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Are BIAB manicures the solution for broken nails?

biab review
Review: Is BIAB the solution to a broken nail?Getty Images

Being right-handed, my nails on that side naturally go through more – and it's always the side that lets me down. One nail will break and then I have to cut them all off and go short. Recently, I outdid myself, racking up three broken nails and being left with a hand of completely different nail lengths. I decided it was finally time to try Builder in a Bottle.

You've probably heard talk of Builder in a Bottle (it's more commonly known as BIAB), given how steadily it has grown in popularity over the last few years. But like me, you may not have got around to trying it yet.

What is BIAB?

Created by The GelBottle, BIAB is harder than a regular gel polish, but kinder to the nail than acrylics. Plus, The GelBottle made sure it can be soaked off. A strength barrier for natural nails, it can also fill cracks and ridges, give the nail shape, and be used to sculpt and form extensions.

It's loved for achieving super long natural nails, as it prevents your own nails from breaking. Which quickly helps people achieve nail lengths they previously could only dream of.

It seemed to tick all the boxes, so I went to Duck & File in Islington, where resident nail tech Precious said she could make my broken nailed hand look just like my perfect one – and I was very, very, up for that.

How do BIAB nails work?

After filing and buffing my dodgy talons, she attached fun little splints called 'forms' to the fingers that needed extensions. All nails had a slip coat of BIAB (similar to a base coat principle), which was cured in the lamp, before she began building the nails.

On the ones with forms, this meant dragging a 'bead' dollop of BIAB up from the cuticle, building over the form and shaping it for the extension. The other nails were also built up, but this was more about creating an apex and shape, as the length was already there. Each has to be individually cured in the lamp right after building to minimise running.

After all nails were cured, she removed the forms and warned me the extensions might look a little 'ugly' at this point, as they were roughly moulded and can run a bit. But after clipping, filing and smoothing, they looked exactly like my natural nails.

I chose a clear BIAB shade, though it is available in a range of pinks and nudes. If you go for clear, you can get a gel mani over the top, meaning way more colour options.

Honestly, once they were painted, the difference blew me away. Precious really had transformed my right hand to look exactly like my left, it was completely imperceptible. We then spent a considerable amount of time trying to get pics but I am the worst hand model, my hands turn into weird claws from your nightmares, so I'd say watch the TikTok for their real glory:

Can you get BIAB nails infilled?

One of the things that makes BIAB healthier for your nails is that it can be infilled. So, two weeks later, I was back to see what that process was like. The gel polish had to be removed with an e-file to get to the BIAB, a step that can be avoided if you use a colour BIAB. Then, Precious cleaned up my cuticles and any lifting BIAB, ready to have new BIAB applied over the top. She particularly concentrated on levelling out the area of growth at the cuticle. It was much more similar to the first application than I'd expected. The biggest difference was that it didn't require the forms.

I chose to round off my square nails, and the original extensions were shaped in the exact same way, as if they were my own. It wasn't till we finished that I realised only two of my nails still had a little bit of extension left on the tip. I couldn't believe that in another two weeks, my broken nails will have been completely evened out – without having to go short.

How much does a BIAB manicure cost?

It varies salon to salon. At Duck & File, the service costs around £55 for BIAB with extensions (nails dependant), and an extra £3 charge for gel colour if you go for clear. I can't believe the long-awaited answer to a broken nail is really no more expensive than luxe gel manicures.

Would I try BIAB again?

I'm very attached to my nail salon with their half-hour gel manis ( including removal, wild I know), so I don't know if BIAB will tempt me full-time. But the next time I break a nail, I will be going straight for another round of BIAB rehab, to coach it back to health with its brothers and sisters.

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