BIAB nails: 'I tried the gel builder manicure that's taking over TikTok'

sadie j nails
Everything you need to know about BIAB nailsHearst Owned
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Hearst Owned

Between the shiny, millennial-centric brands delivering fresh drops through your letter box, the more established, cult buys and the indie outfits selling a fine line in 'natural and organic' products, the beauty landscape has never felt more cluttered.

To help you to navigate this brave new world of retinol, AHAs, jade rollers and double cleansing, WH beauty editor, Perdita Nouril, is here to try and test the new drops that are making their way into her (very full) bathroom, via her column, Beauty Dispatch.

Here, she'll share the freshly released heroes that she loves: ready to let you know where to spend your skin and hair care cash.

This time around, she tries the latest gel manicure that's doing the rounds on social media.


If you're someone who often gets their nails done professionally, we're assuming you're well versed on the different options available. There's acrylics – arguably the longest-lasting option, gel nails – the most widely available, and shellac – a brand of gel manicure that's become popular with the mainstream.

But have you heard of BIAB nails? The latest gel nail trend gaining momentum among the masses, BIAB nails offers a modern alternative to traditional gel manicures. Intrigued? Keep reading for everything you need to know about BIAB nails…

What is BIAB?

Let's begin with the basics. BIAB (pronounced by-abb) stands for “builder in a bottle” – it's a specially formulated soft-gel, that's specific to British gel nail polish brand, The Gel Bottle.

‘BIAB is designed to be used as a soft-gel overlay on the natural nail,’ explains Giorgia Cappella, training and education manager at The Gel Bottle. ‘It can provide extra strength and protection against breakages, allowing customers to grow their nails to new lengths.’

What’s the difference between BIAB and shellac or other gel manicures?

‘BIAB differs from other gel manicures and patented brands such as ‘shellac’ due to its formulation,’ says Cappella. ‘BIAB is not a regular gel polish. It is thicker in consistency and comes in a range of colours, which allows it to be worn as an overlay; a strengthening base for gel colours or as the colour itself.’

What’s the difference between BIAB and acrylics?

‘Acrylic nails are created by mixing a liquid (monomer) with a powder (polymer) to create a hard structure as an overlay or an extension to the natural nail. While acrylics support strength and durability, they can be harsh on the nails,’ says Cappella.

‘Alternatively, gel products use rays emitted by UV/LED light to turn the liquid gel into a hardened gel surface. As a result of this, gel nails have a more natural look to them and tend to be kinder on the nail due to their flexibility.’

‘When applied correctly, BIAB in comparison to acrylics, can provide as much strength and protection as an acrylic overlay. However is not advised to be used for creating extensions.’

Is BIAB good for your nails?

‘BIAB can be used in thin layers as a base coat to provide an added layer of strength to any gel polish manicure, however should be upsold and applied correctly as a natural nail overlay.’

‘When applied correctly in the three-step process that we recommend, BIAB is used to mimic the apex of the natural nail, providing the structure that the nail needs to withstand pressure in its stress point and protect against breakages. BIAB is great for keeping your nails long, strong and healthy.’

Ultimately, it's gentler than acrylic nails, but thicker than gel polish. The protective shell it creates over your nails is said to encourage natural nail growth and strength.

How is BIAB applied?

Prep

Your manicurist or nail technician will begin by prepping the nails. Think filing, buffing, cuticle work and removing any oils or residue on the nail with pure acetone.

Base

Next comes the application the base layer, which is a thin layer of the BIAB polish over the natural nail. If you want to use the clear or white shade then the nail tech will opt for the brand's rubber base, which is cured like a normal gel base on a low heat mode.

BIAB

This is the step where things start to look different. Rather than the normal liquid polish you get with a gel, the BIAB nail colours come in thick gels and are applied in a sort of round glob, that is then dragged back and forth and spread across the nail bed.

If you want a neutral colour then you use the BIAB base colour and you're good to go, or you can choose from BIABs wide range of colours, which is applied after the base.

Your tech tech will ensure there isn't a thick build-up around the edges and cuticle, before sealing the free edge.

Refine and buff

Next your manicurist will clean each nail with alcohol to remove any stickiness. They'll then refine the finish of the polish by filing it, which makes to make it appear more glossy before removing any dust with a duster brush.

Extras

Once you've got the base, you can go in on top with nail art, or if you're just using the BIAB as a base, you can apply any regular gel shade you like on top, then finish with a thin layer of top coat.

How long does BIAB last?

When it comes to the longevity of any nail service – it heavily depends on external factors. Lifestyle and after-care are important, however BIAB should provide ample nail protection, meaning that you can reach your 3-4 week maintenance appointment without chipping or lifting.

‘Just like all gel products, maintenance appointments should be regular and consistent in order to ensure the health of the natural nail,’ advises Cappella.

How much should BIAB nails cost?

BIAB prices, just like all nail services, will differ in location and experience. You can typically expect to pay around £25 to £70 for a BIAB manicure.

How do you remove BIAB?

‘BIAB is a soak off product, however there are three formulations within the range that must be used with a base coat prior to application, meaning that these three are a file-off product,’ explains Cappella.

‘We recommend infilling BIAB in order to maintain the strength of the natural nail whilst always checking the health of the nail and completing a full soak off and new set every 3/4 appointments’.

BIAB review: 'I tried the gel builder manicure that's taking over TikTok and IG'

I'll skip straight to the good part. BIAB nails are amazing. Being a mum of two kids that are both under five, I'm forever washing my hands and generally neglecting my nails because, as any busy parent will attest, manicures generally fall to the bottom of the list of priorities.

So, having stumbled on a spare lunch hour, I jumped at the chance to book in with Sadie J, a nail artist and ambassador for The Gel Bottle.

Having filed and buffed my sorry looking nails back to their former glory, she then began to work her magic. First she started with a BNIB base coat that was cured under the lamp.

Next, she began building the nails by placing a small dollop of the BIAB formula onto each nail before gently massaging it around with a brush so that it ended up looking from cuticle to tip. I then had to turn my hand upside down for a few seconds so that it 'formed' correctly over the nail. Essentially, this ensures it wasn't going to look lumpy.

I opted for one of the BIAB shades that comes in a nude-y pink but you can also go for a clear and then choose a colour to go over the top if you're looking for something more eye catching. Each nail was cured individually and then I was good to go!

Nearly three weeks later and my BIAB nails are still going strong. Usually my gel manicures last around two weeks before I catch them on something or they start to weaken and then chip.

I'll also add that even if you wanted to pick them off you couldn't, they're super strong. Of course, they've started to grow out a tad but the actual nail still looks in pristine condition, making them a winner. It's safe to say I'll be booking in for another round very soon.

What are the cons of biab nails?

So the colour range isn't vast compared to other gel polish brands. I also would say that getting BIAB seems to take a little longer compared to gels because they have to 'build' up the mani. Give yourself plenty of time when booking in. The same goes for removal if you're having them totally removed, rather than just getting infills.

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