Gel...Like That Stuff You Put in Your Hair

Photo courtesy of Sara Khalaf/NailsbySara (
I talk about gel a lot, don’t I? Well, acrylic was the first product for building nail extensions that really took off here in the States. For a couple of decades, getting your nails “done” meant you wore acrylic. Even though gel has been around about as long as acrylic has, to most people — consumers and techs alike — it went unheard of altogether, or as a mysterious rumor.
Suddenly, over the last few years, gel technology for use in the nail biz has exploded! The gels haven’t exploded, so much as the availability of products, the knowledge of the products at the consumer level, and the variety of products available.
Everyone knows about gel nowadays...or rather, everyone thinks they know about gel.
The problem is that we don’t refer to gel products by any sort of scientific nomenclature. We just call it “gel.” And that covers a lot of ground when it comes to light-cured polymer technology.
An even bigger problem? We can’t fix the problem. Because we — you, me, the manufacturers, the marketers, the professional nail industry at large — can’t all agree on the terminology we should use when referring to each product.
So we have gel, gel-polish, no-light gel, hard gel, soft gel, soak-off gel, builder gel, and traditional gel, just to get started. Then we further muddy it up at the marketing level by confusing consumers (and some pros) with name brands like “Shellac” and generic technique names like “rockstar.”
Half the people I talk to don’t know that you can build a nail with gel. Because they only know “gel” as gel-polish.
But one thing we all — well most — agree on here in the biz: Gel is called “gel” because it’s a GEL. As in gelatinous. Gooey, even. Many people compare it to honey; thicker or thinner, but honey-like.
NEVER a powder. I know there are couple of companies that make “powder gel,” and I wish they’d rename it. I wish we could get everyone in the industry on board with some sort of standardized nomenclature for gel products.
Because, if we aren’t on the same page, how can we hope to educate our clients?

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