"BIAB" Nails Might Just Replace Your Gel-Manicure Habit

The service menu at a nail salon is bursting with options, and if you don't know what each one is, it can be hard to decide the right manicure type for you. BIAB nails, for example, or structred nails, as they're also called, are a popular manicure style that many salons offer, but not many people know exactly what they are.

BIAB is an acronym for "builder in a bottle." "Hard gel, or most gel, used to come in a pot, and now, it's starting to be sold in a bottle for ease of application," Julie Kandalec, manicurist and owner of Julie K Nail Artelier in New York City, tells POPSUGAR. The formula was originally created by Daisy Kalnina, the CEO and founder of The GelBottle Inc., in 2015, but now, many different brands have their own variations.

Ahead, keep reading to learn more about structured, aka BIAB nails, whether they're better than a regular gel manicure, and more.

What Are BIAB Nails, and What Is Builder Gel?

A structured manicure is another name for BIAB nails. "Basically, we're taking the builder-in-a-bottle gel and we're putting it on the nail first under gel polish to give the nail more of a structure," Kandalec says.

The application process for BIAB nails is simple. The bottle formula allows you to paint on the builder gel in the same way that you apply regular nail polish. You can do an overlay of your natural length or, depending on the type and strength of builder gel you use, you can even add length onto nails and create any shape you'd like.

Your nail-polish color and nail art then go on top of the builder-gel layer. "When we're ready to take it off, instead of soaking, [you] file it off so that that clear layer always stays underneath to protect the nail," Kandalec says. This helps keep your nails strong because they're not being dosed in acetone every time you get a fresh mani (more on that ahead).

Are BIAB Nails Safe?

Because BIAB nails provide a base layer for your gel-polish color, they're actually a bit better for your nails than traditional gel manicures.

"With regular gel polish, we were always putting it on, soaking it off, putting it on, soaking it off," Kandalec says. "What happens with builder-in-a-bottle manicures, or structured manicures, is that this clear hard-gel layer first protects the nail from the gel polish." This keeps nails from becoming as brittle or weak.

If your nails are short or broken, the builder in a bottle can help repair them and give them a beautiful shape. "If someone has ridges in their nails, it'll smooth all of that out."

Does Builder Gel Help Strengthen Nails?

"Builder gel does not specifically strengthen the physical nail," Vanessa McCullough, celebrity manicurist and nail educator, tells POPSUGAR. "It puts a strengthening coating on top of the nail which will provide extra support if nails are weak."

However, if you have trouble with an overgrowth of skin under your nails, otherwise known as the hyponychium, utilizing builder gel could help lessen the problem. "As your nails grow longer the hyponychium underneath the nail plate may extend a bit longer than usual," McCullough says. "This is a natural process that happens in order to provide your longer nail with additional support from underneath."

"Using a builder gel on top of the nail plate will offer that same support that the hyponychium functions as, and in some cases you may notice some recession of the elongated hyponychium," McCullough adds.

BIAB Nails vs. Acrylics

In general, BIAB nails are considered better for you than acrylic extensions, which can cause nails to become brittle. BIAB can be used in tandem with acrylics and applied over the extensions if you so choose, but builder gel is also a great alternative for adding length without the need for artificial tips.

How Much Do BIAB Nails Cost?

The price of BIAB nails varies by salon, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $35 to $60 for this manicure type — in the same ballpark as the cost of a regular gel manicure.

How Often Should You Get BIAB Nails Done?

A BIAB manicure lasts anywhere from two to four weeks, but Kandalec recommends you get them redone around every two to three weeks to keep them looking good and reduce the risk of breakage. When it's time to freshen them up, you can go to the salon to get them refilled just like a regular gel manicure.

How Are BIAB Nails Removed?

Unlike regular nail polish, BIAB nails need to be removed in a salon by a professional to preserve your natural nails. The builder gel is removed using the soak-off method. This involves using an electric file to remove the protective gel coating on the nail before applying an acetone-soaked cotton pad to each fingertip and wrapping it with foil. After allowing the nails to soak for a few minutes, you can scrape off the softened gel with a wooden cuticle pusher and repeat the steps as needed until the nail is completely clean.