive! The special gel application technique is actually quite similar to applying hard gel (traditional gel).

People who are able to grow their nails long without any products usually have an apex on their natural nail beds. While people with naturally flat or inverted (like spoons) nail beds find it especially hard to grow out their nails.

Very flat and spoon shaped nailbeds are impossible to correct with gel polish alone because of its thin consistency.

Smooth Nail Apex

Properly structured gel application should make the nails look as natural as possible. Any bumps along the nail curve will throw off the aesthetics and strength of the nail.

In this method, the soft gel is applied thicker toward the middle of the nail, and thinner closer to the areas around the cuticle, forming the nail apex – the highest point of the nail curve.

The apex protects what we call the stress point. This is the area of the nail that is most vulnerable because the nail will break if pressure is applied.

Apex VS No Apex Nails

When you look at the profile of your nail (turn your finger to the side), it’s easy to see if there’s an apex.

The nail curve should be the highest at around one third from the free edge for shorter nails. The apex of longer nails will move closer towards the cuticle.

Nail Stress Area And Nail Apex
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Source: Glamour Nails Guide

You can test where your stress point is at by lightly pressing down on the free edge of your natural nails. The stress point is the area that turns white.

Nails without an apex will look flat from cuticle to free edge because there isn’t an upper arch.

If the highest point of the nail is anywhere but the centre, that means the structure of the nail is compromised. 

Gel polish is usually too runny to create a proper apex as it flattens out almost immediately after it’s applied to the nails.

How Long Do Structured Gel Manicures Last?

Depending on your lifestyle, a structured manicure should last you at least 4-6 weeks!

Remember – Our nails are jewels, not tools. Wear gloves when you’re washing the dishes or cleaning, don’t use your nails to pop open soda cans, and schedule your next nail appointment on time.


Is Structure Gel good for nails?

Yes, Gelish Clear Structure Gel is great for nails that are weak and prone to breakage. It has a thicker consistency that helps to build up the apex for the nail, giving it strength and longer wear time.

Can you use Structure Gel as a top coat?

Gelish Structure Gel can be used to seal in a gel polish colour and prevent discolouration. It can also be used over nail art, stickers, and foils to help them last longer.

To complete the look, it’s best to use a high shine gel top coat to finish off the manicure.

What is a Russian gel manicure?

Russian manicures, also known as ‘dry manicures’, don’t use any nail soaks or cuticle removing products. In this technique, an e-file (electric nail file), is expertly used to remove previous gel or acrylic, and clean up the cuticles.

The reason why Russian gel manicures last much longer is because it eliminates the use of water and products containing oils (found in cuticle softeners and soaps). This manicuring technique is ideal for structure gel manicures because the addition of water and oils can prevent gels from sticking to the nails properly.

Is structure gel the same as builder gel?

The names ‘structure gel’ and ‘builder gel’ are often used interchangeably for both hard gels and soft gels. The main idea is that these gels have a thicker consistency that can be used to build up the thickness of the natural nail or to create nail extensions.

How do you remove structured gel manicures?

It’s best to go to a salon to get your gel manicure removed professionally. However, we know life happens and that’s often not possible in reality. Luckily, removing soft gels and gel polish can be done easily at home.

First, buff your nails with a 180 to 100 grit nail file to remove the shine. Next, saturate pieces of cotton (just big enough to cover your nail plate) with acetone and place them on your nails. Wrap your fingers in aluminum foil for at least 10 minutes.

You’ll start noticing that the gel is starting to flake off after some time. Avoid using a metal cuticle pusher to scrape them off because that can damage the surface of your nail. Use an orange wood stick instead. If a piece of gel is not budging, repeat the soaking process until it pushes off easily.

Once all the gel is removed don’t forget to moisturize your hands with a nourishing cuticle oil and hand cream!

To Wrap Things Up

Structured gel manicures ensure that clients are going home with strong, durable, and long lasting nails. That’s why this is the only technique we use at Sunday Beauty Boutique – no matter which gel mani service you choose!

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About the Author Catherine

As a kid, I discovered the world of Japanese nail art through a magazine and since then, I haven't been able to stop thinking about anything related to nails! After following a more traditional educational path and earning my Bachelor's of Science in Food and Nutrition, I decided it was time to pursue my childhood passion. In 2015, I earned my diploma from Blanche Macdonald’s Nail Technology Program. After that, I got certified with YUMI Lashes and opened Sunday Beauty Boutique in 2017. These days, I'm focused on providing a 'no rush' experience to a select clientele, teaching as a nail instructor at Blanche Macdonald, as well as providing resources on beauty related topics to clients and estheticians on my blog.

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