Biab nails: what are they and how long do they last?

Nail pros explain all about BIAB nails—the strengthening manicure that stays chip-free for weeks

A woman's hand with biab nails treatment in a grey jumper on a dusky pinkbackdrop
(Image credit: Future/Getty images)

You may not have heard of BIAB nails until now, or perhaps the word is vaguely familiar but you aren't sure what's actually involved. 

This trending technique is increasingly on the lips of those in the know, and with very good reason. BIAB promises a nail-strengthening treatment—topped with spring nail designs or summer nail colors if you wish—that's more hard-wearing yet also gentler than gels.

This is a pretty strong claim because most pro nail services fall into one of two categories: You have traditional polish manis that offer superior nail care but can chip within days (or even hours—and who has time for that?) Or you could choose between gel or acrylic nails, both hard-wearing but potentially nail-knackering services due to aggressive removal techniques. And that's before you consider the damage caused by picking them off at home, which we all secretly know is how a large proportion of gels are disposed of. BIAB'S combination of kindness and endurance sounds like the holy grail, so we've consulted expert nail technicians to answer all your questions. 

Everything you need to know about Biab nails

What are BIAB nails?

"BIAB is a soak-off gel that is harder than regular gel polish" explains Treatwell Nail Expert Laurie Nicholl, from Lacquered & Stripped Salon. If you're wondering where the name BIAB comes from, it's an acronym created by The Gel Bottle, a British-owned brand that invented the service. "Builder In A Bottle aka BIAB, are a range of soak-off gel builders ideal for creating strong overlays and as a strengthening barrier for natural nails." explains nail expert and The Gel Bottle content creator, Tiffany Abbigaile.

In terms of appearance, you can expect a smooth, plump, strongly-shaped nail, in a limited range of colors. "BIAB usually comes in clear or cover colors like pink," says Nicholl. But if you are a gel mani fan you can actually combine the two. "A gel nail color can be painted directly on top of BIAB or you can make the most of our BIAB shade range and simply top coat for beautiful nude nails." says Abbigaile. This gives you the option to get a bit more creative with color if that's your thing. 

As for the million-dollar question, how long does BIAB last? Experts agree that up to four weeks is the industry standard, although they can last longer. If you want to extend the life of BIAB, you can have an appointment for infill of the regrowth, which is actually one of the key benefits for nail health. "Since the product can be infilled, it reduces damage to the natural nail caused by removing gel polish," explains Nicholl. 

What happens during a BIAB nails appointment?

If you have ever had salon Shellac or are au fait with how to do gel nails at home, a BIAB nails appointment will feel like familiar territory, with a few key differences. Tiffany Abbigaile explains all:

  • Prep: "Firstly we will perfectly prep the nails, this includes pushing back the cuticles, cuticle trim, buffing, and filing the nails into shape. We will then ensure no dust is left on the nail plate with a nail brush, then a wipe of acetone on a lint-free pad."
  • Base: "Working on one hand at a time the next step is to apply a thin layer of BIAB on all five nails and cure on low heat mode for 99 seconds."
  • Gel: "We then work on one nail at a time. Apply another thin layer to the nail, whilst this is still wet we pick up a small bead of gel and place this near the cuticle and work this down the nail side by side. We turn the nail upside down to create an apex then cure for 99 seconds and repeat these steps on all nails." 
  • Finish: "You can then choose to either topcoat, apply gel color or nail art. Finish off with Peacci Peach Mani Pedi Cream and cuticle oil." This top coat is instantly dry, like gels, which will be a bonus for anyone seeking to learn how to dry nail polish fast.

Who are BIAB nails best for?

The world can be divided into a few nail personalities. There are those who like to keep things short, clean, and natural, there are those who've nailed how to paint your nails for on-trend colorful looks, and acrylic addicts with statement nail-art adorned talons. Luckily BIAB is a fairly adaptable service for almost any nail preference.

"BIAB is perfect for clients with weak nails but still want to grow out their natural nails or clients who want the strength of extensions without the length," explains Nicholl. "BIAB can be applied on acrylic or UV Gel; however, it won’t enhance or improve the result of the extensions. With BIAB, you can do very short extensions, but they usually need to be done with tips, not sculpting techniques. We recommend applying BIAB on natural nails as we find it’s great for clients who want to keep their natural length or grow their natural nails."

And what about gel mani addicts? "For regular gel polish wearers, we recommend switching to BIAB if you find the gel removal process has weakened the natural nail."

How are they removed?

Unsurprisingly, every expert we spoke to stressed the importance of professional removal, to preserve the health of the natural nail. "The bulk of the product needs to be removed first by either a nail file or electric nail file. We will then soak a cotton pad with acetone, place it on the nail then wrap the nail with tin foil," explains Abbigaile. 

"After a few minutes the tin foil can be removed one nail at a time, by gently scraping away the product with a metal cuticle pusher. Once removed, rehydrate the nail with cream and oil."

How much do BIAB nails cost and where can I try it?

If you like the sound of BIAB and are keen to try the service for yourself, it is currently available at selected The Gel Bottle partner salons nationwide. The best way to find one is to check your local nail bar on Treatwell (UK) or Booksy (US)

The costs will vary from salon to salon but expect to pay around $65/£40 for your first set, the same again for infills, and $20/£15 for removal.

"BIAB is growing in popularity amongst our customers. We definitely expect to see more salons adding it to their treatment menu," says Nicholl. And we say, bring it on!

woman&home thanks Laurie Nicholl of Lacquered & Stripped and Treatwell and Tiffany Abbigaile for their time and expertise

Fiona McKim
Fiona McKim

As woman&home's Beauty Channel Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more beauty products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about a brilliant find on or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair experiments and cute shih-tzus). Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor back in 2013, working under industry legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know (clue: learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism).