The world of nail care can be a bit confusing, especially when it comes to differentiating between a gel manicure and a gel overlay. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of each and when it is appropriate to offer a gel overlay instead of a gel manicure. We will also address common questions such as the cost difference between the two. So, let’s dive in!
What is a Gel Overlay?
To put it simply, a gel overlay refers to any nail material that is applied over the natural nails. This term can also be used interchangeably with “structured gel overlay,” which involves the use of a soft builder gel to provide structure and reinforcement.
While there is technically no difference between the terms “gel manicure” and “gel overlay,” I prefer to use them in a way that simplifies my service menu. For shorter nails, I use the term “gel manicure” and apply a base gel to lightly structure the nails. On the other hand, for longer nails, I use the term “gel overlay” and use a soft builder gel to provide a more substantial structure.
This approach has proven successful in my salon, and my students have also found it effective. If you’re interested in learning more about how to structure and price your services, I have a pricing cheat sheet available [here](LINK TO PRICING CHEAT SHEET).
In summary, gel nail structures can be referred to as either “structured gel manicure” or “structured gel overlay.” Gel structuring involves the application of slightly to medium viscous gel to create a balanced apex that reinforces the natural nail. Soft gel structures are popular because they are thin and enhance the look and feel of your natural nails.
Once the gel structure is in place, you can finish it off with color or nail art. If you use tinted bases, such as a builder in a bottle, you can simply complete the structured overlay with top gel.
Now, let’s explore some important factors to consider when providing structured gel manicures or gel overlays.
1. Builder Gel
Japanese gels offer a soak-off builder gel that provides both protection and natural solid enhancements for the nails. Despite their thinner consistency compared to hard gel, these builder gels are incredibly strong and flexible. This unique formulation matches the flexibility of natural nails, resulting in long-lasting wear.
When applying a gel overlay, there will be a thin layer of builder gel on top of the base gel layer. This builder layer adds strength without adding bulk, regardless of the nail length. I highly recommend options like Leafgel, Kokoist, and Vetro, as they have consistently delivered excellent results for me. It’s important to stick with clear gels from the same brand to avoid any potential service breakdowns.
You may have seen pictures of perfect gel nail manicures on social media, where the nails appear thin in the cuticle area, slightly thicker in the middle, and delicate at the free edge. Achieving this ideal shape requires the use of clear gels applied in a structured manner.
Regular gel nail polish manicures typically involve applying the base gel layer, color, and top coat. While the base gel can provide some structure, its thinner viscosity often results in a flatter nail. This is not necessarily a problem if it is the desired outcome. However, if you want to add volume and strength, a builder gel will be a better option.
It’s important to note that some clients prefer a flat polish-like application. When building your service menu and determining prices, consider whether to offer this option and whether to charge less or the same for it. Make sure to analyze your clients’ nails and provide expert recommendations based on their specific needs.
As an expert in your field, educate your clients about the differences between a gel overlay and a gel manicure. This will help them make informed decisions and see the value in choosing the appropriate service.
3. Efile Rebalancing
One advantage of a gel overlay is that it eliminates the need for soaking off the product during every rebalance or color change. Instead, you can use an efile to file off the top coat and color layer down to the base layer before starting over. This saves time, protects the natural nails, and promotes the growth of long, healthy nails.
Although you can use a hand file for this process, utilizing an efile can significantly speed up removals once you are properly trained. I recommend receiving training before using an efile with clients to ensure both your safety and their satisfaction.
To recap, a gel overlay adds strength to the existing nails and can be referred to as a “structured gel manicure” or a “structured gel overlay.” When providing these services, consider the use of builder gel, nail structure, and the benefits of efile rebalancing.
If you wish to master gel manicures or gel overlay applications, I offer a comprehensive Master Gel Nails Course that covers these techniques in detail. Start with the free masterclass to see if the MGN Course is the next step in your nail journey.
Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you in the next article. Bye for now!
Content by Paola Ponce and Fabiola Saucedo.
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