Is A Structured Overlay Hard Gel or Soft Gel?

I was hosting a class recently and got into the nitty gritty of soft gel nail knowledge.

I explained to my students the beauty and strength of structured soft gel products.

But then it came to my mind hard gel has structure too. And so, why don’t we call hard gel enhancements structured hard gel overlays?

Alright, today I want to define some things so that by the end, we are all speaking the same thing and are marketing ourselves to our best potential by knowing exactly what we do.

Before we start, it’s time to mark your calendars because our Leafgel certification is happening on March 6th, 7th, and 8th, 2023, followed by the Kokoist certification on April 23rd and 24th. You can sign up for the Leafgel waitlist here and the Kokoist waitlist here, and we will send you more updates very soon. Maybe as soon as this blog is posted, you’ll be getting your materials list, maybe early bird access, wink, wink, so make sure you sign up for the waitlist. Ok, moving on to our topic today…

SPOILER ALERT- Structured gel overlays are made up of (drumroll) … soft gel. Now, I really thought about holding you off on the answer for that, but if the baby started crying, your doorbell rang, or you had to click off suddenly, you’d have the answer.

This gel is then perfectly self-leveled with an apex to enhance the look and feel of the natural nails.

But wait! What products do you use for a structured overlay? Maybe you thought a structured overlay was simply a BIAB or builder in a bottled gel nail application.

No. Not necessarily. Let’s identify some structure gel overlay products.

Can I first clarify the word “soft” in soft gel? Soft does not refer to the product being super soft and bendy, as you may think from its name. When we say it is soft, that is because it is porous. Its molecular bonds are loose, allowing acetone to penetrate and break down the product. In a hard nail gel, the opposite is true. The molecules form tight bonds and do not allow acetone to penetrate and break down the product.

And I want to say that before 2017 approximately, knowing whether or not a gel soaked off was important and essentially the determinant factor for purchasing the gel. But that is no longer the case with soft structured gel because a soft structured gel is strong and does not require that you fully remove the product. You can “fill” soft gel when it is a structured soft gel type.

You may be wondering. Hard gel looks pretty structured to me; why is that not called or classified as a structure gel overlay? True hard gel enhancements are indeed structured gel overlay applications, but they are not referred to as “structured gel overlays” because structured is the only way to apply hard gel. If you apply hard gel thin, it will crack, break, and eventually pop off. It can only be applied thick, as in structured.

While a soft gel may lift, it should never crack or pop off because its flexibility allows it to absorb impact and flex.

So what kind of products are structured soft gel?

Oh! Now we are in the nitty-gritty of the conversation. I’m so glad we are here.

Structured soft gel can be…

Aha! Now you know what that funky name refers to. It just means a flexible gel base.

I love to use the comparison of phone cases.

Let’s focus on the two most popular structures, soft gel products, builder in a bottle, and soft potted gel.

In the category of builder in a bottle, you have popular brands like:

  • The Gel Bottle
  • Luminary
  • Nail Thoughts

Typically, many builder in a bottle products tends to rely heavily on the concept of 3-in-1. This means base, builder, and color all in one gel.

Now, on to soft potted gel.

And if you are new here, this is my preferred product for structured gel overlay applications, gel extensions, and nail art.

Popular brands in the category of soft potted gel include:

  • Bio Sculpture Gel
  • And pretty much all Japanese Soft Gel systems.
  • Some of our favorites include Kokoist, Leafgel, Vetro, and Ageha.

Let’s bring it all home now, shall we?

We call this type of gel structure soft gel.

It allows us to self-level the application and strengthen it by adding a bit of volume and a perfectly self-leveled apex.

We don’t call hard gel nail overlays structured overlays because structured is the only way to apply these. You can apply structured soft gel somewhat thin if you want to, without the concern for cracking, breaking, or popping off.

That is not the case with hard gel.

And we also learned that there are two dominating categories for structured soft gel: builder-in-a-bottle products and soft potted gel systems.

If you’d love to know more about why we specialize in soft potted gel systems and have done so for the last eight years, do check out our free masterclass HERE.

Thank you for joining, and we’ll see you next time. Bye for now!

Content written by Paola Ponce 

Loved this blog? Then I think you’ll love learning more about my journey as a specialized gel nail solopreneur in the nail industry. Click here to get instant access to my free masterclass. These blogs are copyrighted material, and any use of this blog is not permitted without written concern first. Some of these blogs contain affiliate links that give us a small commission when qualifying purchases are made. Thank you for being so supportive, which helps us to continue creating valuable resources and content like this.

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