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What Is A Structured Manicure? [All You Need To Know]

Have you heard about structured manicures? Maybe you’ve seen one on a salon ‘menu’ somewhere. Or perhaps it was a pin on Pinterest? Either way, today, I am going to be walking you through exactly what a structured mani is and everything involved in getting one.

So, what is a structured manicure? A structured manicure is a type of gel manicure. It’s a manicure that reinforces your natural nails with a supportive layer of rubber-based gel. In the process, it restructures the shape and style of your nails. The intention of a structured manicure is to help prevent breakage.

Now, let’s find out more about what a structured mani is, what it costs, and where to get one!

What Does A Structured Manicure Consist Of?

A Structured Manicure consists of nail preparation, gel product application and curing.

Nail Preparation

First of all, a structured manicure will follow the typical manicure process; filing, cuticle prep, and so forth. You might even get a hand massage in the process!

And this is all essential; to ensure that you have a clean, nicely shaped base for the polish. 

You’ll also need to file off excess cuticle, or the gel won’t stick properly to the nail. Naturally, any part of your cuticle that’s sticking out will be cut away.  

Gel Application

Then starts, the process of applying the gel. 

In the case of Shellac, or soft gel manicures, then only a layer or two of polish needs to be applied, and that’s that.

A structured manicure is different. 

Structure gel, builder gel, or sculpting gel, on the other hand, is referred to as hard gel. It can be clear or colored.

Many nail technicians prefer the clear version so that it doesn’t discolor your natural nail. 

So, once you’ve had your nails prepped, a layer of this hard gel is applied (often with a brush, but there are other application techniques, too).

Nail Shaping

At this point, your nails will be plumped and shaped (being structured or built with this hard polish). 

After applying the hard gel, the nail technician will then flip the nail over, letting the gravity of the gel fall where your natural apex would.

This is important so as to ensure that your nail grows out healthily again after the application. You want to, so to speak, balance your nail. 

Extensions Created (If Desired)

If you are opting for extensions too, the nail technician will use a paper form or metallic type sticker that’s placed under your natural nail edge before applying the gel.

Then gel is applied onto this form to build the nail extension. When done, the form is removed. 


As with any gel, curing under a UV light or LED light (or both) is required. Think of it as you would drying a normal nail polish under a hair dryer.

It might give you the same rush of heat to your nails, but this is chemically generated. (It’s after this step you remove the form used for building the nail.

In some instances, a nail technician uses a plastic form that stays put.)

Hard gels are available in color, but if you prefer a clear or nude one so as to avoid discoloring your nails, a layer of soft gel may be applied after the hard gel has been applied. Again, this needs to be cured under a light. 

Benefits Of A Structured Manicure

While called hard gels, they are softer than acrylic. Acrylic nail extensions don’t bend. As a result, they sometimes crack. Hard gels are much more flexible and therefore durable. 

At the same time, hard gels, builder gels, structure gels–whatever you want to call them–don’t have the chemical smell acrylic has. 

While a soft gel won’t do much to protect your nails, a hard gel will. It offers both strength and structure.

It helps protect your natural nails from bending and breaking, but it is still flexible enough that it won’t snap in two like an acrylic gel when put under pressure (granted, the amount of pressure is within reason!). 

How Long Do Structured Manicures Last?

On average, a structured manicure lasts four to six weeks. However, you’ll need a refill after about two to three weeks, or the growth will start to look funny. 

If you don’t fill it in time, the balance of the apex is disturbed. This, in turn, can lead to breakage and chipping. So, truly, think of it as lasting for about three weeks.

It goes without saying that if you use your hands a lot without gloves when gardening, spend hours in a pool every day or do something else that wears down your nails, the gel nails may not last as long. 

Always ask the nail technician what products to avoid using on your hands after getting gel nails. 

Where To Get A Structured Manicure

You can get a structured manicure at any salon that offers gel nail extensions or have “structured manicures” on their menu for the services they offer. 

Be sure to note that soft gel is not the same. You can buy that in a bottle in the store and apply a layer at home without much fuss (though some people are allergic–it should not touch the skin). 

If it says just “gel polish” on the menu of a nail salon, it’s likely soft gel. Always call to confirm. 

Can You DIY A Structured Manicure?

You can DIY a structured manicure, but unless you’re trained to do so, it’s not recommended. Of course, if you have an interest in nails and know a lot, you may be able to train yourself. Still, it’s always wise to take a course on using something like hard gel before you attempt it.

Also, to remove hard gel, you’ll need to file it down. Other products, like Multi-Flex Gel (a sort of hybrid), can be taken off with acetone alone. 

How Much Is A Structured Manicure?

A structured manicure can cost anywhere from $50-$120.

Some people suggest that the cost for gel nail extensions is about 20% higher than the cost for acrylic ones.

However, it varies from salon to salon and depends on factors like the product used, technicians experience, and of course location. 

In a bigger city, the price tag for new gel extensions is generally speaking, $80-120.

If you’re just using structured gel on your natural nails, with no building of an extra nail tip, the price will likely go down drastically. 

Nevertheless, it’s always best to contact some salons near you to find out the exact price range.