These Aren’t Just Gel Nails…

best ever gel nails

I get questioned about my gel nails constantly (what shade of polish, where do I get them done, how much do they cost) and so I thought that I would put all of the information into one permanent post. Because my nails are gel nails but not – possibly – as you know them.

I’m going to adopt the voice of the woman from the Marks and Spencer’s adverts here, if you don’t mind, so please do play along and read this in a similar tone.

“These aren’t just gel nails, these are virtually indestructible, always-perfect, non-discolouring gel nails that form a new layer over your natural nail.”

This isn’t Shellac, or base-coat-colour-coat-top-coat gel, this system uses a builder gel (from Young Nails) that forms an entirely new base – hence why it’s used to correct broken or partially missing nails if they look unsightly. Marathon runners who lose all or part of their toenails, for example. The builder gel gives a huge amount of strength and allows whoever’s applying it (someone well-trained, hopefully!) to contour and correct the nail surface by basically creating a whole new nail above the natural nail.

Admittedly it’s not the lowest maintenance routine in existence; I have to go to the salon every four weeks to have the old layers buffed off with a drill and then new stuff applied – but in between visits, there is absolutely no upkeep and I rock up to my appointments with nails that are as perfect as the day I left the last time. No chips, no splits, no lifting – only the regrowth gives the game away.

best ever gel nails

But that’s another little twist in the tale; rather than choosing an outlandish colour each time, I go for exactly the same shade. Beige 102. (Again, from Young Nails.) Now some might think this is boring, to go for the same neutral shade each time, but I say: clever. It’s almost a match to my natural nail colour (“my nails but better”) and so when my nails grow and I have the band of regrowth it’s honestly barely noticeable. I just can’t rave about my particular little gel formula/perfect nail shade-combo enough – I feel pretty smug about it, truth be told, so something will probably go wrong soon. Dems de rules.

The only downside of this gel nails method is 1) you HAVE to make your appointments because the builder gel can’t be soaked off and filing it off yourself would be a crazy endeavour and 2) the nails stay so perfect-looking that it’s tempting to stretch out the time between appointments, and then you get nails that turn you into Edward Scissorhands. It becomes impossible to type, open tin cans or wipe yourself after the toilet without causing serious injury to your lady garden. Blinding yourself whilst itching your eyes becomes a very real scenario. Small children run away in fear lest you accidentally maim them with your diamond-strength talons.

best ever gel nails

The other great thing about the shade I have (Beige 102) is that you can get away with just one coat, whereas many shades need to be fully opaque. It means that I can keep my nails relatively low-profile and they don’t have to look like big bulbous jelly beans stuck to the end of my fingers – they stay chic and natural-looking. Hurrah.

Now the biggest question is: where you can get these miraculous nails done? I go to Martha at The Suite in Bath (website here) but it seems that there aren’t that many places that do them. Most salons seem to do your standard gel nails that last 1-2 weeks maximum. (And reports seem to be that they can be quite damaging to the natural nail, which I did find on the occasions I’ve had them but wouldn’t like to generalise!)

best ever gel nails

So finding a place to do them – and do them properly – isn’t that easy. I tried Googling “synergy gel nails near me” but that brought up quite a few places that turned out to not do them and also – weirdly – didn’t mention The Suite in Bath, which is where I go.. It may be a case of just phoning around until you find one, unfortunately, although I am going to try and list a few places in the comments. (Note that these are not tried and tested and I’m not recommending them, I simply thought it would be a good starting point. If anyone has any recommendations or info then please do add!)

I pay £33 each time for my nails and although sometimes I begrudge traipsing into Bath when I could be at home eating my secret chocolate stash, wearing a tracksuit, it’s quite good that I’m forced to get out and about. I do some chores, admin, sometimes meet someone for lunch or pick up a bit of shopping and then it’s all worthwhile. And – most importantly, from a beauty perspective, my nails always look impeccable. It has made it an absolute joy to plonk my hands and nails into every video close-up and still-life photo, whereas before I was always working out how to hide my chipped polish.

If you’d like to see Martha from The Suite in action then I filmed my gel nail session and put it into a vlog. Just press play on the screen below, or you can view in Youtube here.


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  1. lilah
    March 22, 2019 / 7:09 pm

    What is the difference between these and acrylic nails?

    • March 24, 2019 / 9:33 am

      Different substance altogether I think! Isn’t acrylic porous? Like it takes on staining and discoloration? x

  2. March 22, 2019 / 2:54 pm

    I offer this at Glam Brows and Beauty based in the village of Bean near Dartford Kent, Builder gel has been a game changer for many of my clients

  3. Alex
    March 22, 2019 / 7:41 am

    Does anyone know of anywhere in Cornwall that does this? Xx

  4. Paula
    March 22, 2019 / 2:27 am

    Hi Ruth, my comment has nothing to do with nails sorry, I noticed that you have a light that reflects blue stars in your room ceiling, like a night sky. Is it a night light? Excuse my English please, but I loved how it looks!!
    By the way your nails are absolutely gorgeous!

    • March 22, 2019 / 10:09 am

      Yes it’s a star projector – it’s actually Angelica’s cousin’s but he has kindly loaned it to her! x

  5. Ana Macias
    March 21, 2019 / 7:45 pm

    Hi do this too , I am not working at the moment as I have a young child but so looking forward to work soon. Meanwhile I do it on myself if u wanna have a look here’s a link

  6. Claire
    March 21, 2019 / 3:10 pm

    I so badly want to start doing gel nails like (they’re gorgeous Ruth!) this but I worry about ageing my hands from the UV light (I did gels once and it felt quite like a sun bed). Is this something anyone else is concerned with… or just me (probably)?

    • March 21, 2019 / 5:55 pm

      I thought about that too, but it’s such a short amount of time.. I might ask someone though – I wonder whether it’s worth applying a sun block?!! x

      • Cat
        March 25, 2019 / 3:30 pm

        Some formulas for gel polish can use an LED light instead of a UV light. I have both. I am not familiar with synergy type nails. I do gel polish on my own nails and recently began doing dip nails, which requires no light at all. Dip is far thicker and some of the layers need to be filed down but last longer than gel polished natural nails, as well.
        I am a person that will immediately continue to mess with and then peel off gel polish once the slightest flaw is noticed. Dip hasn’t chipped, nor does it let me peel it off, which is excellent as peeling off gel polish takes a layer of natural nail with it and I am baaaddddd when it comes to peeling. One flaw and all 10 are peeled.
        Is this synergy system similar to the dip type? Removal seems to be the same, but that is all I could tell.

        • March 25, 2019 / 5:52 pm

          So these gels you couldn’t ever peel or soak off. I now have word that they are called “hard gels”. x

  7. Georgia
    March 21, 2019 / 1:49 pm

    Hi ladies, I use synergy builder gel! Follow my Instagram nailsbygxo I’m based in London x

    • NettieF
      August 9, 2020 / 9:11 am

      Hi. This comes up as in port talbot?!

  8. Tammy
    March 21, 2019 / 12:57 pm

    I’m running right out to get this product! Even more important is your stunning makeup look!!! Please post what you are wearing.

  9. March 21, 2019 / 12:54 pm

    I’ve been to Martha at The Suite in Bath twice now for my nail extensions and have loved them both times and I believe its the same kind of nail system with the base being applied, just I have a nail tip added as well. Very much looking forward to my next appointment and will be trying this instead of the extensions for a change.

  10. Bagmad
    March 21, 2019 / 12:13 pm

    Is the official term for this type of nails called builder gel nails? Does it go by any other name? I can’t find a salon that does it in my country so wondered if there are different names for it.

    • Ana Macias
      March 21, 2019 / 7:38 pm

      Is a gel overlay with gel polish on top :)

  11. Jerri
    March 21, 2019 / 10:19 am

    Is the bio sculpt gel that nails Inc do similar?? As that never ever chipped or lifted? X

  12. Kate
    March 21, 2019 / 10:09 am

    I would love these. You’d think it might be a possibility for me working in London, but Google isn’t my friend . Please let me know if you hear of anywhere!

    • Georgia
      March 21, 2019 / 3:43 pm

      Hey, I use this system in west London! My Instagram is nailsbygxo

    • August 15, 2019 / 10:10 am


      I’ve been updating the salon directory for Young Nails UK which is steadily growing.

      There are four places in London and four in Essex as people sign up I’ll add more.

      Here is the current list >

      Hope this helps,

  13. Emily
    March 21, 2019 / 10:02 am

    Does anyone k ow if this is the same as bioscuplt? Quite a few places seem to do that, it does sound similar!

  14. Kirsty
    March 21, 2019 / 9:14 am

    Is it damaging to the natural nail? I have had shellac and biogel and acrylic and although I love how it looks on, I don’t like how weak my nails are after. If this doesn’t damage the nail underneath I’m booking in!

  15. Vanda McGreevy
    March 21, 2019 / 9:07 am

    I’ve been getting builder gel done for a while now and I love it. My own nails are very weak but this stuff makes them practically indestructible. I get them done every three weeks and there’s no maintenance at all in between. Also, if you’ve got a fairly neutral colour you can actually apply normal nail polish over them if you wanted a different colour for a night out say. Then just take it off with normal remover and your original colour is still perfect underneath.

  16. Annie Robinson
    March 21, 2019 / 9:02 am

    If you’re in West Yorkshire visit Naetika in Batley.

    Very skilled team and my nails last 4 weeks.

  17. C
    March 21, 2019 / 8:11 am

    I’ve hunted for a salon in Devon but so far no cigar. Wish more places did these!

  18. March 21, 2019 / 8:10 am

    I would say that I would miss the possibility of wearing different colors whenever I feel like it, but looking down at my chipped polish makes me second guess if that is the right answer. I should probably accept that I am much more low maintenance than I would like to be.

    Anne|Linda, Libra, Loca

    • Jo.C.
      March 21, 2019 / 3:01 pm

      I’m thinking the same as I look at my chipped polish but I change my mind too often to have something that permanent lol

  19. Suzi Hamilton
    March 21, 2019 / 8:09 am

    I’ve been trying to find a salon that does these nails as yours look gorgeous (and I cannot be bothered with appointments every 2 weeks) but alas Northern Ireland does not seem to have caught on to these seemingly indestructible nails. And Google is useless at helping with my endeavours to find somewhere!

    • C
      March 21, 2019 / 8:38 am

      The only thing similar it seems is the Gelish builder gel system.

      • Sophie Parker
        March 21, 2019 / 10:08 pm

        I used to get this done and absolutely LOVED it – as someone with a nail biting habit (I know) this cured my issue and gave me beautiful long strong nails. But the system unused was by The Gel Bottle at Lily’s salon, Diss. I had a builder coat followed by colour. It sounds very similar to this though in that it’s not shellac, lasts four ish weeks s and doesn’t damage your natural nail. Getting this re done soon and I’m so excited!!

  20. Lenore Gajewski
    March 21, 2019 / 4:38 am

    Is the nail thing available in the states? Thanks so much

    • bisbee
      March 21, 2019 / 12:41 pm

      Yes…please let us know what it is called in the U.S.! I gave up on acrylics years ago…went to regular gel polish, but after a few years, that also ruined my nails. Now I’m back to manicures with old-fashioned polish. My nails have recovered, but that chips are rampant, and I have to sit for SO long for them to dry! I get fingers done before toes, but that is only happening monthly and manicures are every two weeks…

      First world problems…

      • Bing
        March 21, 2019 / 1:36 pm

        I too am in the states and would love to know of a nail polish that color. It’s very classy looking and I love the less maintenance color.

      • Paige Alexander
        March 21, 2019 / 5:02 pm

        I am wondering if this is what the US salons call “dip powder”. It sure sounds like it. I have done the powder for a while, and LOVE them!!! Much better and shinier than gel. I always remind my gals that I want them “thin” so they look natural.

        • March 21, 2019 / 5:54 pm

          Someone just DMd me about dip powder too! Is it actually a powder though? x

          • Cat
            March 25, 2019 / 3:57 pm

            Yes, it is a powder. First a bonder is painted on. Then paint on a base coat, which is like sticky clear polish, but it isn’t. Then dip finger in powder. brush off loose powder, paint on base, dip again, and after that paint on activator, then file to shape and smooth. Then a top coat goes on to make them all shiny. There is no light and no dry time. It is removed by soaking in acetone wraps much like gel polish so there isn’t the damage to the natural nail underneath. Apparently, the dip system doesn’t have a liquid monomer irritator, but rather uses a resin as the base coat for adhesion.
            All I know is it is hard and makes my nails virtually indestructible, where gel was doing more harm than good with my peeling habit.

          • March 25, 2019 / 5:52 pm

            But I thought that it was the soaking in acetone that also damaged the nails? God it’s a confusing business! x

    • Marjorie
      March 21, 2019 / 3:32 pm

      I did an online search last week for Synergy Nails in Charlotte, NC and came up with nothing, even though there are a gazillion nail salons around here. Did find Young Nails instructional videos, explaining the product and application. I imagine calling salons is best, as Ruth suggested.

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