8 things our beauty experts wish they'd known before getting BIAB nails

Tempted by the long-wearing builder mani? Here's what to know before getting BIAB nails, as told by woman&home's beauty team...

A close up of a hand with a milky pink manicure by nail artist @matejanova/Mateja Novakovic/ in a pink watercolour template
(Image credit: @matejanova/Mateja Novakovic)

Considering the popular long-wearing treatment but are unsure what to expect? Our Beauty Editor and Writer delve into their experiences with BIAB and what they wish they'd known, pre-appointment...

For anyone not yet versed with the trendy 'builder' manicure, BIAB nails are touted as a healthier alternative to gels as the treatment coats the natural nail in a strong, protective layer - which can last for up to four weeks. This in theory allows your talons to grow whilst being shielded (and looking chic) but while it's certainly a popular option and has sparked many a BIAB vs gel and BIAB vs acrylic nails debate, there are a few things you need to know before booking in with your nail artist.

Eight things to be exact, according to woman&home's Digital Beauty Editor, Aleesha Badkar and Beauty Writer, Naomi Jamieson, who have both put the 'builder in a bottle' to the test and have some notes...

What to know before getting BIAB nails, per our beauty team

Before we dive into the ins and outs of getting BIAB, let's first outline what nail shapes and lengths our Beauty Ed and Writer opted for...

Aleesha: "My go-to with BIAB nails is a mid-length, almond shape and I usually opt for nude or milky white shades - for a minimalistic finish."

Naomi: "I prefer short nails, so I requested squoval nails to just graze just over the edge of my fingertip. I also got a gel colour added over the top as I wanted a dark burgundy manicure and BIAB comes in nude and neutral shades."

On the left, a close up of Aleesha Badkar's almond-shaped nude BIAB nails alongside a picture of Naomi Jamieson's squoval burgundy BIAB nails/ in a pale pink template

On the left, Aleesha's nude almond-shaped BIAB nails are pictured and on the right, Naomi's burgundy squoval BIAB nails.

(Image credit: Future)

So far, BIAB has been topping the list of 2024 nail trends and while it lends itself perfectly to popular looks like Bubble Bath nails there are a few things to consider - a few of which Naomi and Aleesha wish they'd known before opting for the treatment...

1. It's not safe to remove at home

Aleesha makes the very good point that you shouldn't remove your BIAB mani at home, meaning, "You always have to go back," which makes it quite the commitment both time and money-wise.

2. Not safe to trim at home

Similarly, you also can't safely trim your BIAB nails at home, "unless you're just doing a little file, so again you have to go back," quips Aleesha, adding: "Essentially they're just not low-maintenance at all, you can't just sort them yourself."

3. It's SO thick

One hang-up both Naomi and Aleesha have with BIAB is the overall thickness. Naomi found that simple things, like picking an eyelash off her cheek or even scratching an itch, were made slightly more challenging. "I opted for short, squoval BIAB nails and as the builder and gel overlay was quite thick and hard, I found this meant the edges of my nails were quite blunt."

Aleesha who opted for longer, almond BIAB nails also noted that the thickness doesn't always look super-premium and might not feel very comfortable. She also adds that her set also made it hard to itch her skin - which isn't necessarily a deal breaker but is annoying...

4. The appointment can take a long time

"The BIAB was applied and cured on one nail at a time," says Naomi, "which made for a very precise and neat finish but also meant the appointment took quite a long time - especially when you factor in the two layers of gel colour that were then applied afterwards."

5. BIAB can get scratched easily

Alas, while the glossiness is glorious directly after your appointment, it doesn't always last. Aleesha says nails scratch easily and because of the longevity of BIAB, "you're inclined to keep it on longer, making it more prone to scratching and losing its shine."

6. Cuticle oil is a non-negotiable

This applies to all manicures really but if you opt to have your cuticle removed, you'll need to keep the area hydrated, "I wasn't very strict on cuticle oil and I paid the price," reveals Naomi, "the skin around my nails became very dry and began to peel - so I would definitely recommend buying an oil before your BIAB appointment."

7. You can't take breaks easily

As it's meant for building onto (hence the name BIAB) it's not easy to take regular breaks to give your nails a breather. So it is a commitment, more so than a straightforward gel manicure.

8. Improper removal can really damage your nails (really)

This is already well known and isn't exclusive to just BIAB treatments, but sometimes it's easy to underestimate just how damaging improper nail removal can be. "I may have picked a few of mine and I regret it so much as my nails feel paper-thin now and keep bending," says Naomi - and recommends having one of the best nail strengtheners on hand.

Why we would still get BIAB nails

Despite the drawbacks, there are still a few things that endear us to the BIAB manicure.

First off, it helps your nails to grow underneath whilst protecting them from breaking or chipping, so if you have brittle nails, BIAB can be quite a game-changer. Naomi says once hers were removed, "I was pleasantly surprised by how much my nails had grown and how uniform they looked." Leading on from this, BIAB's longevity is also a point in its favour as it can last for up to four weeks, making it ideal for a pre-holiday manicure or wedding season - when you need your nails to look fresh but might not have the time for multiple salon visits.

Another pro is the initial gleam - if you're looking to achieve expensive-looking nails, BIAB can look really polished and neat. It's also very versatile, while the colour palette of BIAB is limited to mainly nude and neutral shades you can have a gel shade applied over the top.

And a gentle reminder for self-conscious salon goers: It's okay if your pre-nails aren't pretty. "I felt very insecure post-nail appointment, worrying that my cuticles or less-than-uniform nail lengths would be judged," reveals Naomi, "but it's important to remember that nail artists see it all and won't mind if your nails are looking a little scruffy - that's why you're there after all!

"If your nails are very damaged though, they may advise holding off until they're in better shape. And also, just remember to make sure your nails are clean and polish-free unless you've booked in for polish/gel removal also," Naomi adds.

Our BIAB nail care kit

On that note, we've rounded up a few nailcare essentials for before and after your BIAB (or any) nail appointment, to keep your fingertips and nails looking healthy and polished...

Naomi Jamieson
Digital Beauty Writer

Naomi is a Digital Beauty Writer from woman&home, where she covers everything from skincare to fragrance but specialises, particularly, in makeup and nail trends. Through her work, Naomi gets to share her trend expertise and share her own shopping recommendations and product reviews. Previously, she worked as a Lifestyle News Writer for My Imperfect Life magazine, where she used her savvy for TikTok to bring readers the latest beauty buzzwords, fashion movements and must-have products. 

Before that, Naomi split her time between both GoodTo and My Imperfect Life, whilst training for her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ, for which she earned a Distinction. Interestingly though, Naomi actually has a background in design, having studied illustration at Plymouth University but leapt into the media world in 2020, after always having a passion for writing. Now, when she isn’t reporting on the best perfumes and latest beauty releases, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping...