We’ve heard techs say that the number of different products involved in gel systems confuses them and prevents them from offering gel services at their salon. But gels are rather straightforward once you understand the basic steps.

Essentially, all gels are a three-step system consisting of a bonder, builder, and sealer. The bonder works in much the same way as an acrylic primer; it prepares the nail for adhesion. The builder sculpts the shape of the nail, which is cured and filed to perfection. The sealer smoothes out filing marks and gives the nail a nice shine that protects it from yellowing and chipping.

Some companies offer different variations of each step, so techs can be more precise on applications for different clients. Some have multiple bonders that are specific to different kinds of nail beds, such as damaged nails, nails that repel product, or nails that are high in moisture.

Almost every gel system has a number of builder or sculpting gels. They can come in a variety of color options, from pink and clear for French looks, to a full collection of color gels for a semi-permanent look. They can also be specific for use on forms and tips, and some companies even have special rebuilder gels that are a thinner viscosity and used to fix small imperfections.

Sealers come in specific forms as well, including color sealers, and sealers that enhance shine.

We’ve collected a list here of the most basic components in the systems of top gel suppliers to give you an idea of what’s out there and to help you understand how they relate to their counterparts from other manufacturers.


Bonders are the first product applied in a gel service. It acts as a base for gentle, yet strong adhesion of the sculpting gel.


Builder gels are used to give the nail its shape. Builder gels can be used over tips or forms, and they can come in two forms of consistency, self-leveling and non-leveling. Self-leveling means that when a gel is applied to the nail, it spreads out and over the nail bed on its own. These are great for nail beds that already have a nice curve and apex. Non-leveling gels do not spread out over the nail, and only move with the nail technician’s brush. These are great for nail beds that are flat, because the tech can manipulate the gel and shape it into an ideal nail shape on her own.


Sealers are the last product applied to a gel service. They act as a protection agent to prevent chipping and yellowing, and they can be either clear or colored. The sealers fill in any scratch marks and leave a high shine. This action takes the place of buffing on standard acrylic services. (Many techs use gel sealers over their acrylic full sets as well.) Once the sealer has been cured, the nails are completely finished and dry.

Check out the following companies that produce bonds, builders, and sealants:

Akzentz, Backscratchers, CND, En Vogue, Entity Beauty, EZ Flow, IBD, Konad, LCN, LeChat, Light Elegance, Nail Labo, NSI, Nubar, OPI Products, Soft Touch, Star Nail, and Young Nails.

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