How I'm Growing My Nails & Keeping Them Strong With Builder Gel!
I’ve been sharing SO MUCH about how I’m loving gel polish for growing my nails right now. This post will cover WHY & HOW to use gel for that purpose.
If you have been struggling with weak, bendy, peeling, etc. in your nails, gel could really help!!! I’ve been keeping gel on my nails consistently for the last year and a half and my nails have never felt stronger or grown longer than this time. It’s like a MIRACLE product and I love how it looks! I can't believe my natural nails are seriously this long, but also they're so strong and I can't even remember the last time I broke a nail :)
Before you start using gel consistently, it's a good idea to have a nice starting point! Your nails definitely don't need to be long & strong yet, but if they are seriously hurting, I would suggest putting a little work in first. Here are some other useful resources that you might want to check out if you are having any issues with your nail health:
WEAK NAILS 101: this post covers what to do and how to combat issues when your nails are feeling weak
NAIL HEALTH 101: this post answers your general q’s about nail health!
If you're totally new to gel polish, I have a bunch of other blog posts for you to check out to learn the basics, learn about my process, and more:
GEL NAILS 101: Why would you use gel? How to use it? Can you DIY it? (answer: YES!)
My Favorite Gel Products: Breaking down my favorite tools & polishes!
Base Gel, Builder Gel & Types of Gel: All gel isn’t created equal! And more about builder gel! I highly recommend reading this one before you go on with this post because it will make everything make more sense!!
My EXACT Gel Manicure Process: Builder Gel, Fills, and more! Another MUST READ!
Read my KOKOIST MASTER POST for a list of all of my favorite gel products!
If you're fully new to DIY NAILS, this post is perfect for you - It breaks down everything you need to get started!
Ok lets get into this topic!!! In this post I’m going to be talking about Kokoist gel products because they’re my FAVE (I share more in the posts above). Make sure to use my code KARA10 for 10% off your entire purchase!
And check out my Gel Manicure Courses to learn this exact process in video form!
Gel Manicure 1.0 Masterclass: Gel Manicure Foundations, Application & Removal
Gel Manicure 2.0 Masterclass: E-File Gel Manicure Removal, Prep & Builder Gel Application
Gel Manicure Masterclass Bundle: Includes 1.0 + 2.0 for a big discount!!
So like I said, I’ve been using gel to grow my nails longer, but how do you know which gel is right for your nails right now?
IF YOUR NAILS ARE SUPER WEAK/BENDY:
If your nails are super weak and bendy right now, you want a product that can flex with your nails as they get stronger. Imagine this, you put on some hard gel (aka it doesn’t flex) over that top of your bendy nail, and your nail continues to bend/flex, but the hard gel doesn’t. This gives the hard gel the opportunity to just POP off or lift, because it’s not able to move with your natural nail underneath.
So what product is right for this situation? I recommend Kokoist Megastick Base Coat. This is a soft gel (refer to this post for the types of gel). Don't forget to use code KARA10 for 10% off all Kokoist :)
This gel is Kokoist’s most flexible soft gel, which means it will flex and bend more than their other base coats (we’ll get into these next), but it’s still going to give your nails strength and protection, especially more than what regular nail polish would. I do notice that with this base coat, your nails will bend a little but they shouldn’t break as easily, if at all, as they might break with nothing over the top or just plain nail polish.
This base coat is also really really adhesive, so if you have trouble with gel lifting/peeling, this could be a good option for you to try to prevent those issues! I will sometimes do one thin coat of Megastick base under my builder gel to help it adhere better on myself or my clients!
Also, read this post if you have any issues with lifting or peeling gel and want to learn exactly how to combat it!!
IF YOUR NAILS ARE ON THE SLIGHTLY STRONGER SIDE:
So if you try the Megastick Base and your nails are feeling stronger and are starting to grow a little, you can move on to the next step (aka builder gel) to continue to grow them out! This is what I use now and it’s a GAME CHANGER!
Also, sidenote: if you want to move on to builder base, you can keep the Megastick base and apply a thin layer to your mani to prevent lifting or chipping if that happens for you. Or you can switch off between builder and megastick. I’m just saying you don’t need to get rid of this product just because you want to use builder. They work together well!
If your nails are pretty strong already, and you’re looking for something to protect them so they don’t break and can continue growing, this next product is for you! I paint my nails for my job, and sometimes they would be sooooo weak and just wouldn’t grow. But other times, I would be at the point where they’re starting to grow and look great, and then I would like accidentally hit my hand on the steering wheel. Something so mundane. And my nail would BREAK IN HALF. I’m just sick of it!
This is why I’ve been loving the Kokoist builder gels because that just DOESN’T HAPPEN! With this product on your nails, they physically cannot break. The only time I’ve had a issue with it is if I accidentally cut it with a kitchen knife lol…. I need to be more careful. But still. That’s amazing odds coming from someone like me who used to just bump something and break a nail!
The product I LOVE is the Kokoist x Nail Thoughts Base Gels. These are a base gel, a builder gel, and a color (if you pick a tinted one) all in one product. Check out this post for more on my favorite colors & even more about why I love this product!! It’s usually the only product (plus a top coat) that I use on my nails!
I have been building my apex on my nails now because they’ve grown so long, so this means I’m building up a rounded part of my nail in the middle of it to add even more strength. If your nails are really short, you can still build up your nail a little bit to start giving them extra strength. Once they start growing longer, the apex building becomes super important! You want to avoid a flat nail so your nail doesn’t break.
Check out my builder gel application course to learn how to properly apply it! The application is SO important because if you aren't applying it well, it WILL lift.
Here is my current routine including prep, application and removal.
Make sure to read this part to learn even more about why this process can help your nails grow and keep them healthy:
- Full manicure prep (using my prep course, of course! Ps - This is on sale for $15 off right now!!)
- Apply NT x Kokoist base gel using my builder gel manicure process course
- Apply a top coat. My favorite one is the Kokoist Ultra Glossy Non-Wipe Top Coat!
- One to two weeks later – My nails are grown out and ready to be fixed up! I personally don’t like to soak off my gel with acetone
- WHY? Because acetone is extremely drying. Your nails have a small amount of oil in them which helps keep your nails from peeling, keeps them flexible (remember, flexible nails won’t break as easily if you bump them on something). When you soak your nails in acetone for the up to 30 mins it takes to fully remove gel, you’ve likely dried out any remaining oil in your nails, which can leave them feeling dry/brittle. If you repeat this process every two weeks, it will continue to harm your nails. This is why I like the process that I outline here, because you hardly expose your nails to acetone at all.
- I use my e-file to remove the top layers of the gel using my e-file gel manicure removal course (all of my e-file recommendations are linked HERE!).
- Fully remove the top coat, and the apex of the base coat, leaving just a thin coat in tact. If there are any nails that are lifting or peeling off, I will remove more of that nail, sometimes I’ll soak that off (which usually comes off easily since it’s peeling or lifting), or I’ll switch to a hand file and gently remove as much as possible.
- You can use a hand file with this process too! I like the e-file because it takes just a few minutes and it’s really effortless.
- I outline this process in e-file course if you want to see it in action!
- PS-- Please do not use an e-file without educating yourself and watching thorough tutorial videos (like mine hehe ;)). One minute reels are simply not enough to understand all of the nuances of using this tool! And you can actually make your nails weaker and more damaged if you don't use it properly. If you do use it properly, your nails can be super strong and grow like mine do!!!
- I continue on with my full manicure prep, and then repeat all of the steps above in a cycle!!
I love this process because it’s so much faster and keeps my nails SO STRONG!!! I find this to be so much faster than soaking off my gels which I know is the most annoying part of gels. It used to deter me from using gel in the past too, but this has really changed my mind! If you have any more questions, comment them below or send me a DM so I can address it in my next course!
IF YOUR NAILS ARE REALLY STRONG AND LONG:
If your nails are really loving builder gel and have grown quite a bit, it might be time to move to a harder gel! A harder gel, while still a "soft gel" (which means it can soak off), will give your nails extra strength as the length increases. In my experience, Kokoist x NT bases provide an amazing amount of strength, but at some point, if free edge is well beyond your actual finger, I recommend using one step up!
I've been using the Kokoist Platinum Filler Base recently because my nails have grown so much and it's AMAZING!!! It's a builder gel and a base gel still, it's noticeably thicker than the NT Clear Builder Base, and it lasts sooo well on my nails while providing a lot of strength. I really credit this for helping me grow my nails to the length they are now! I use the exact same process as outlined above with this product :)
How does gel prevent your nails from peeling or staining? This happens with regular polish.
I like to think of gel as a layer of protection, kind of like putting a cover on your nail, in that same way that press-ons might add a level of protection! However, I prefer gel to press-ons because gel adheres so much better to your nail than press-ons might. Also, gel is sitting on top of your nail and adhering, vs. regular polish which can soak into your nails more than gel would. I’ve never had gel polish stain my nails before, maybe because you always use a base coat, but this just doesn’t really happen with gel! Also, gel protects your nails from the elements which can cause your nails to peel, like hitting them on something, or soaking them in water while doing the dishes, etc. Gel just has that ability to keep those things from causing issues with your nails!
Can I get this at a salon?
Yes! I feel like salons call this different things, like you might see it labeled as a builder mani, or a builder in a bottle mani (which is a product similar to the NT x Kokoist bases), however it might be a little bit harder to find at most salons because, in my experience, a lot of salons use gel products that are hybrid which contain solvents that actually make it easier (and faster) for them to soak it off. Builder gel is harder to soak off (while still possible) given it’s harder qualities/nature and therefore might not be as popular at salons whose main goal is to service as many customers as possible. With that said, if you’re interested in this service/type of manicure, I highly recommend learning how to do it on yourself. My courses can teach you the exact method and process and you’ll be doing your nails like a pro in no time! And I’m always here to help if you need anything!
Can Dip help your nails get stronger?
I actually have never tried dip or used it on anyone, but I did do traditional acrylic nails in nail school. I personally don’t like using acrylic because I think it’s just not as smooth of an application as gel polish is and I prefer the ingredients in gel to those in dip (which is acrylic powder if you didn’t know!). I think dip can make your nails stronger but again it just depends on the removal process. If they’re scraping the product roughly off your nails, it’s not going to be good for your nail health, just like peeling off gels is bad for your nails too!
I want to try gel but I’m scared of the removal process.
I totally get this, the process is long and tedious, especially compared to regular polish. However, you’re able to keep gel on for two, sometimes 3 weeks, so you aren’t doing your nails as much as regular polish! The removal process isn’t too bad if you do the method that I outlined above. I can re-do my nails in maybe an hour and it’s not bad at all! I personally think the annoyance of re-doing them is worth it for the benefits of gel :)
Comment any other questions you have!! And check out my NEW COURSE all about builder gel and my e-file process HERE :)
*ps. links may be affiliate! which means I earn a small commission on your sale at no extra cost to you!!