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Some one brought up a good question the other day.


What is the difference between structured gels and gel polish?

gel with white tip





gel polish mint green

Basically, its all just science! No seriously, it is about chemical makeup.


Although each company is a little different, the basis is the same.

I am using the terms gel polish in general terms.

Structured gels are also called building gels or working gels by professionals but let’s keep it simple.



Structured Gels are used to enhance a natural nail by adding strength, repair a natural nail that is broken or most often, build a artificial nail enhancement that adds length. These gels come in different shades of pink, different hues of white, clear or in colored gels. (Not to be confused with gel polish-these are still structured gel and removal is completely different)


Gel Polish is used to add color to natural nails using gel that contains color. This has revolutionized the industry in the fact that it allows clients to enjoy up to three weeks of color on their nails without chipping or peeling. And with a super easy removal system that is very gentle on natural nails!










As for structured gels, once they are applied, they either have to be maintained within a 2-3 week time period by getting a “fill” or by having them removed. With proper maintenance and good product, clients can enjoy structured gel nails for a long long time. The removal process for structured gels is more complicated than the removal system with gel polish.


Structured gels removal require your technician to file off the gel until they reach the natural nail. This process involves a lot of time, a lot of filing over a short period of time (not really good for your natural nail) and a lot of dust.

Some salons offer (and I like this idea) removal in stages. Where the customer comes in and has the gel shortened and minimally thinned out, ( with just a light coat of gel to reseal them), then returns in two weeks to have it done again.

There are benefits to both the client and the technician. This will allow the customers natural nail to be treated more gently, and it allows the technician to monitor the out growth of the artificial enhancement. Plus, the client keeps up with good maintenance of their nails. (Sometimes it’s like shock treatment when you stop going to your nail technician!)

Usually after the third treatment in this removal regime, the client has her natural nails left and is still looking good, even after removal. (Haven’t we all seen those awful nails that people rip off instead of having them professionally removed!!! Ugggh)

The process for gel polish removal is so much easier than removing structured gels. Once the client has enjoyed the color for up to three weeks, they return to the salon to either have the color removed all together or to have a new color put on! (Most likely the case)

With gel polish removal, the technician simply soaks off the gel polish. This can take between 10-20 minutes depending on which product is being removed. Because of the chemical make-up of gel polish, this is easy, quick and very very gentle on the natural nail.how-to-remove-opi-gelcolor

There are a few things that need to be considered when having your gel polish removed or when doing it yourself. Since none of them are life threatening, I will save that for a later blog!

OK, so the science of it for the people like me that have to know how things work!








Structured Gels have a tight molecular structure. Therefore, it is impregnable to solvents (like acetone based removal systems) and thus need to be filed off.

 Oligomer Molecular Structure- Traditional UV Gel



Please do not just grow out your nails with any type of artificial nail enhancement. The stress area of the nail changes as your nail grows. This can lead to breakage of your natural nail high on your nail bed. This is why a regime with your technician for removal is vital!


Gel Polishes have elongated molecular structure that allows solvents to penetrate and lift the color from the natural nail. So there is no damage to the natural nail.


Oligomer Molecular Structure- Soak-Off Gel UV Gel


Thank you to NSI Nail Lab for the graphics.

Hopefully this will clear up the confusion that sometimes occurs between structured gels and gel polish!

Enjoy your Wednesday!!