5 Benefits of a Structured Overlay Manicure

Nail educator Paola Ponce shares five benefits of a structured overlay manicure.
Nail educator Paola Ponce shares five benefits of a structured overlay manicure.
Courtesy of Paola Ponce (@paolaponcenails)

Nail educator Paola Ponce (@paolaponcenails) shares five benefits of a structured overlay manicure.

Remember when we just used to say gel overlay?

Well you still can, but it may help new prospects find you (at least for now) if you use the word “structured” in your booking lingo!

For quick reference: A structured overlay is a gel application that enhances the look and feel of the natural nails by using a slightly thicker viscosity gel. This gel is applied generously over the natural nails and self-leveled with an apex for structural support of the nails.

Today, I'll be sharing five amazing benefits of a structured gel overlay.

1. Strength 

A structured overlay stabilizes the natural nails. Natural nails can vary in strength, but most of them are thin or weak, or both… which is why you and I are in business!

If everybody could grow their nails long and strong, maybe we would just be lacquer/manicure techs.

2. Appearance 

A structured overlay makes the natural nails look fuller. I like to give the analogy of getting fillers on your lips.

Just as someone may go in to get their lips done so that they look nice and filled in, many nail clients also want that slight “filled in” appearance to their nails.  I do mean “slight” lift.

Keep your structures balanced and away from getting thick and bulky. For short to medium length nails, a builder in a bottle product will do, but on longer nails, you really want to switch to a potted soft gel builder (it has less dilution).

3. Durability 

It is no mystery that a structured overlay lasts a very long time! (and if it was a mystery, well now ya now!)

The minimum wear of a structured gel service is 3 weeks, with the limit being as long as the nails stay without lifting, and that can often be a very long time for some.

What helps a structured overlay last?... you may ask. Three things:

  1. Thickness: Apply gel too thin, and all the issues start: lifting, peeling, chipping, etc.
  2. Flexibility: Remember what we said earlier most clients don’t have strong, hard nails, but rather thin and/or weak nails? Well, thin and/or weak means flexible. Structured gel is flexible gel.
  3. Adhesion Components: Structured gel, thin or thick (i.e. bottled builder or potted soft gel) contain monomers that adhere well to the natural nails without the use of rough prep and bonder! This is advanced technology designed to do less to the natural nail (i.e. less rough prep and chemicals- by avoiding a pH dehydrator and bonder).

Of course, this statement applies to those brands that are responsibly manufactured, typically those who either own or know their manufacturing and work with their own chemists to formulate safe and effective, advanced gel nail products. Sadly, irresponsibly sourced and manufactured bottled builder brands will have a boatload of monomer to impress the public on its “wonderful” adhesion, but at the unfortunate cost of allergies and other skin sensitivities. 

4. Time-Saver 

While the application of a structured overlay may be an additional 20-60 minutes (those smooth apexes are so worth it! ) than say a simple gel polish manicure, this added time is an incentive to the customer as their visit frequency is generally once per month as opposed to the former bi-weekly visit with previous enhancement offerings.

Some clients will still want to come in every two weeks because they can’t stand the same color or the grow-out for anything longer than two weeks, so be sensitive to that.

5. Income Booster 

This is by far the biggest benefit and the best thing that has happened to our industry in a VERY long time  – Let’s all work together to protect it. And that is… A pay increase! 

A structured overlay averages around $50 for a minimum of 75 minutes of your time (Nothing less than that. That's already on the low-end, beginner/entry level pricing.)

Guess what? A structured overlay is RELATIVELY easier to do than long glam acrylic nails, and acrylic techs are now charging buco bucks for their HIGHLY specialized intricate nail sets! Amounts like I’ve never seen before – $100, $200, $300, etc. 

We’re all (finally) winning!

The moral of this: Choose whatever medium you truly enjoy working and keep the new “fair market” price. We have to have each others' backs here. 

I’ve seen structured gel overlay services up to $120. Be cognizant not only of your time but also the clients’.

The Name

Let's just say you refuse to use the words "Structured Gel Overlay." Maybe the name is too long or you want to disassociate yourself from the BIAB crowd because you’re a potted soft gel tech.

While there isn’t a whole lot of diversity in word choice for this awesome service of fortifying the natural nails with gels, here are some alternatives that at least me and your older wiser siblings (i.e. nail techs) would understand:

  • Gel overlay
  • Builder gel manicure
  • Self-leveled gel manicure/overlay/nails 
  • Japanese structured overlay
  • Japanese overlay 

Choose the words that you feel most comfortable in because they depict your actual service. Here’s the peace-generating kicker: Most likely, you’ll have to describe the service-offering anyway. This is where you can absolutely detail that the service is a structured overlay!

So name it anything you want, name it after you if you want! Think about all the different names full coverage tips go by because each brand has made them their own!

The Paulie Mani is my signature service. It is a structured gel overlay done with premium Japanese Gels.

Final Thoughts 

Is the structured overlay a fading trend or here to stay? If you're asking me, I would say it's here to stay.

When any client gets their nails done, unless they specifically want glam nails, all they ever want was to be able to have strong nails that are beautifully manicured and polished. We know we can't do that with our hard products like acrylic and hard gel because if we did, those thin nails would break.

Gel polish seemed to be promising until we learned how easily those could chip and the damage they could cause on the nails by the often soaking off.

Thicker soft gels (like potted soft gel and bottled builder) allow our clients to wear their dream nails… finally.

About the Author: 

Paola Ponce is a nail educator focusing on topics of soft gel and entrepreneurship. She hosts a weekly episode around these topics on her YouTube Channel @paolaponcenails.

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