Tech Savvy Q&A: Soak-off or Fill?

Nail services typically require a maintenance visit to the salon every 2-3 weeks. Maintenance might entail complete removal of all product or buffing down, rebalancing and reapplying a fresh overlay. Both methods are acceptable, and both should be done in such a way that it does not damage the natural nail. Complete removal affords the technician (and the client) the opportunity to evaluate the condition of the natural nail, apply the required natural nail treatment products and apply an overlay using a different color. Longer nails, whether it is sculpted extensions or naturally grown, require more reinforcement in the stress area and benefit from doing a couple of fills before a cycle of removal and reapplication.

We put together a Q&A dealing with many of the questions we typically receive regarding the pros and cons of soaking off vs fills:

Q: For quick color changes soaking off is the way to go, but are there scenarios where clients’ nails benefit from doing fills rather than soak-offs?

A: Yes, fills are advisable in the following situations: Clients whose nails require a great deal of corrective shaping; when very short or a nail biter’s nails were extended; nails that require additional layers of gel for added strength mandated by lifestyle, hobbies, etc. On these nails, buff down and re-shape the gel that is already on the nail, then apply the new overlay.

Q: What are the benefits of soaking off?

A: Soaking off old product gives you (and the client) the chance to evaluate the condition of the nail. It provides a great opportunity to apply a conditioning treatment (available online Nail&Cuticle Conditioner 5ml, $4.95) to the nail that will combat the effects of changing climates or seasons. It also reassures the client that her natural nail is not being ruined at the expense of a colorful coating!

Q: What is the correct way to remove gel?

A: Removing a four-layer overlay that has been on the nail for 3 weeks should take about 10 minutes. Gel adheres better to some nail types than others, a factor that can account for longer soak off times. Start by removing the shine from the final layer of gel using a 100/180 grit file (available online, $1.36 or $12.77 for a 12 pack). Soak 1 inch squares of cotton wipe with Gel Remover (available online, 125ml for $7.95), place on each nail with tweezers and secure in place with a Soak off Clip (available online, 5 clips for $12) or wrap with aluminum foil. Check after a few minutes, brush away loose gel with a nail brush, continue soaking. Once all the gel has been brushed away, ask client to wash hands with warm water, soap and a nail brush to remove Gel Remover Residue.

Q: How do I speed up Gel Removal?

A: On a prepared nail, apply a small dot of Executive Base to the center of the nail. Let dry completely (1-2 minutes), then apply the Base Layer of gel. Adding an external source of heat, for example wrapping hands in warm towels will also speed up gel removal.

Q: Will “straight acetone” do the trick?

A: Highly concentrated acetone can certainly remove gel from a nail, but it also removes moisture from nails and cuticles. This will make the client more prone to hangnails and severely dehydrated nails (appearing as chalky white nails). Bio Sculpture’s Gel Remover relies on a more diluted concentration of acetone with added emollients to combat dehydration.


time for maintenance


Step 1: When it is time for a maintenance visit, use a 100/180 grit file to remove the shine from the Gloss Gel layer.


Step 2: Apply Gel Remover to cotton strips and adhere to each nail using a Soak-off Clip. Apply Bio Sculpture Mint Mask (100 ml for $13.95) to hands and wrap each hand in a paraffin treatment bag.


Step 3: Remove clips, roll away loose gel, wash hands with soap and warm water. Push back cuticles, apply treatment products and base layer of gel.


Step 5: Apply Color overlay and glam it up with some nail art!

Images courtesy of Lorraine Cormier, Bio Sculpture Sales Representative and Senior Educator.