What are Korean Gels? Why do I need to try them.

What are Korean Gels? Why do I need to try them.

Ok, so we have been talking Korean gel nails for a while now, highlighting brands like From the Gel, HoHoLee, Make.N, and many other fabulous ones. We talked about products and K nail trends, but we haven't talked about Korean gel exactly. Are these nails different from regular gels? And why are these nails so popular right now?

Today, I want to share what I have learned about Korean gel nail products, why I love them so much, and a few tips/recommendations if you are new to K nails.

Let's start by defining what Korean gel nails are. Korean gels are premium quality nail products that are primarily soak-off, cosmetic grade, and solvent-free, and they are made this way to offer high shine. These long-lasting manicures focus on skin and nail health. Like Korean skin and beauty products, Korean nail brands brought innovative technology to enhance the look of natural nails using gels with different viscosities to help you grow beautiful, healthy nails.


When I first started going for gel nails, one of my local nail tech friends called me very puzzled about a client request she had at her salon. She is an acrylic nail artist, and her client wanted a gel nail manicure. She tried to explain to her client that she needed to apply acrylic first to add structure and then gel polish. Still, the client insisted that she wanted no acrylic, just the gel polish over her natural nails but make it look plumped and not flat. My friend had no idea what she was talking about, and I was like, Ha! She is looking for a structured gel manicure! And you need thicker viscosity gels to build the structure and enhance the natural nail. 

One of the main differences between Korean gel nail products and regular nail polish is viscosity. To be fair, we must think of these two as different nail products; it's like comparing apples to bananas; they are both fruits but different kinds of fruit. Regular nail polish is usually on the runnier, less viscous side and will provide very little to no structure at all, and sometimes there is a need for products like that, which is why brands like DND, Gelish, and OPI are still in business. To make these gels consistent, they are usually made with higher concentrations of solvents that are not resins like premium quality Korean gels. 


Korean gels have thicker consistencies because they are mostly resin and less solvents. Usually, you will see brands advertise them as 5-free, 8-free, and 10-free, and this means they are free of controversial harmful chemicals like:

Camphor, Dibutyl Phthalate, Ethyl Tosylamide, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Parabens, TPHP, Tert-Butyl Hydroperoxide, Toluene, Xylene.

By eliminating these solvents, these gel nail formulas offer clients and nail techs a "safer" and "healthier" option, Zillabeau's blog post "Korean Gel Nails: Unveiling the Secret to Flawless Nails." If you noticed, I used quotations on safer and healthier words because, just like beauty products, those terms are not regulated and can mean anything. All gel nail products are chemicals and can be hazardous to our health; learning how to use them safely and correctly will keep you and your clients safe. 


One noticeable difference between Korean gel nail products and regular nail polish is the price. Korean gel nail products are generally priced higher due to the expensive resin formulation used. The more viscous the gel, the higher the price is likely to be. However, apart from the absence of harmful chemicals, there are many benefits to using these products. Thanks to their unique formulation, they offer higher pigmentation, fewer or no heat spikes, no odor, and non-yellowing, non-scratching topcoats. 

So yes, one gel bottle will cost more upfront but will save you time and money because of its performance. I would rather have a product that is easy to use, less harmful for my client, has a fantastic color payoff, and keeps up with the latest nail trends (which makes it easy to market ;)). 

Talk about keeping up with trends! 

Korean nails are one of the main trendsetters in the industry. For example, the whole coquette trend right now; ultra girly nails with bows, pinks, hearts, and anything ultra feminine. The Korean girlies have been doing bows since last year, and today, the IG is bows on nails galore. They are one step ahead in everything nails; they introduced us to magnetic gels, thank you F gel, 3D nail art, ice nails, texture gels, syrup gels, a builder in a bottle, premium quality stickers, and patent-protected nail parts for the most unique fantastic nail experience. And everything is done mostly on natural nails. 

Very quickly...

If you're interested in trying out any of the awesome products I mentioned today, you should definitely check out Zillabeau - they're our absolute favorite distributor of Korean nail goodies in the US. They have everything you need to become a Korean nail art master, and if you use my code "NAILFABS" at checkout, you'll even get 10% off your purchase. Your support means the world to me, and it helps me keep testing out new products and writing about them so that you can make the best choices for your nails. Thank you so much for being a part of this journey with me!

Back to K Nails...

I've noticed that long nails seem to be all the rage in the US, and to meet this demand, nail extension systems like the Corn tips from Diami or the Give Me Nail tips from F Gel have been developed. It's really cool to see how they've adapted to this trend and made it their own. And you know what's even cooler? Despite how intricate and over-the-top some of these manicures can be, Korean nail art always seems to look soft, elegant, daring, and fun! 

Oh, and let's not forget about the packaging! Korean nail brands are true masters when it comes to creating an unforgettable gel nail experience. They really know how to make their products stand out, and they understand that customers are looking for something truly luxurious. With their gel bottles that look like lipstick components, cute characters, and colorful collections that tell a story, you'll have an eye-catching display at your nail station that will attract customers every time. This is truly unique to Korean gel nail brands, and it's something we've never seen before.

If you haven't tried Korean gel nails yet, whether on your own nails or as a nail artist, you're in for a treat! Once you try it, you'll never look back. But be warned, it can easily become your new obsession! Don't be afraid to experiment with different nail art styles. Start small with a little stud here, or a little chrome there, and gradually work your way up to the more intricate, head-turning pieces. Alternatively, you can opt for a simple yet beautiful one-color manicure. The great thing about Korean gel nails is that you can have a unique tone of any color, such as red, that no one else around you will have, and we love that for us!

Why I use Korean gels

And let me tell you, I did not get into Korean gels until a few soft gel certifications later. I started my nail journey with acrylics, and because I was at home with my babies, I needed something that was odor-free and eliminated the lost amount of nail dust from my environment; that's when I found potted gel nail systems, specifically from Japan. I took several certifications with the one and only Paola Ponce to learn how to master gel nail applications. 

Oh, I absolutely adore using Japanese gels on my nails! However, since I started my business selling press on nails, I realized that I needed a quicker and more convenient way to apply the product on nail tips. So, I switched to using premium quality gels in bottle form, which is super easy and fast to apply. I found that Korean gel nails are perfect for this purpose. One of the most significant differences between Japanese and Korean gels is that Japanese gels usually come in a potted form and are applied with a separate brush. On the other hand, Korean gels come in a bottle form, and even builder gels can be easily applied using the brush on the bottle.

If I were seeing clients in person, I would probably opt for Japanese gels because the pots are too cute, but the innovation and daring aspect of Korean nail art is too cool to pass on. If you would like to know more about how Japanese and Korean gels compare or how to master all gel nails, I recommend going to the master of online soft gel education, Paola Ponce Nails. She was super cool and gave me an affiliate code, "NAILFABS," that gives you 20% off her signature courses! Here, you will learn everything from applications, products, e-filing techniques, nail art, business, marketing, what to charge, safety, organization, planning... everything, no guessing, just long-lasting nails, and results.


Before I let you go, here are some things I recommend trying if you are a newbie to Korean gels or maybe you haven't tried these products yet. 

Syrup gels! 

If you're looking for some amazing sheer gel polishes, Knails has got you covered. They've got a range of syrup gels that come in different styles, including fully pigmented ones that look like stained glass, such as the Tiny JJUU's JJUUICE Collection, or milky sheer ones like the Mayour The Collector Collection (40 Syrup gels Season 2). 

These gels are super versatile and have one-coat pigmentation that isn't patchy at all. You can apply one coat for a subtle wash of color, two coats for full pigmentation, layer them, mix them, or apply them under magnetic gels to have different color backgrounds. There's so much you can do with these! 

And the best part? Every Korean gel nail brand offers its own color selection and trendy spin to its collections! Some of my personal favorites are Tiny, Mayour, HohoLee, and Izemi, but there are also other great brands like F gel, Marie Atelier, First Street, and Riposo (Riposo colors have a nin wipe finish ready for chrome application) that you should definitely check out.

Builder in a bottle

If you're looking for a quick and easy way to do structured gel nail manicures and overlays, I recommend trying out Izemi's clear gels. Their unique technology, called Resin 99.9, claims to provide 200% more clear gel transparency and be scratch-resistant, non-yellowing, and long-wearing. They offer their entire system in a bottle form, with gels of varying viscosities, including an express line for even quicker structured nails.

Nail art

If you love sparkly nails, then Korean nail brands are the way to go! I've never seen more beautiful glitters than the ones created by brands like Tiny. They make their own unique blends of different glitters, mix them with gel, and put them in a bottle ready for application. The best part is that you don't have to encapsulate them, as the gel will lay the glitters flat. So, after applying 2-3 coats of these glitters, you can apply the top coat straight away!

Feeling bold? Add some extra flair to your nails with nail parts. Make.N has patented technology for its premium quality nail parts. These nail parts are unique and unlike anything else on the market. They are curved to fit perfectly on your nails, have exclusive designs made by Korean nail artists, and do not tarnish. The stones are made of real glass, which gives them a superb shine. Not only that, but they also create the right gels for the job, so the nail parts will stay on as long as your manicure. They won't get in your way or get caught on your clothes or hair. I personally love them so much and have made them a signature touch of my press-on nail sets. They have the best stickers in the world too!

The Riposo liners

Liner gels had its moment not too long ago, but I had yet to see Korean gels coming out with their own until Riposo bought us gel liners perfect for all the nail art you need. The Every Line collection has black and white non-wipe liners, perfect for art and chrome powders. Two essential glitter liners in gold and silver are perfect for adding sparkle. A metallic silver liner, a film liner for intricate film art designs (quickly draw a line, stick on the film, done.) Lastly, a mirror powder liner for super easy isolated chrome application designs. I think these are a great addition to your tool kit, and I can say I reach for them almost every day. 

Okaaay! I promise the next topic won't be as long as this one, I know it was a bit of a read, haha! Maybe next time we can do a step-by-step nail art look or something, right? Anyway, I just wanted to say a big thank you for joining me today. It's a snowy day here in New Jersey, so if you're on the East Coast, I hope you're snuggled up with a warm cup of coffee or hot cocoa while reading this. Otherwise, I hope you're having a great weekend! Thanks for being here, and I'll catch you next week! Byeee!


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Zillabeau. "Korean Gel Nails: Unveiling the Secret to Flawless Nails". Zlog, July 27th, 2023, https://zillabeau.com/blogs/news/korean-gel-nails-unveiling-the-secret-to-flawless-nails. Accessed January 19th, 2024. 

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