Tip Tuesday: Builder Gels

The term ‘Builder Gel’ or ‘builder gel in a bottle’ has become incredibly popular over the last few years, but did you know, we’ve been selling our Clear builder gel in a bottle since 2012? It was originally known as iZ Gel, now it’s called Pro Base&Build. It is also available in a pot for a more traditional application (still our favourite way!).

Before builders in bottles, there were builders in pots! In 1999, we launched CALGEL, which at the time, was one of the very few soak off gels that had the ability to build shape & extend length.  Terminology and techniques changed a lot over the 25 years since we launched CALGEL, and although it wasn’t originally marketed as a builder in a pot, that’s exactly what it is!

We’re proud to say, it’s still going strong and now it comes in different colours. We originally described it as an all-in-one sculpting gel; it can be used for base coats, building shape, structure, and sculpting length. The coloured builders are mainly recommended for building shape and structure, for sculptures, we recommended using CALGEL natural gel clear.

Our Pro Colour builders are slightly harder wearing than CALGEL, so they take a little longer to soak off, but application is the same. Due to their ability to cure quicker and harder finish, you can also sculpt length with them.

 What exactly is a builder gel?

If you’re new to the industry, it can be confusing! A builder gel is generally known to be gel with a medium to high viscosity (this means a slower rate of ‘flow’ or ‘less runny’ gel), that can be used to add strength to the natural nail, build up the apex for shape and structure and most can be used for gel sculptures. They usually have the ability to self-level to create a perfect shape without having to ‘work’ the gel too much.

Many builder gels cure down very hard, which for some is a positive. We prefer for our gels to be little softer and work with the natural nail, protecting it and acting like a shock absorber. Our builder gels retain some flexibility that helps  to avoid breakages, cracking or chipping and offer long-lasting results.

Some gels need ‘thickness’ to give strength, so you may notice some builder gels require a very high apex to reinforce the nail. Others, like CALGEL or Pro Base&Build, get their strength in layers, rather than one large build layer. This doesn’t mean you have to do many layers of building; it means that once you’ve added your colour and finishing gel on top, they are incredibly hard wearing.

Our goal is always for nails to remain as thin and natural looking as possible. Thick application isn’t required for strength, because our builder gels form the base of our colour gel systems. A great positive of this is that you don’t have to use a lot of gel to form that large ‘build’ or apex.

You can watch our latest Tutorial where we showcase how easy it can be to build using one of our Calgel Coloured Builders. This technique can also be used using our clear gel where a larger apex (or more reinforcement) may be required. If using clear gel, you can use more gel to build up the apex if needed. This may be required if your client has had traditional full well tips applied, requests long sculptured nails or has very weak or bendy nails. Or, simply, because they prefer that look! Most clients will not require that much of a build layer, it isn’t necessary for strength with our builder gels.


Can I sculpt with CALGEL Builder gels?

Yes, with both our CALGEL natural clear and builder colours, you can sculpt with them. To ensure optimal curing and if you’re wanting to extend the length of your client’s natural nail more than a few millimetres, we always recommend using natural clear. For a short gel sculpture or to fix a broken nail, you can use the coloured builders. This is because for a longer nail, you need to have a larger apex to reinforce the natural nail, and if the gel is applied too densely, this can impact the gel’s ability to cure properly. Cure for a minimum of 90 seconds for a build layer or short sculpture using a CALGEL coloured builder, if using natural clear, cure for up to 60 seconds depending on thickness.

As we touched on above, Pro Colour is a slightly harder gel, this means when it is fully cured, it’s a little less flexible than CALGEL. This extra strength enables it to give more support to a longer extension compared to CALGEL’s coloured builders. So you can sculpt a longer gel when using one of our Pro Colour builders. When doing a larger coloured build layer, we recommend curing for 90 seconds under LED for Pro Colour.

How do I remove a builder base?

Your CALGEL or Pro Colour builder base can be soaked off as normal, but it will take longer than a normal overlay. This applies to both clear and colour build layers. You can speed up the process by:

  • Removing the top layer of gel topcoat or top gel by hand filing using an 80 grit file
  • Break the seal of the colour gel beneath (which could be your colour of builder gel) using an 80 grit file
  • Wrap the nails for a soak off as normal and place hands in heated mitts
  • We always recommend protecting the skin from the dehydrating effects of acetone by applying cuticle oil before wrapping the nails for a soak off

If you are e-filed trained, you can remove most of the bulk of the gel before soaking off. Be cautious to not e-file or file on the natural nail using a harsh file.

Keeping an eye on your client’s natural nail

If you prefer to infill your client’s nails rather than soak off, we do recommend doing your build layer or gel sculptures with a clear gel. This means you can remove the colour on top down to the base of clear gel to assess your client’s natural nail before rebalancing your clear gel and applying fresh colour on top. This way you’ll be able to ensure there’s no lifting and your client’s natural nails are in good condition before proceeding with fresh colour.

There’s no need to soak off your clear base layer unless there’s signs of lifting. If you’re e-filed trained, you can e-file off the colour (or hand file if not) rather than soaking off so the base of clear remains intact.

When to use a strengthening builder base layer?

This build layer can be applied directly onto the natural nail to create the perfect base and shape prior to your colour gel application. Once your gels are cured, you can apply your chosen colour, curing each layer and finishing with a thinner gel topcoat like our GEL&GO 2in1.  Alternatively, you can apply a thin finishing layer of CALGEL clear or Pro Base&Build.

Using a coloured builder base is great when working with Pastel colours that are often a little tricker to get that perfect finish. You could use our White Sheer Builder, Chantilly.

What if my client wants their final colour to be the builder colour?

You have two options, if your client’s nails are in good condition and aren’t overly flexible, you can just finish with a layer of our GEL&GO 2in1.  If your client needs extra reinforcement, you can apply an additional thin layer of your coloured builder on top, or a thin layer (no building) on the base using CALGEL clear or Pro Base&Build.

The layers of the gel work together to add strength without feeling heavy, bulky or too rigid. Our builder gels were designed to work with the natural nail.