“BIAB” Nails Are BeautyTok’s Healthy Alternative To Gel Manicures

Think of them as protective armor for your nails.

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While some people are blessed with long, strong nails, the rest of us like to reinforce our fingertips whenever we get a manicure. Usually, that means applying gel polish or acrylics for a little extra support. These formulas may do the trick temporarily, but they can also be tough to remove.

If you’re worried about damaging your nails, a BIAB mani might be the fix. With over 877 million views on TikTok, BIAB is fast becoming the nail treatment du jour. And with Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner counted as fans, you know there must be something to it.

BIAB, which stands for builder in a bottle, is essentially a gel manicure on steroids, says Anna Parvatova, brand manager and creative director at SNS Nails. “The material itself is very much like gel, except that it’s thicker in consistency,” she tells Bustle.

Not only does BIAB give you thicker, stronger nails when the polish is on, but it’s also often used to help protect nails from breakage and peeling so that it’s easier to grow them out. Then, instead of chiseling off your nails and undoing all of your progress, you simply soak the polish off.

Once applied, this builder gel looks the same as any other polish — but its long list of perks sets it apart from the pack.

What Are BIAB Nails, Exactly?

Dr. Dana Stern, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, nail expert, and founder of nail care brand Dr. Dana, says BIAB is a lot like your typical gel polish in that it requires UV light to cure and harden. “But unlike other gel products, it has a thicker viscosity and a different formulation,” she tells Bustle.

The BIAB formula, originally created by the brand The Gel Bottle, is known to be pretty foolproof when it comes to application, which is a big part of its appeal. As your nail tech drops the gel onto your nail, it smooths out and self-levels, says Parvatova. It’s then about working quickly and using gravity to help the polish pool in all the right spots.

BIAB is only for professional use, so in order to give it a try you’ll need to call ahead and see if your nail salon has it available.

Why Choose BIAB?

The staying power is a major draw, as is the fact that BIAB works as a top coat for your nails, says Stern. Whether you use one coat or many, the hard layer helps prevent your tips from bending and breaking, she explains, so it works almost like a protective armor for the nail plate.

Traditional nail polish lasts a few days before it starts to chip and peel, gel manicures last up to three weeks, and acrylics stay on up to eight weeks when you get bimonthly fills. BIAB gel, for comparison, lasts three to four weeks — and it remains durable the entire time.

BIAB is perfect for your everyday mani, but it’s also helpful if you’re a nail-biter. “Because this type of gel tends to be long lasting and durable, it is a great tool to [help nail biters stop biting],” Stern says. “I’ve also seen patients who use BIAB and have very healthy nails in comparison to my patients who wear acrylics and do constant soak-off gels.”

In general, the damage that happens with other nail enhancements — like gels, acrylics, etc. — comes from the constant removal and filing-off process, says Stern. If you like to get regular manicures, then you know that all the scratching, scraping, and soaking with harsh chemicals can start to take its toll.

Since BIAB lasts longer, the damage doesn’t add up as quickly. BIAB is also a soak-off gel, though it may require some filing on the top layer. In general, “it’s easy to apply and remove, and precisely because of that, it’s easier on the nails overall,” Parvatova says. “In fact, it’s recommended for people who have weak, brittle, or slow-growing nails.”

How To Apply BIAB

Builder gel is painted directly onto the nail in much the same way as any other gel polish, though the thicker consistency does play a role when it comes to technique.

“You can do an overlay of your natural length or, depending on the type and strength of builder gel you use, you can add length to the nail,” Stern says. “Like soak-off gels, it also requires UV.”

If you’re a fan of gel manicures but want to try something new, grow out your nails, or avoid excessive filing, then Parvatova says you’ll likely love BIAB.


Dr. Dana Stern, board-certified dermatologist, founder of Dr. Dana

Anna Parvatova, brand manager, creative director at SNS Nails

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