Jump ahead, or keeping reading to learn everything you need to know from A to Z about this little-known technique.
What, exactly, is a structured gel manicure?
As its name suggests, a structured gel manicure is a gel-based technique that focuses on restructuring the look and shape of your nails.
This type of manicure is meant to reinforce your natural nail with a supportive layer of rubber-based gel to protect your natural nails from breakage. It also mends broken free edges (bye-bye, frustrating hangnails) and conceals ridges and discoloration. Sounds like a dream? Here’s the slight catch: structured manicures put emphasis on 3D styling rather than 2D art, which means it requires time, patience, and precision in order to create a natural-looking layer that replicates the natural arch and shape of your nail.
New York-based nail stylist Elle Gerstein compares the procedure to “laying a tile floor on a good mud job. If you don’t do the mud job correctly, what’s going to happen to the tile? It’s going to crack.”
Kandalec says structured gel manicures are beneficial for all nail types, especially nail biters or those trying to grow out damaged nails. “Having any enhancement on for a longer period of time can help the hyponychium (the skin under the free edge) reattach itself after it’s been torn too low or bitten too much,” she says. Gerstein adds that getting a structured gel manicure can also help align crooked nails.
How are structured gel manicures different from acrylic nails?
We know what you’re thinking: Isn’t this kind of like an acrylic manicure? Well, not really. The overall idea of creating a protective layer to restructure the natural nail is all the two types of manicures have in common. New York City-based nail stylist Gina Edwards says that unlike acrylics, the rubber-gel base used for a traditionally structured manicure is lighter on the nail in comparison to acrylic, plus the former takes less time to soak off when submerged into acetone than acrylic or hard gels due to its high viscosity.