Where once nail enhancements were limited in hue, there is now every color and formulation imaginable—from opaque creams to shimmers and glitters to translucent jellies. As nail artists demand more from their products, manufacturers rise to the occasion, bringing more options to market. And while you can find practically every shade of the rainbow, the latest in-demand art comes in the form of crystal-clear gel. We’re not talking a product simply devoid of hue, but rather enhancements with glasslike clarity to serve as the backdrop for countless creative nail designs.
While clear gel formulations in a pot have been around practically forever, those who are not expertly adept at working with gels can struggle sculpting the clear free edge. As a result, you risk product breakdown as well as something arguably worse: bubbles. To make the job at hand easier, there’s an innovative product that makes the extension process a breeze: builder gel housed in a gel polish bottle. The thick viscosity formula allows for both sculpting and overlays while providing more control and speed than the average gel in a pot.
We’ve turned to some pros who are skilled in the art of clear extensions with builder gels in a bottle. Read on to learn their best troubleshooting tips as well as some of their favorite ways to create nail art with it.
Client Consideration: What Clients Are the Best Candidates for Clear Extensions?
“The best candidates for wearing clear extensions are those who have elongated nail beds, uniform nail plates from finger to finger and no nail damage present. It’s really difficult to do a clear tip on a client that has damaged nails or bites her nails. You can help hide any imperfections on the nail plate with art or colors added to the design, but generally a solid clear extension looks best on a healthy nail plate.” — Chrystacle Cronk, director of education for Ugly Duckling Nails
“If you’re looking to show off clear extensions from the cuticle area to the free edge, the best clients are those with long nail beds. For those with short nail beds, you can still create the same effect if you focus the clear at the free edge and camouflage the smile line with nail art or light colors.” — Robert Nguyen, creative director for Entity Beauty
Build It Out: What’s the Best Way to Create a Clear Free Edge?
“I think the best way to sculpt a clear tip is to make sure that you remove all of the natural free edge first. This will help avoid any dirt from getting trapped under the natural nail, which can become very visible with a clear extension. Sculpting the product out on a form is the best way to achieve the clearest extension edge; using a tip may slightly fog the overall look.” — Cronk
“I use traditional forms for all of my glass nails, and they allow me to get a flawless clear extension. But if you’re not comfortable working with regular forms, Orly has new Fast Forms, which are almost like a mold for creating nail extensions. They’re a faster and easier way to sculpt, and you always get the perfect curve and apex with them.” — Brittney Boyce, consulting nail artist for Orly
“To sculpt a clear free extension, brush a thin layer of gel onto the natural nail, extending it down the form to the desired length. This essentially builds a kind of ‘tip’ and serves as a platform for you to add structure and shape to the enhancement.” — Allie Baker, global educator for ibd
“For clients who don’t have perfect long, natural nail beds, I like to apply cover gel to create the nail bed first. Then, I sculpt with clear gel to get a clear free edge.” — Marilyn Garcia, global director of education for Cuccio
Burdensome Bubbles: What Troubleshooting Tips Do You Have for Avoiding Bubbles?
“Don’t over work the gel; let it work for you not against you. Apply it to the nail, gently guide it in the direction that you want, and let it level out.” — Baker
“When working with a clear product, it’s hard to avoid bubbles. It’s important to limit the amount of time you play with and work the gel. Working too fast will create little bubbles, and the more you work the product, the more chances bubbles will occur. If you find bubbles in the extension before it’s been cured, try and pop the bigger, more noticeable ones using a small detail brush or something sharp. Sometimes, though, it’s impossible to avoid. If you see bubbles after you’ve cured, I like to add some sort of art on top. When in doubt, bling it out!” — Cronk
“If you find bubbles on the surface layer after curing, lightly buff the nail to try and remove them, then reapply a thin layer of product. If the bubbles are deep in the application and if you can’t start over, it’s best to apply a color gel or lacquer over the extension. Keep practicing your application and it will help you master it—bubble-free.” — Nguyen
Art Attack: What’s Your Favorite Way to Add Art to Clear Tips?
“Show off your hard work by seeing the clear tips! My personal favorite is a negative-space design with color-blocking and layering. I also like playing with sheer colors.” — Nguyen
“My favorite way is to add a thin layer of gel and then sprinkle on inlays, like pieces of glitter or Mylar. I would then do a quick cure, add another thin layer of gel and add the next inlay. I love this look when using gel because it looks like all of the inlays are floating.” — Cronk
“I love minimalist nail art! I prefer small detailed nail art over clear extensions.” Boyce
“I like to add nail art ink to clear gel to look like veins throughout the tip.” — Garcia
“I love simple art on clear extensions so the clarity of the nail is in the spotlight!” — Baker