How To Mix Regular Polish + Gel Polish!
I have soooo many nail polishes in my collection. Like I have an entire cabinet with bins full of polish. I’m sure many of you are just like me in that way! If you’ve been following me for a minute, however, you know I’ve been fully on the builder gel train for over two years now, and it’s been AMAZING for keeping my nails strong and allowing them to grow. Today’s post is all about how I still use all of my regular polish while also using builder gel. Let’s get into it!!
PS: I'm running a sale for Memorial Day!! SAVE 20% ON ALL COURSES THIS WEEK ONLY WITH CODE MDW20 :)
When I used solely regular polish, I still loved switching up my color/design usually every week. And sometimes my polish wouldn’t even last that long just with daily happenings wreaking havoc on my nails. I also found that my nails would be stained, they would break easily if I grew them out longer than usual, and sometimes they would chip.
BUILDER GEL! If you’re new to this, builder gel is a type of gel polish that when applied in a specific way, gives your nails extra strength, so they can bend/flex without breaking, and it also gives your nails a layer of extra protection from the elements. I personally love builder gel so much that I never want to take it off…. And so now I never do! More on that later!
I love this process SO much because the builder gel protects my natural nails, gives them strength, they can grow without breaking, the regular polish I find dries super quickly, it doesn’t really chip because your base manicure is so strong/smooth/gives it a great foundation to grip on to, and I personally love how my nails look with an apex!
BUILDER GEL 101:
The builder gel I use is a semi-hard gel. But let’s back up and cover the basics of the types of the products to better understand what they are and how they work on you based on their strength!
Level 1 - Nail Polish: this is the lowest level of strength. It’s a layer of color applied to your nails for looks but typically cannot give your nails much or any strength.
Level 2 - Soft Gel: all soft gels are not created equally! There is hybrid gel polish and pure gel.
Hybrid gel polish - this is most gel that you see at salons unless they specify that they use pure gel (like a Japanese or Korean gel). Think of like OPI, Beetles, Shellac, etc. It’s gel polish that’s typically blended with another solvent or polish that helps it soak off easily/quickly. These typically don’t last as long as pure gel because it’s mixed with polish or an agent that literally helps it come off. This type of gel will give you some strength but it’s not as hard as pure gel or semi-hard gel, your nail will still feel flexible.
Pure gel - this is the type of gel that I use and recommend, like Kokoist, my favorite gel brand! It’s literally pure gel, it’s not mixed with any other solvents to help it soak off. I also find that these products are more pigmented so you don’t need as many layers, and they’re easier to work with. They also last longer and give your nails more strength than hybrid gel polish but you can still soak them off.
Level 3 - Semi Hard Gel: This level gives your nails a ton of strength, and this is where these base gels that I’ll be talking about fall under! This is a blend between hard gel and pure gel, but it can still be soaked off! You can use it to give your nails insane strength like you get with hard gel, and you can build nails (like nail extensions, if you want!). I’ll be using the terms builder and base gel and builder base gel interchangeably in this blog because I only use the Kokoist x Nail thoughts gels really, and they are both a builder, a base, and also a color ALL IN ONE!
Level 4 - Hard Gel: This is the strongest level of gel, and it cannot be soaked off, it can only be filed off. I personally don’t use hard gel because I find semi hard gel to be hard / strong enough for me!
Level 5 - Dip/Acrylic: I haven’t used acrylic since nail school and I personally hate it. I found it really hard to use compared to gel and usually you get gel over the top of your acrylic anyways, so if you get the benefits of a hard product and all of the ease of gel, why not just use semi hard or pure gel?! Of course acrylics are good for people with SUPER long nails since they’re being built, but I’m only talking about doing this for natural nails and helping them grow in this post, so let’s just focus on that!
So which level does builder gel fall into? Builder gel can either be semi-hard or hard. It’s used to build an apex on your nail (more on that below) or build a nail extension if you want to! I personally love the Kokoist base gels because you can use them like builder gels to build an apex and give your nails strength. I love this clear gel because it makes my nails soooo strong with just one coat.
WHAT IS AN APEX?
An apex is the curved stress area of your nail. Aesthetically, I think it gives you that true “plump” gel manicure look, but it’s also used to give your nails extra strength if they’re long so that they don’t break!
Read more about this topic here: What Is Builder Gel & How Does It Compare To Other Types of Gel/Nail Polish?
I personally always do a dry manicure with my builder gel application, and then I do a fill instead of fully soaking off my gel manicure. I love doing a dry manicure because I find that limited liquid exposure keeps my nails feeling extra strong and makes the gel last so long on my nails.
I just wrote out my exact gel manicure fill process in this new blog post! READ IT HERE!
This is the process I repeat every 1.5-3 weeks (depending on the state of my nails/my mood). But with the builder gel on, I can switch up my look with regular nail polish pretty much an unlimited amount of times!
Here is the process I follow for mixing regular polish + builder gel:
- Perform a dry manicure with thorough manicure prep
- Apply a slip layer + an apex with builder gel. These are my favorite! Use code KARA10 for 10% off
- Apply a gel top coat. This is my favorite one! Use code KARA10 for 10% off
- Apply regular polish
- Apply regular top coat
- When you’re ready to take off your regular polish, you can use acetone or non-acetone remover (I prefer acetone, read about it here!) and it won’t disturb your gel manicure at all (remember, we need to file off a few layers of the gel manicure and soak it with acetone for 20+ minutes to fully remove it. A quick swipe of acetone should not cause lifting at all if you apply your gel well)
- When you’re ready to take off your gel manicure, you can either do a fill, or fully remove it. Again, see this blog post about all types of removal!
Note: I do not recommend truly “mixing” regular polish + gel polish (as in painting regular polish with a gel top coat). I only recommend doing a full gel manicure, and then doing a full regular manicure on top, never sandwich them. Why? We don’t want anything to inhibit the gel polish from being able to fully cure which can lead to allergies and skin issues that are painful and may prohibit you from using gel polish at all.
OK SO HOW DO YOU GET STARTED?
GEL LAMP: You need a light to cure gel products or else they will never dry ;) These two are affordable and work really well. I used them at nail school!
GEL LAMP 1
GEL LAMP 2
GEL LAMP I USE - use code KARA10 for 10% off!
Quick note on gel lamps: I’ve seen a bunch of messages/questions recently from people saying their builder gel isn’t curing completely or they’re struggling with lifting. It’s extremely important for you to be using a gel lamp that is strong enough to cure a full gel manicure. You can’t use a tiny flash curing lamp for this, you need a lamp like the ones I linked above. If you don’t fully cure your gel, you can develop painful allergies and skin issues, and your manicure will not last.
DRILL! I love using an electric drill for super fast and easy removal. I also have tiny drill bits for cuticle prep that are soo amazing at removing stubborn cuticle on your nail! This link has my favorite drill plus the drill bits I recommend here.
GEL REMOVAL CAPS: If you want to do a full removal,I love using these caps in place of foil because they’re so easy to use and they’re reusable!
Ok it’s no secret that I am a HUGE Kokoist gel nail polish fan. They are high quality, Japanese gel products. This means that they are pure gel (a lot of gel products you find online - like from amazon or even CND Shellac - are hybrid gel products, so they’re mixed with other ingredients and I don’t find them to be as thick, as easy to apply, or as pigmented!). Japanese gel is also fully pigmented, so when you get a colored gel, it is FULL color. I’ve used some other brands where you need like 4 coats of gel to get the color it’s supposed to be, and that’s just a waste of time!!
If you want to read more about why I love gel + these polishes, I have an entire blog post about it HERE.
I would love if you used my link to purchase so kokoist knows what you came from me!! And I have a code for 10% off - it’s KARA10 that you can use outside of the Memorial Day sale :)
Here are my FAVE products from Kokoist for this process:
CLEAR BUILDER GEL:
Clear Builder Base - use code KARA10 for 10% off
Platinum Filler Base - use code KARA10 for 10% off
Both of these are excellent for this process. I love both equally, but the Platinum Filler base is great for beginners because it’s a little thicker and self levels slowly. It’s also *slightly* harder than the CBB, which is great for longer nails because it provides extra strength. CBB is also great for beginners because it's not quite as thick, and it's easy to work with! This is great for people with shorter nails too. It truly depends on what you think you'll like best, but you can't go wrong!
They also have 18 different tinted base gels in case you want something with a hint of color! I love using a neutral colored base which looks amazing under nail art, or helps your color pop!
TINTED BASE GELS:
Shop the entire collection here. Use code KARA10 for 10% off!
Peachy Base - My ALL TIME favorite base gel :) A sheer, peachy neutral
Strawberry Milk Base - A sheer, milky pink!
Milky Base - Sheer, milky white!
Hazelnut Creamer Base - This is my new favorite neutral color!!
Cantaloupe Base - A more orange-y neutral.
Ultra Glossy Non-Wipe Top Coat: My GO-TO top coat. It's so shiny. And I love how it's non-wipe, this means that once it's done curing, it's not sticky. If it's sticky, you know that it's not done curing!!
OK SO NOW YOU HAVE YOUR SUPPLIES, HOW DO YOU APPLY THE GEL??
First off, I recommend watching my Manicure Prep Course to prep your nails perfectly for gel. I always say this! But your nails need to be prepped correctly or else your gel might not last, it might lift or chip and you won’t get the best results!! Read more about the course here and how it will change your mani game :)
After your nails are prepped, you can apply your gel polish! If you don’t know how to apply it, or you want a little guidance, here are some of my courses that I recommend:
Gel Manicure 1.0 Masterclass: Foundations, Application & Removal Course: Learn EXACTLY how!! This course is perfect for anyone who wants to learn the basics of gel, or improve their gel manicure quality and longevity.
Gel Manicure 2.0 Masterclass: E-File Manicure Removal, Prep + Builder Gel Application: Learn my exact builder gel + fill process!
Builder Gel Application Tutorial: Just builder gel application!
Gel Manicure Masterclass Bundle: Both of my gel manicure masterclasses in one bundle!
ALSO: SAVE 20% ON ALL COURSES THIS WEEK ONLY WITH CODE MDW20 !!!
More resources here:
READ MY OTHER POSTS ABOUT KOKOIST HERE!
Kokoist x Nail Thoughts Builder Gel Bases Review + Hybrid Gel and Pure Gel Explained! - My review & swatch photos of all of the builder base gels + MORE INFO!
Builder Gel + Base Gel EXPLAINED! - Did you know not all gel is created equal?
How I'm Growing My Nails With Gel - Explaining my favorite gel manicure process that has helped me grow my nails so long!
My Favorite Kokoist Products - A great place to start building your collection!
My Gel Manicure Starter Pack - Lights, prep items, etc!
Gel Polish 101 - Everything you want to know about gel manicures
COURSES THAT USE & EXPLAIN HOW TO USE KOKOIST PRODUCTS:
My Gel Manicure Painting & Removal Course - Perfect for DIYers and anyone looking to improve!
If you have any other questions or are confused about any thing regarding gel or the products or process or truly ANYTHING, leave a comment or DM me on instagram!! I want to help you build your cart and get exactly what you need! :)