Gel Manicure Products 101 + Breaking Down The Kokoist System

I know I’m a broken record here, but it’s for a good reason!!! I got a DM the other day from someone who was wondering if I could do a breakdown of the Kokoist system, like in super basic beginner terms and I thought it would make for a really great blog post! 

Kokoist is having a 20% off sale this weekend for Labor Day!! I would love if you would shop through my link or through any of these posts so the brand knows you came from me! :) The sale runs from September 2nd - 4th. Outside of the sale, you can use my code KARA10 for 10% off all products too! 


If you haven’t seen millions of my posts that talk about my love for Kokoist, here’s a quick intro!

Kokoist is not your typical gel polish. It’s pure Japanese gel. Which means it’s not formulated with any solvents like hybrid gel is, it’s super pigmented, it generally lasts longer on your nails, it doesn’t smell, and it won’t dry out or get goopy over time. I don’t know if this is kosher but I’ve had some of my bottles for a few years and they are as good as the day I opened them! 

Read even more about different types of gel polish HERE 

If you’re totally new to gel polish/manicures, read this post too! 

Also, if you’re looking for a complete tutorial on how to use these products, you need to check out my courses! They’re also 20% off this weekend to align with the Kokoist sale! No code needed, your discount will appear after you add to your cart!

If you’re totally new to gel manicures: Gel Masterclass 1.0: Gel Manicure Foundations, Application & Removal

If you want to learn my exact builder gel + e-file fill process: Gel Masterclass 2.0 Course: Builder Gel & E-file Course

If you want a bundle with both of those courses: Gel Manicure Masterclass Bundle

If you only want to to builder gel: Builder Gel Application Course

Kokoist has a ton of different products on their site, so let’s get into the basics of what you need to complete a gel manicure at home! This post will cover base coats, color gel and top coats! Let’s get into it :)

Base coats

Gel polish is not like regular polish where you can sometimes skip the base coat (we’ve all done it…). Gel manicures are almost like a system and require a specific mixture of products to make it work! For that reason, it’s really important to use a base coat to make certain that your polish will ADHERE to your nails. Without a base coat, your polish won’t be able to grip on to your nails as well and will likely lift off super soon. 

Kokoist has a variety of top coats that are great for different reasons. The way I like to think of it is deciding how much adhesion and flexibility you’re looking for and making your choice based on that. Adhesion is what will help the polish stick, and flexibility is how much the base coat will flex/bend with your nail. 
If you want to learn more about which base coat/gel product is right for your nails, be sure to read this post too! 

Megastick Base

Adhesion level: High

Flexibility level: High

Great For: Short nails, weak nails, bendy nails 

More Info: This is a great base coat if you’re trying to grow your weak nails longer, or if you struggle with your gel polish lifting. If I have a pesky nail that lifts often, I will do a coat of this underneath my builder gel. I personally find this polish to be too flexible for my liking on it’s own, like my nails feel too bendy and I just prefer more strength! 

If you’re just starting out and you want a nice, easy base to begin with, this is a great option. It helps your gel stay on, there’s no special way to apply it (like a builder gel), and it will give your nails a little bit of strength to begin your growth journey. 

Builder Base Gels

This is my favorite type of base!! It’s both adhesive and much less flexible than Megastick, so it gives your nails structure and lets them grow out without bending/flexing so they won’t break. This also allows you to do FILLS!! Which are my absolute favorite and have allowed me to GROW my nails so much. Read this post for more info on that! 

Adhesion level: Medium

Flexibility level: Low

Great For: Growing your nails, keeping your nails strong, short to medium length nails 

More Info:


Quick Facts:

They’re a base gel, a color, and a builder gel all in one, and they’re pure gel. 

This means you can do a full builder gel manicure with two products (the builder base color gel + a top coat) instead of four products (base gel, builder gel, color gel, top coat). 

They come in 18 colors and a clear version if you just want a clear base which I also love doing!

Since they’re a base & a color, I find that it doesn’t really chip because it’s not like you’re doing layers upon layers for your manicure, it’s just one or two layers!

You can use them to build an apex for a plump, healthy nail look, and they make your nails so strong – Make sure to check out my builder gel application course for my exact method for applying these products!! 

Becuase of this, you can grow your nails without them breaking!! 

(This is the only product that has really helped my nails grow ***without  breaking*** that’s the key.)

You can in-fill the builder gel – file off the top layers, leaving a thin layer of the gel (which keeps your nails strong but also gives your new manicure something to grip onto) and re-prep and then re-apply the builder gel! – Make sure to check out my e-file & builder gel tutorial course for my exact method of this process! 

This is a really efficient way to do your manicures week after week and I just love it so much!! 

I have done a bunch of blog posts on builder gel because it’s my favorite thing ever! Read more here:

My Exact Gel Manicure Process

Kokoist x Nail Thoughts Builder Base Gels Explained & Swatches 


I have also been OBSESSED with their new Platinum Filler Base 

It’s a clear builder gel and a base coat in one. It’s a bit thicker than the NT Clear Builder base, but one of the reasons that I love it so much is because it self levels a bit slower than NT bases, which I think makes it easier to do on my dominant hand!! Which I really appreciate since it’s already hard to do.

Color Gels

After you have your base coat in place, you can move on to color gel. Just a reminder, Kokoist’s color gels do NOT have any base coat in them, so you need to use a base before applying this or else it won’t last. Kokoist has sooo many options for colors so let’s take a look.

Nail Thoughts x Kokoist Color Gel:

I love these because they come in a bottle with a brush! It’s a really easy transition from regular polish, and I love not having to use an external brush to use them. They have over 60 colors and they mix and match sooo well. I have all of the colors and these are the ones I reach for the most. 

I did a review of the new summer colors HERE 

Colors in Pots:

Kokoist also has hundreds of colors in little pots. These are generally a bit thicker/more pigmented than the ones above, so a little goes a long way. You do need to use a separate brush to apply the product, which some people love because it gives you so much control! I have a ton of colors in pots too. I love using them for nail art, or even just to get a super specific color that I can’t find in the NT line. 

Top Coat

This is another step that you absolutely can’t miss. Without a top coat, your gel will get dull and scratched. I only ever use one top coat from Kokoist and that’s because it’s literally the best ever!!! :D 

Ultra Glossy Non-Wipe Top Coat 

This top coat is SO shiny, it finishes your manicure amazingly, it lasts SO long and it never gets dull or loses it’s shine. It’s basically magic in a bottle! 

I also love how it’s non-wipe, so you cure it for 60 seconds, I like to wait a minute for it to cool down, and then I’ll gently touch my nails to make sure they’re not tacky anymore. If they’re not tacky, they’re totally cured, and if they are tacky, they need a little more time! It’s almost a fool-proof method! The best. 


Builder Gel Application Course

E-file Removal & Prep Course

Gel Masterclass 2.0 Course: Builder Gel & E-file Course

Gel Masterclass 1.0: Gel Manicure Foundations, Application & Removal

Gel Manicure Masterclass Bundle

Book a Private 1:1 Masterclass with me!


My favorite builder base gels

My favorite gel colors

My favorite gel top coat

My favorite prep tools

1 comment

  • I’m so happy I bought your bundled course! Such a wealth of information on cuticle work, using gels, and application method. You thoroughly explained not only how, but WHY. I have been doing my own gel nails for over 10 years, but have so much damage to my own nails from acetone soak offs and improper prep. I highly recommend your tutorials. Worth every penny for DIYers like myself. I felt like you were holding my hand through the whole course and calmly cheered me on that I could do this! I’m eager to start my journey to healthier nails using your methods! Thank you, Kara! YOU NAILED IT!

    Bethy Zeck

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