If your nails are ridged or fragile, a nail overlay can make them look flawless.
What can an overlay do for you? It smooths the nail plate and reinforces it, plus it extends the lifetime of your manicure. It strengthens the nail while it grows out and keeps nail biters from wrecking their fingers.
Conversely, an overlay doesn’t lengthen natural nails – it’s not an extension or tip. However, it will make the nails appear thicker.
But which is the best overlay for natural nails?
What is a natural nail overlay?
It was a dentist that invented nail overlays. He broke a nail and fixed it with dental material. Soon afterward, he patented the first artificial nails in the 1950s (1).
Nowadays, an overlay consists of gel or acrylic applied to the natural nail and shaped to perfection. Since it reinforces the natural nail and doesn’t extend the length, it’s unlikely to cause damage.
Hard gel overlays are the exception as they need to be filed off to be removed. It’s best to have an experienced nail tech do them.
But poly gels and acrylics are easy to do at home with a little practice. You brush on the gel using a form to shape it, then cure it and buff it.
How to prepare nails for applying an overlay
Before you begin, round up your manicure tools. Set the timer on your nail lamp if you’ll be curing gels.
Now, cleanse the nails with alcohol to get off all the oil and dust. Use a cuticle stick to gently push back the cuticles.
Lightly buff the nail plate and remove the dust again with alcohol or nail dehydrator. It’s crucial to remove all the oil so that the overlay adheres properly.
Now apply the product of your choice and dry it accordingly.
Once complete, gels last anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks and acrylics from 3 to 4 weeks.
When it’s time to remove the overlay, check the directions of the product you’re using. Chances are that lightly buffing and soaking in acetone will be enough to soften and scrape off the product.
Best Overlay for Natural Nails in 2022
Now, let’s look at the different kinds of overlays for natural nails. These include poly gel, hard gel, and dip powder.
Orly Gel Fx Body Guard Soak-off Gel Overlay
Orly’s soak-off gel overlay protects natural nails while they grow back. Unlike some overlay products, it actually helps promote healthy growth.
The formula includes pro-vitamin B5 with vitamins A and E to reinforce the structure of the natural nail. Wear it underneath a regular gel manicure (i.e., base coat, polish, and top coat).
It comes with a convenient brush for precision application.
Orly GelFX Builder in a Bottle
This builder gel is a snap to use if you also have Orly’s Fast Forms for shaping the overlay. (See below). They create the ideal curve with no need for sculpting. Moreover, they come in 12 sizes.
The gel’s viscosity ensures that it levels itself to smooth the nail surface without the need for filling. Yet, this isn’t a hard gel – it’s flexible and crystal clear.
You’ll need a nail lamp to cure it for 30 seconds between coats. It’s also best to cleanse the top and under the free edge with alcohol to remove the stickiness. Finally, apply the top coat and cure again.
ORLY GELFX Fast Forms
Choose from one of 12 sizes to shape your overlays and also extend your natural nails. There are enough for 10 manicures of each size in this box.
Ahier Nail Forms
These adjustable cardboard forms fit every finger and let you choose the shape of every nail. They are disposable yet are reasonably stiff and have a waterproof layer.
Use them to sculpt extensions, too. They can help with stiletto, coffin, squoval, and many other shapes.
NYK1 Nail Force Power Nail Builder Gel
Here’s a sculpting poly gel that evens out ridges and thickens thin natural nails. It’s strong enough to build extensions if you use a form to shape it. It will stay easy to mold until you cure it with a nail lamp.
Although it’s a builder gel, you can soak it off without drilling or filing. It also comes with its own application brush.
There’s no odor, and it won’t lump or peel when properly applied.
For best results, use it with the same brand’s base and top coats.
Makartt Nail Extension Gel Natural Pink Builder Gel
Did you know you could get builder gel in different colors? This one is pink, but you can also choose white, cocoa, and other shades. It’s suitable for overlays and building extensions.
It’s so durable that it can last for a month. Plus, you can refill every couple of weeks as your nails grow.
There’s no strong chemical odor, but it is relatively thick to make it easier to shape. Once you cure it, it’s straightforward to buff and apply top coat for a perfect finish.
Purchase slip solution separately to keep the gel from sticking to the brush.
Makartt Poly Nail Extension Gel Slip Solution Kit
Speaking of slip solution, it’s also known as nail surface cleanser. It keeps the builder gel from adhering to the brush or spatula so that you can sculpt it without smudging it.
The kit includes two bottles of slip solution, lint-free cotton pads, glass cups, and a gel nail brush to get you started.
Modelones Poly Nail Gel Kit
This kit features 6 poly gels, including a temperature-changing one. Others are white, milky pink, and neutral shades. The attractive colors mean you can get away without colored polish.
You’ll also find a brush/spatula tool, dual forms, glitter, slip solution, and a nail file in the box. You’ll need a nail lamp to cure the gel. Then, your manicure can last two weeks or longer, especially if you refill as your nails grow.
Gelish Structure Gel Clear
Once you apply base coat, put on this self-leveling structure gel. It works well when applied in thin layers. That way, you can gradually build the nail’s apex in the middle without using a form.
It’s not a hard gel; therefore it’s not good for extensions. But it will protect the natural nail as a gross. Furthermore, it won’t require any additional brushes as it comes with its own in the bottle.
ibd LED/UV Builder Gel
This builder gel is beloved of nail techs and home users alike. It lasts for weeks and prevents chipping and peeling.
It cures rapidly under LED light, so you don’t need a regular UV lamp for it. Plus, it’s just thick enough to sculpture nails without wasting time.
It’s easy enough for beginners to use, but you’ll need to bring your own brush to apply it. Finish it with a top coat.
In.Hype Sculpting Camouflage UV Builder Gel – Milky Pink
Although the builder gel here is milky pink in color, you can also get it in white and hot pink, among other colors. But milky pink is suitable for all skin tones as it’s a universal shade.
The sculpting gel is medium-thick, which makes it useful for shaping overlays and building extensions. It will take one and a half to two minutes to cure under UV light. (You also need to apply base coat before using it).
A major selling point is that it’s 10-free. It doesn’t contain 10 toxins common to nail products, including parabens, fragrances, camphor, xylene, DBP, formaldehyde, toluene, or phthalates.
It’s excellent for strengthening your nail plate while your natural nail grows.
CACEE Glossy UV Thick Builder Clear Gel For Nails, Hard Gel Overlay
If you prefer a hard gel overlay that you can’t soak off, here’s one that’s thick and transparent. When used properly, it doesn’t bubble and won’t yellow.
There’s not much odor, but you will need UV light to cure it. It’s highly resistant to solvents and very durable. You can use it for extensions, not just overlays. It sets to a high gloss finish.
Beetles Gel Nail Brushes
You’ll find that extra brushes come in handy if you plan to make a habit of doing overlays. This set comes with 7 brushes with different tip shapes and sizes.
The manufacturer offers a money-back guarantee if you don’t love them.
Beetles Poly Extension Gel Nail Kit
This kit proves that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to do nail overlays at home. It includes practically everything you need, including an LED nail lamp (but no slip solution).
There are pinks, nudes, and bright white gels, and all of them are 9-free and low-odor. Then, there’s a base coat and top coat, plus a dual form pen and nail molds.
The mini lamp folds up for storage. It’s not very powerful, but it will get the job done even if it takes a little longer. The manufacturer suggests curing the builder gel for two to three minutes.
MIA SECRET Liquid Monomer Clear Acrylic Powder Nail Art System
This set includes acrylic powder and liquid monomer. In other words, it’s for a dip powder overlay. And this is one of the most accessible options for beginners to use.
You’ll need an application brush and a container to pour the powder into for dipping. If you’re new to dip powder, you’ll find that it’s not hard to apply. It allows you to build acrylic nails rapidly. You don’t have to sculpt with the brush at all.
The liquid dries on contact with the air, but not so fast that you don’t have time to work with it. It also self-levels.
What’s more, the transparent powder won’t yellow, especially with the help of the violet-colored liquid. Neither has a strong odor, and you won’t need a lamp to cure them. The manicure should last for about three weeks.
However, you will need to apply top coat. But when it’s time to remove the manicure, it soaks off with acetone.
The manufacturer offers a 30-day refund or exchange guarantee.
SNS Healthy Natural Nails – Natural Set Sheer
SNS is a top brand of dip powder nails. Use the sheer powder to overlay a French manicure and enjoy glossy, strong nails.
The transparent finish reveals the healthy color of your own nail beds. But to apply it, you’ll need the liquids listed below.
This product is made in the USA and cruelty-free. The chemicals are organically-processed for healthier results. Plus, they are infused with vitamins to strengthen the nails. Thankfully, the powder has no odor of its own.
SNS Gel Liquids (set of 4) Gel Base, Gel Top, Sealer Dry, EA Bond
To do a dip powder overlay, prepare the nails as you would for any other type of manicure. After that, brush on the bond coat and let it air dry for a few seconds.
Next, brush base coat on the bottom 75% of the nail. It contains calcium and vitamin D to encourage thicker nails. Dip the nail into the powder and tap off the excess. Apply the base coat again to 80% of the nail and dip it again into the powder. Finally, cover almost all of the nail with base coat, and dip it a third time.
The liquids interact with the powder to harden the finish with exposure to the air. You don’t need a UV lamp. But you could use a nail dryer to speed up the process.
Now, brush on the Sealer Dry and wipe the nails with a paper towel. Finish up by applying two thin coats of top coat.
If you want the best overlay for your natural nails, and you have a UV or LED lamp already, try poly gel that you can soak off. It’s self-levels and gives you time to sculpt it because it will harden until you cure it under the light.
If you have experience using a nail drill and filing, you might try a hard gel. It’s not for beginners, however.
Otherwise, dip powder offers a quick-drying, low-odor method to reinforce natural nails.
If you found your new favorite method today for doing nail overlays, drop us a comment below about your experience.
1. https://www.treatwell.ie/treatment/gel-nail-extensions/ accessed November 17, 2020