You may not have heard of BIAB nails until now, or perhaps the word is vaguely familiar but you aren't sure what's actually involved.
This trending technique is increasingly on the lips of those in the know, and with very good reason. BIAB promises a nail-strengthening treatment – topped with arty nail designs or summer nail colors as you wish – that's more hard-wearing yet also gentler than gels.
This is a strong claim because most nail services fall into one of two categories: Traditional polish offers superior nail care but can chip within days (or even hours – who has time for that?) Or, choose between dip powder nails, gel or acrylic nails, both hard-wearing but potentially nail-knackering due to aggressive removal techniques. And that's before you consider the damage caused by picking them off at home, which we all know is how a large proportion of gels are actually disposed of. BIAB'S combination of kindness and endurance sounds like the holy grail, so we've consulted expert nail technicians to answer all your questions.
BIAB nails: your expert guide
What are BIAB nails?
"BIAB is a soak-off gel that is harder than regular gel polish," explains Treatwell Nail Expert Laurie Nicholl, (opens in new tab) from Lacquered & Stripped Salon. If you're wondering where the name BIAB comes from, it's an acronym created by The Gel Bottle, a British-owned brand that invented the service. "Builder In A Bottle aka BIAB, are a range of soak-off gel builders ideal for creating strong overlays and as a strengthening barrier for natural nails." explains nail expert and The Gel Bottle content creator, Tiffany Abbigaile (opens in new tab).
In terms of appearance, you can expect a smooth, plump, strongly-shaped nail, in a limited range of colors. "BIAB usually comes in clear or cover colors like pink," says Nicholl. But if you are a gel mani fan you can combine the two. "A gel nail color can be painted directly on top of BIAB or you can make the most of our BIAB shade range and simply top coat for beautiful nude nails," explains Abbigaile. This means you can achieve pretty much any look you like, be it muted nudes and moody fall nail designs and colors - or you can get a bit more creative with nail art if that's your thing.
What happens during a BIAB nails appointment?
If you have ever had salon Shellac or are au fait with how to do gel nails at home, a BIAB nails appointment will feel like familiar territory, with a few key differences. Tiffany Abbigaile explains:
- Prep: "Firstly we will perfectly prep the nails, this includes pushing back the cuticles, cuticle trim, buffing, and filing the nails into shape. We will then ensure no dust is left on the nail plate with a nail brush, then a wipe of acetone on a lint-free pad."
- Base: "Working on one hand at a time the next step is to apply a thin layer of BIAB on all five nails and cure on low heat mode for 99 seconds."
- Gel: "We then work on one nail at a time. Apply another thin layer to the nail, whilst this is still wet we pick up a small bead of gel and place this near the cuticle and work this down the nail side by side. We turn the nail upside down to create an apex then cure for 99 seconds and repeat these steps on all nails."
- Finish: "You can then choose to either topcoat, apply gel color, or nail art. Finish off with cream and cuticle oil."This top coat is instantly dry, like gels, which will be a bonus for anyone seeking to learn how to dry nail polish fast.
Who are BIAB nails best for?
The world can be divided into a few nail personalities. There are those who like to keep things short, clean, and au naturale. There are those for whom knowing how to paint your nails means a cute squoval nail shape in a single on-trend color, then there are acrylic addicts with long, nail-art adorned talons. Luckily BIAB is a fairly adaptable service for almost any nail preference.
"BIAB is perfect for clients with weak natural nails who want to grow them out, or clients who want the strength of extensions without the length," explains Nicholl. We recommend applying BIAB on natural nails as we find it’s great for clients who want to keep their natural length. For regular gel polish wearers, we recommend switching to BIAB if you find the gel removal process has weakened the natural nail."
How long does BIAB last on nails?
As for the million-dollar question, how long does BIAB last? Experts agree that up to four weeks is the industry standard, although they can last longer. If you want to extend the life of BIAB, you can have an appointment for infill of the regrowth, which is actually one of the key benefits for nail health. "Since the product can be infilled, it reduces damage to the natural nail caused by removing gel polish," explains Nicholl.
What do BIAB nails look like?
Does BIAB damage your nails?
In short, no! BIAB works to strengthen the natural nail and prevent breakage or weakness that is typically caused by acrylic extensions or naturally brittle nails. If you are a nail-biter, it will help you to kick that habit too, as BIAB is too strong to bite through. It also won't chip or break, so the nail underneath remains protected and is able to grow.
How are they removed?
Unsurprisingly, every expert we spoke to stressed the importance of professional removal, to preserve the health of the natural nail. "The bulk of the product needs to be removed first by either a nail file or electric nail file. We will then soak a cotton pad with acetone, place it on the nail then wrap it with foil," explains Abbigaile. "After a few minutes, the foil can be removed one nail at a time, by gently scraping away the product with a metal cuticle pusher."
This doesn't sound like it would be the healthiest move for your natural nail (ask any expert is acetone bad for your nails and the reply is a resounding yes) but steps are taken to ameliorate any damage. "Once removed, we rehydrate the nail with cream and oil," explains Abbigaile.
Are BIAB nails better than acrylic?
The answer to this question will differ for each person depending on what you want to achieve with the look and feel of your nails. But in terms of nail health, BIAB is definitely a better alternative to acrylic as it provides increased strength without compromising the natural nail.
When it comes to extensions, the answer is slightly more tricky. Whilst extensions can be done with BIAB, they typically won't be as long as acrylic ones, so this is something to bear in mind if you like the long and shapely look. "BIAB can be applied on acrylic or UV Gel; however, it won’t enhance the result of the extensions. With BIAB, you can do very short extensions, but they usually need to be done with tips, not sculpting," explains Nicholl.
If you want to work on growing your natural nails and eliminate extensions altogether, BIAB is definitely the best option for you. If you are consistent with BIAB and get regular infills, it won't take long for your natural nails to grow long and healthy.
How much do BIAB nails cost and where can I try it?
If you like the sound of BIAB and are keen to try the service for yourself, it is currently available at selected The Gel Bottle partner salons nationwide. The best way to find one is to check your local nail bar on Treatwell (UK) (opens in new tab) or Booksy (US) (opens in new tab)
The costs will vary from salon to salon but expect to pay around $65/£40 for your first set, the same again for infills, and $20/£15 for removal.
"BIAB is growing in popularity amongst our customers. We definitely expect to see more salons adding it to their treatment menu," says Nicholl. And we say, bring it on!
Can I do BIAB nails at home?
As with most beauty treatments, going to a professional will always garner better results than doing it yourself. However, with the right equipment, it is possible to do BIAB nails at home.
BIAB functions much like regular gel polish in terms of prep and method, so is painted on like a base coat that then has to be cured with a UV lamp. However, due to the thick and gloopy texture of BIAB, it can be difficult to control and apply correctly which is where professional skill is needed.If you want to achieve the look of BIAB from home but lack a nail tech diploma you could use one of the best at-home gel nail kits to replicate the effect. There are a host of products available that are easier to use and will help you fake it.
Our beauty team recommends...
Mylee 5 in 1 Builder Base Strengthening Gel | RRP: $16 / £13.50
This light pink builder gel dries glossy and will give you premium-looking BIAB in one simple step. Follow with a top coat to set and enjoy long-lasting and strong nails.
OPI Clear Nail Varnish Top Coat| RRP: $18.91 / £15.95
For all the shine with none of the fuss, this OPI standard polish top coat will keep your polish looking bright and glossy.
Mylee Complete Professional Gel Nail Polish LED Lamp Kit | RRP: $106.67 / £89.99
If you want to ease yourself in slowly to the world of BIAB, start off with a gel polish kit. With a lamp, polishes, and removal solution, this has everything you need.
Fandamei Nail Files & Buffer Block Set | RRP: $8.29 / £6.99
The key to any long-lasting nail polish, especially BIAB, is good nail prep. Buff the surface and trim your cuticles with this handy set that will help your polish last.
Barry M Cosmetics Gelly Nail Paint | RRP: $3.20 / £2.70
Gelly nail polishes are great at imitating the appearance of BIAB. To keep your nails looking plump and healthy between appointments, these Barry M nail paints are a wonderfully affordable option.
- Burt's Bees Moisturising Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream £4.53 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
- Burt's Bees Moisturising Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream £6.30 at Feelunique (opens in new tab)
"As a rule of thumb, BIAB will last around three to four weeks – then it can be either soaked off and re-done, or infilled. To fully restore damaged nails to perfect health, we'd recommend regular appointments for around 6 months, for the nail to fully re-grow.”What are BIAB nails? ›
BIAB or Builder in a Bottle is a gel-like nail polish applied as an overlay on natural nails or short extensions. It works like a gel but it dries strong and durable, meaning you're less likely to chip between sessions.How often does BIAB last? ›
How long does BIAB last? The BIAB treatment only lasts around three to four weeks, then it can be either soaked off and re-done, or infilled. To fully restore the nails to a perfect look, we'd recommend regular appointments every 2-3 weeks.What is the difference between gel nails and BIAB nails? ›
Gel nail polish was developed by CND under the brand name Shellac and is a liquid polish that is cured (basically hardened) under a UV lamp. Curing makes gel polish chip-resistant and gives it a longer wear. BIAB is a form of gel polish, which has a stronger base — this is why it assists growth.How can I make my BIAB nails last longer? ›
If you want to extend the life of BIAB, you can have an appointment for infill of the regrowth, which is actually one of the key benefits for nail health. "Since the product can be infilled, it reduces damage to the natural nail caused by removing gel polish," explains Nicholl.Does BIAB last longer than gel? ›
Why we recommend BIAB. We always recommend Builder in a Bottle to clients who struggle to grow their nails, whether they bite their nails or have weak nail beds. We've found manicures using BIAB as the base tend to last about a week longer than manicures using our normal gel base coat.Can you remove BIAB? ›
How long does it take to remove BIAB™ ? BIAB™ should be buffed first and then soaked off using neat acetone. This can take between 10 and 12 minutes but this time may increase if extensions are longer or if a higher apex is built.Does BIAB ruin your nails? ›
So, is BIAB polish good for nails? Short answer: Yes. Natural nails can benefit from trying the BIAB technique over other manicures. Plus, the application and removal process is less likely to damage your nails than classic styles like acrylics, gel or dip powder.How do you refill a BIAB nail? ›
BIAB is simply refilled instead of soaked off unlike regular gel polish. The refill process requires coloured gel to be filed off to allow for reapplication of BIAB to fill the new growth of the natural nail. BIAB can also be fully soaked off as opposed to hard gel needing to be filed off.Is gel or BIAB better? ›
Similar to a gel, BIAB (which stands for Builder In A Bottle) is the latest product innovation from The Gel Bottle Inc. Its unique formula mimics the strength and durability you find with SNS and acrylic but is by far much healthier for your nail plate underneath.
B.I.A.B is applied underneath your gel polish. The builder gel is applied first, set and filed. Then your gel colour is applied over the top.Is BIAB better than acrylic? ›
Why is it better than acrylic? The BIAB is a lot thinner when applied to the nail so it isn't as heavy on the natural nail helping them grow longer and keeping your natural nails healthier.What are the benefits of BIAB? ›
Much like Rubber Base, BIAB™ increases the nails flexibility - meaning nails are much less likely to snap. They come in a range of super popular nude colours which can be used alone over forms (or underneath any one of our super-pigmented TGB colours) for a super strong extension.Can you put gel polish over BIAB? ›
Generally BIAB comes in a smaller range of colours (mostly pale and pastel shades of pinks and purples), but you can apply any other gel polish over a clear BIAB base if you want to, meaning you can still go all out with nail art and bright neons if you fancy.Does BIAB last longer than shellac? ›
Even though it is a gel product (note: gel and shellac are the same), BIAB cures hard under an LED light and is more durable than your regular shellac.What is the difference between shellac and BIAB? ›
Unlike gel or shellac polishes, BIAB is made of ingredients that work to strengthen and nourish the nail, so it helps to harden your natural nails while you wear it. BIAB can be used alone, together with extensions or as a base underneath traditional gel polish to add extra strength.How long does BIAB take to apply? ›
No 'prep-and-wipe' or 'scrub-fresh' solutions. Apply an even coat of clear Rubber base (if using white or clear BIAB) or a thin coat of your chosen nude BIAB to the natural nail. Cure for 60 seconds in the TGB light the way lamp or 99 seconds if using low heat mode. We do not recommend the use of other lamps.Can builder gel damage nails? ›
Is builder gel bad for nails? The short answer is NO.Can I do BIAB at home? ›
Builder in a Bottle (BIAB) is a soak off builder gel that helps natural nails to grow as it adds strength under gel polish. It is also designed to be infilled, meaning you no longer have to soak off every time. This BIAB application online course can be done from the comfort of your own home.How many times can you fill builder gel? ›
Most gel clients can easily go 3-4 weeks between fills. However, it can be beneficial to start out with 2-week intervals until you see how she is adapting to her nails. As time progresses the intervals can be extended to 3 or 4 weeks. The key is consistency and regularly scheduled appointments.
Another way that BIAB helps you grow your nails is that you don't have to have the whole of your colour removed, and your nails filed and shaped at each appointment. BIAB nails can also be 'infilled' by simply filling in the natural nail regrowth at the base of the nail bed.How long does builder gel last? ›
How long does builder gel last? 2-3 weeks. Though a manicure created with builder gel can last up to three weeks, this often depends on which brand you use and how well you apply it – plus, how well the old coat is removed. When applied on natural nails, a strong and healthy base is required.Does BIAB last longer than Shellac? ›
Even though it is a gel product (note: gel and shellac are the same), BIAB cures hard under an LED light and is more durable than your regular shellac.How long does BIAB take to remove? ›
How long does it take to remove BIAB™ ? BIAB™ should be buffed first and then soaked off using neat acetone. This can take between 10 and 12 minutes but this time may increase if extensions are longer or if a higher apex is built.Are BIAB nails better than acrylic? ›
Why is it better than acrylic? The BIAB is a lot thinner when applied to the nail so it isn't as heavy on the natural nail helping them grow longer and keeping your natural nails healthier.Can you pick off BIAB? ›
It goes without saying, but don't ever pick off gel, BIAB or acrylic because you risk peeling away layers of the natural nail, causing thin, brittle and sensitive nails that have to be grown out.Do you have to wipe BIAB? ›
No 'prep-and-wipe' or 'scrub-fresh' solutions. Apply a thin layer of TGB BIAB™ over the natural nail (use a layer of TGB Rubber Base if using TGB Clear or White BIAB™.) Cure using the TGB Light The Way Lamp on Low Heat Mode (99 seconds), the lamp has been specifically designed to cure TGB products.