If your nails are weak, or you want to grow them long, and finally keep them from breaking, this post is for you!! I'm kind of obsessed with my nail process and I just want everyone to do it with me! Here's why I love it:

- I can grow my nails to any length without them breaking 

- My nails finally feel strong and never bend, no more painful accidents!! 

- I can wear gel polish without soaking it off with acetone (my LEAST favorite process lol)

- My nails are so strong & healthy. (I promise gel won't destroy your nails if you follow my methods, it's a misconception!)

- I can use all of my favorite regular polish still, and use gel to protect my natural nails underneath! (more on this later) 

Ok so the KEY to making this process work is doing fills with builder gel.


There are so many terms used in the nail universe that essentially mean the same thing! In my case, I equate a “fill” with just doing a gel manicure. The fill process is now a part of my prep process and then I go right into re-doing my gel nails! Basically, a fill is just filling in the grown out area of your nails with new product to create a new manicure. Let’s get into how it’s done!



This is by far the topic I’m most passionate about with DIY nails. Let me tell you a little known secret about using an e-file and gel polish:

The e-file & gel manicures are NOT bad for your nails. Using the products improperly is what can actually harm your nails.

I get SO many messages every day from people who say they’ve filed their nails too much that they’re in pain now, or their gel polish is peeling off after a few days and leaving their nails weak, but they’ve never spent the time to educate themselves on how to safely and properly execute these processes 🤦🏻‍♀️

I always try to be nice and understanding when this happens, but I cannot stress how important it is to do the work before you even do your first manicure. I can’t help you if you won’t help yourself!!

I think I need to do another entire post about gel safety and why it's so important to use high quality polishes, but trust me on my recommendations here, and let me know if you have any specific questions so I can answer them in the next post! I do have a bit more info on this below too!

So please read this thoroughly, get the courses, and message me if you continue to have issues. This is the exact reason I created my courses, they contain everything you need to know in long format, follow along videos, and they’re loaded with information to prepare you for a safe manicure! I will talk through which courses go along with each section of the fill process as we go!



Using builder gel for your manicure means you can build an apex on your nail. The apex is basically just the stress area of your nail, so builder gel allows you to “build” up your apex, which gives your nails some extra dimension, tons of strength and also protects your natural nail from the e-file so you don’t need to worry about it touching your natural nail.

WHAT IS AN APEX ANYWAYS? It's an artificial stress area that adds strength to your nails. If your nails are flat, you're adding some dimension and basically balancing out the shape of your nails to keep them strong!

If your gel manicure is too thin or you’re not using builder gel, you might not be able to use an e-file or e-file off as much.


So let’s say you currently have a builder gel manicure on with an apex built. Your nails have grown out a little bit, they’re getting longer and stronger, but you’re ready to change up your color or want to fill in the grown out area. 



Like I said before, using an e-file to remove my previous gel manicure is now just a part of my prep process!

Here is the e-file I use.

Here is the removal bit I use.

Here is the cuticle bit I use.

The goal with this step is to remove the top coat layer, any nail designs, and gel colors. I also like to remove the top layers of my builder gel base coat. Since I have an apex built, my goal is to use the e-file to essentially remove it, and “de-bulk” my nails. Because I want to build a new apex with my new manicure, so I need to remove this current one!

I stop e-filing once I have leveled out my base coat. It’s super important to leave a thin layer of base coat on your nails here because:

  1. We don’t want to touch the e-file bit to your natural nail
  2. The leftover builder gel actually helps the next manicure adhere better
  3. The leftover builder gel keeps your nails strong

*** part of this process is leaving a thin layer of gel on your nails at all times. As long as it’s not lifting (this is possible with proper application), you can essentially repeat this process and keep a thin layer on your nails at all times and never fully remove it with acetone.

I demonstrate & explain this entire process in my E-file gel manicure removal & prep course HERE

I also suggest quitting while you’re ahead at this step, and switch to a hand file to smooth things down more if you need to. You’ll have more control & you’re less likely to take off too many layers as you get closer to your natural nail!


This next step is so important because without proper prep, your gel manicure will lift or chip or peel which pretty much throws a wrench in this process and prevents it from working.

My favorite order of operations is:

E-file removal

E-file cuticle prep

File & buff nail surface (the goal is to have a level surface from the e-file removal, while still keeping a thin layer of gel on your nails)

Shape nails


I demonstrate & explain this entire process in my E-file gel manicure removal & prep course HERE!


Now that your nails are all prepped, they’re ready for the gel application!

 Applying builder gel is a little more advanced than just a regular gel polish, but the benefits are incredible and make the extra effort so worth it.


  • I always use & recommend Kokoist products! They are pure Japanese gel that is super high quality, formulated without harmful ingredients and solvents, and they have amazing longevity. I SWEAR by kokoist for this process specifically because their gel self-levels so nicely. If you use another brand and have trouble with the application, I promise you will have more success with Kokoist!
  • Read more about pure gel vs. hybrid gel here & why I do not recommend using hybrid gel for this process
  • You can build an apex and do this entire process!
  • If applied correctly, your manicure will last 2-3 weeks, which means you’re not manicuring them as often, which means they have the ability to grow and be protected from the elements, leading to overall stronger nails! 

I’ve said this a million times, but now is the part of the process where you build an apex! My favorite builder gel is the Kokoist x Nail Thoughts Builder base gels! They are a 3-in-1 product which means they’re a base coat, a builder gel, and a color all in one!! It makes your manicures go by sooo much faster and it’s nice that you can do an entire manicure with just this product + a top coat if you wanted to!

See photos of my favorite bases here!

Shop the bases here!

It also comes in clear!!

Ive also been LOVING the new Kokoist Platinum Filler Base — it has a thicker viscosity and is slower at self leveling, which I think is great for beginners!

Note: if you are not using this specific builder gel, you might need a separate base coat. Please refer to the manufacturer’s site to confirm!

To correctly apply your builder gel, you need to paint a slip layer (do not cure it), add a bead of polish on top of it, and let it self level / use your brush to get the apex into place. It’s important to also cure one nail at a time.

I demonstrate & explain this entire process in my Builder Gel Application course HERE!

If you’re having issues with your gel lifting or chipping, be sure to read this blog post HERE! This topic requires a full dedicated blog post :)

 A note on gel allergies and sensitivities:

I have gotten a bunch of questions about gel allergies recently from people who have developed them from doing their own nails. These allergies make it nearly impossible to use gel polish because it causes skin issues that are painful, and the only way to heal it is to cease gel use.

Allergies are avoidable*! They are caused by low quality products containing allergens paired with improper application such as curing gel on your skin or leaving under cured product on your nails.

This is why educating yourself on how to safely execute a gel manicure (vs just trying it out and seeing how it goes) and investing in high quality products is SO IMPORTANT! Please do yourself a favor and get a few kokoist products instead of spending the same amount on a bunch of low quality products from Amazon. You will thank yourself!

*I am obviously not a doctor! Please talk to your doctor to determine if you have an allergy to gel and how to heal this. Allergies are avoidable for some people but other people may be more susceptible to them.  

I demonstrate and explain how to safely execute a gel manicure to avoid allergies in my Gel Manicure 1.0 Masterclass HERE!

Once your builder gel application is complete, you can either add a gel color, or a design, or chrome, or just a top coat!!

You can also do a top coat, and then use your regular polish collection over the top and change it as much as you want! I wrote a blog post about that here!


Once you’re ready to redo your nails, you can just go back to step 1 and repeat!! It’s really that simple. It’s been such a game changer for my nails and I absolutely love it!!! 

I really hope you had a bunch of lightbulbs go off and understand this process better after reading this post! It’s truly such a game changer with my nails and helpful me keep them strong enough to grow out, but it’s SO important to educate yourself on how to do it. If your builder gel application needs improvement, your e-file process might not be safe, and you might cause some damage. Everything really goes together hand in hand and nothing works without everything working!

If you have any outstanding questions, drop them in the comments!!


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


My favorite builder base gels

My favorite gel colors

My favorite gel top coat

My favorite prep tools


*Disclaimer: some links are affiliate links and I receive a small commission from your sale at absolutely no cost to you. Thank you so much for reading and supporting my blog & newsletter! 

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