5 Common Mistakes With A Structured Gel Overlay

A structured Gel Overlay is a reinforced application of gel on natural nails. Because the application is a bit thicker than just brushing on gel over the nails (like in a gel polish application), it allows your gel nails to last 3 to 6 weeks. It will help you grow your nails.

Applying a structured gel overlay requires a bit of technique, patience, and practice. You’ll have an unflattering thick gel nail application when you lack these.

In today’s topic, we’ll discuss five common mistakes gel nail stylists make with a structured gel overlay. Let’s begin.

In a structured gel overlay application, you typically allow the product to flow and position itself where it needs to go. We call this self-leveling. 

When a structured gel overlay is self-leveled, ideally, the apex lies in the center (but a little closer to the cuticle area for shorter nails). The entire perimeter, including sidewalls, free edge, and cuticle area, are self-leveled thin.

Mistake #1 Applying the gel too thick.

Natural nails that already have C-curve will require less product than flat natural nails. Most of your clients will have flat nails, so we are adding a structured gel overlay application to give the nails volume and a slight pinch. The beautiful thing about soft potted gel nail formulas is that the gel naturally pinches the nails without you having to do anything extra.

So remember, on c-curved nails, you are merely self-leveling gel, while on flat nails, you building structure.

Mistake #2 Working with an overloaded gel brush.

An overloaded gel brush has gel on both sides and feels difficult to work with. It feels like you’re mopping the nail.

This will cause you to apply the structured gel overlay too thick and make your application feel like a bulky fake nail, unlike your natural nails.

Your structured gel overlay should not feel or wear like that. It should feel light, like an enhancement of your natural nails. Even if you don’t think you have pretty nails, a structured gel overlay gives you nearly an instant transformation.

So the correct way to load up your brush is with product primarily on one side of the brush and more concentrated at the tip of that brush.

Mistake #3 Incorrect placement of the apex.

This happens when the thickness of the gel concentrates at the cuticle or the free edge.

Having too much gel at the cuticle area and not at the free edge can cause the gel to lift at the free edge. Short nails may not be a problem, but if the nails are a bit longer, it can make them look unbalanced, with some lifting at the free edge.

Having too much gel at the free edge is worse. However, not only will that application look unbalanced, but you will experience random lifting at the cuticle area because there is not enough gel to hold on to the nail when pressure is applied daily on the free edge.

Too much product concentrated at the free edge can make the nails look too wide.

Mistake #4 Applying a thick application, no self-leveling.

A structured overlay does not simply mean putting extra gel on the natural nails.

You may think. “Oh. Well. if adding more gel to the nails makes them last, well then- let’s add more gel”. Doing this without learning and focusing on self-leveling will result in bumpy nails not being correctly structured. Your client will eventually say something as she continues to see pictures of amazingly structured gel nails on the “gram.

Mistake #5 Removing the old product in “pieces.”

You cannot assume that because you’re going to self-level on the remaining gel, all will be ok if you remove the gel in a blotchy, patchy way. Especially when working with a self-leveling gel like builder in a bottle or soft builder gel.

These gels will flow into every nook and cranny, making some areas of your self-leveling uneven and making things frustrating for you.

When removing the old product, do so in long even strokes, and make sure each is buffed flat before applying your structured gel overlay.

Working with the right consistency of the gel is vital. I find that soft potted gel formulas like Japanese gel give us everything we are looking for without choosing from too many options. They are meant to self-level like a dream, with finish-filing being optional.

Sidenote: The white efile bit you see is a ceramic bit in medium. Ceramic bits are a game-changer when working with gels as they are less prone to heating up fast, helping the nails stay cooler. One of my favorite source for these is Melodysusie (code PPN10). The shape preference is yours.

For instance, as we discussed earlier, nails with a solid c-curve need a generously thin reinforcement. For such nails, Leafgel’s Sanding-Free Plus, Kokoist Platinum Bond Duo, or The Nail Thoughts Tinted Bases are great options.

You can use the mentioned options for nails requiring more structured volume. Still, I prefer a thin gel base layer followed by a structured application with a soak-off builder gel like Kokoist Excel, Leafgel’s Sculpting, or Vetro’s Extension Gel.

These brands (above) have been my preferred gels for structures for over 5 years now.

Here’s where you can find them :

(Remember to apply them generously and self-leveled or they will not wear at their max.)

The following are 2-in-1 formulas, with base and builder integrated in one formula.

  1. Leafgel Sanding Free + (Save 10% and support this blog w/ code PPN10)
  2. Kokoist Platinum (Save 10% and support this blog w/ code PPN10)
  3. Nail Thoughts (Save 10% and support this blog w/ code PPN10)

You could also purchase a base and builder separate. With this approach your builder is much stronger. Suitable for long nails.

  1. Leafgel Extreme Clear Base w/ Sculpting Gel (Save 10% and support this blog w/ code PPN10)
  2. Kokoist Mega Stick Base w/ Excel Builder (Save 10% and support this blog w/ code PPN10)

Let’s recap the five mistakes:

#1 Applying the gel too thick.

#2 Working with an overloaded gel brush.

#3 Incorrect placement of the apex.

#4 Applying a thick application, no self-leveling.

#5 Removing the old product in “pieces.”

I hope you learned tons about today’s topic.

Want to deepen your understanding of all the gels in the market? Grab my Gel Nails 101 Guide here, it’s free!

Learn my full salon process for monthly wearing gel nail application inside the Master Gel Nails Course.

Content written by Paola Ponce

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