4 Reasons Why Your Gel Nails Are Sticky After Curing




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The popularity of gel polish in nail technology has been increasing over the years. Thanks to its durability, flexibility, and the sense of confidence that comes with it. When having your gel manicure done, you want the final result to be excellent, so you follow all the instructions for applying and curing. But sometimes, you may notice a sticky layer on the nails. So why is your gel polish sticky after curing?

The sticky layer is common when applying gel polish and forms when the oxygen in the air reacts with the gel polish and forms an inhibition layer. You can wipe off this layer with alcohol wipes once you’re done with your manicure. 

All gel layers will feel sticky after curing, even when they are properly cured. If you’re new to gel manicure, this tackiness should not worry you, as you can easily wipe it off. But there are other reasons like under-curing that could make your gel nails sticky. This article discusses the reasons why your gel nails are sticky after curing and what to do. 

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Reasons Why Your Gel Nails Are Sticky After Curing

Sticky gel nails are often dull and lack the glow that well-done gel nails should have. It could be the normal tacky layer that forms every time you apply gel polish and can be wiped off easily or sticky because of other reasons.

Here are some of the reasons why your gel nails are sticky after curing. 

  1. The formation of the inhibition layer on the topcoat

When applying your gel polish, oxygen in the air prevents complete polymerization of the topcoat layer resulting in a sticky residue on the surface. This inhibition layer forms on every layer of polish you apply and cure, but you should wait until you cure the topcoat before wiping it off. 

In other layers, the sticky layers facilitate proper bonding and cause the layers to stick together better. Therefore, it’s not recommended to wipe off the tacky layer after every layer of gel polish application but instead clean it off on the topcoat layer. 

There are different methods you can employ to remove the tacky layer from your gel polish. Some of them include:

  • Using wipes or lint-free cotton pads soaked in isopropyl alcohol absorbs the uncured sticky gel polish, thus clearing it. Plain cotton may interfere with the cured gel polish because it can absorb more and stick on the nails. 
  • Using a product-based gel cleanser that usually comes as part of the gel packaging. Most manufacturers ensure that they provide a gel cleanser for their customers, which works perfectly considering that it’s manufactured to remove the tacky layer. 
  • Using a normal non-acetone nail polish remover which easily removes the uncured gel polish. Be careful not to use a nail remover that has acetone as it will remove even the cured gel. 
  • Using any DIY cleansers, especially those containing a high percentage of alcohol. This method requires that you be cautious as you can use products that can harm your nails or spoil the whole manicure. 

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To minimize the tackiness on the nails after curing, nail product manufacturing companies are focusing on creating gel polish (especially the topcoat) that cures almost wholly. It’s called a no-wipe topcoat and dries without leaving any sticky residue on the surface of the gel nails. 

If your gel nails feel sticky because of this tacky layer, it shouldn’t worry you, as you already know what to do. Get your cleanser and wipe off the sticky layer. 

  1. Your gel nails did not cure properly

Sticky gel nails signify that your gel polish did not cure properly, and so you need to cure again or re-do the manicure. Gel polish fails to cure for different reasons. For example, if you apply your gel polish in thick layers, it will not cure even if you try curing it for hours. This is because; the UV light bounces off the surface of the gel after curing the top part only. 

If your gel polish doesn’t cure due to thick layers, the only solution is to remove the thick layers and start afresh with thinner layers. It ensures that the gel cures entirely and doesn’t feel sticky. 

Another reason your gel is not curing could be that the lamp is faulty or the light bulbs require a change. If you’re sure you painted thin layers and followed the right application procedure and your gel is not curing, you can try using another lamp or changing the bulbs, then try again. 

If your gel nails are sticky because they are under-cured, you must first identify the reason why they are not curing and solve the problem. Properly cured gel nails are smooth and dry. 

  1. Using expired gel polish

Nail products have an expiry date, and that includes gel polish. If the gel polish you’re using has passed its expiry date, it may not cure correctly and, therefore, will feel sticky on your nails. 

This happens when you purchase products like gel polish that have a short expiry, and since gel polish remains on the nails for a long time, you can keep the gel polish for a long time before using it. Within this time, the polish may expire, and when it’s time to use it, it fails to work properly. 

To avoid such a scenario, it’s essential to buy only the gel colors you love and use them as often as possible before they get spoiled. You can also ensure that you purchase a product with a long expiry that can serve you longer before expiring. 

Another way to go around this scenario is always to make your nails at the salon. Since they handle several gel manicure clients in a day, their gel polish tends to finish and replace them so often. However, if you choose to do your manicure at home and notice your gel polish is long overdue, you can simply wipe it off and use a fresh one. 

If you just bought the gel polish and you notice it’s not working effectively or sticking well, you can return it and make sure you get value for your money. 

  1. Using a low-quality gel polish

There are different products in the market with the aim to meet customer needs. However, most of them may not meet the quality requirements and therefore may not adhere well with your nails or even cure well, thus remaining sticky even after curing. 

When buying gel polish, it’s important to choose a reputable brand or get recommendations from experienced manicurists. You can also check online and look at the reviews left by people who have been using the product. Only choose one that has excellent reviews. 

A good gel polish company must have many options to choose from as well as guarantees and return policies. Such policies assure you of the quality of the product and its effectiveness during the use period. 

You can also check the ingredients used in making the gel polish. This way, you’ll be sure of what products you’re applying to your nails and their quality. Dermatologists have come out to warn gel users of highly toxic substances like toluene found in gel polishes. This is not only about proper curing of the gel polish but also about your general body health. 

If you notice some ingredients in the gel polish that you’re unfamiliar with or are likely to cause irritation or inflammation, you keep it away and go for high-quality gel polish. Professional-grade quality gel polish is mostly free of such chemicals and therefore has no health risks attached to them. 

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Should Gel Polish be Sticky after Curing? 

If you use the right gel polish brand, follow the correct application and curing procedure and use a good UV or LED lamp, your nails may feel tacky after curing but only because of the inhibition layer. Your gel polish will be well cured and dry, so you shouldn’t worry about the sticky topcoat as you can wipe it off using alcohol wipes or a non-acetone nail polish remover. 

Some gel polishes come with a no-wipe topcoat that cures and dries completely so that you won’t need to wipe the top layer after the curing process. This new advancement has become a game-changer in the industry as you don’t have to worry about an ugly tacky layer or run the risk of ruining your entire manicure as you wipe it off. 

However, if your gel polish is sticky because it’s not curing, you may need to find out the reason why it’s not curing and resolve it. Apply thinner gel layers, replace the UV or LED light, or use a good quality gel to have excellent results. 

Can You Make Your Gel Polish Dry Faster? 

Gel polish is designed to be cured and dried using a UV or an LED light lamp. It’s not like ordinary nail polish that air dries, and you can increase its drying speed using quick-drying techniques like blowing air over it using your brow dryer or dipping fingers in a bowl of ice.

However, there are some things you can do to help your gel polish cure faster. They include:

  1. Applying thin gel polish layers

You already know how crucial thin gel layers are in the quest for achieving the perfect gel manicure. Thin layers absorb more of the UV or LED lights allowing them to cure completely, even on the lower side. On the flip side, thick layers only cure at the upper side where the UV light can reach and then bounces off, leaving the more downside of the gel uncured. 

You can cure thick gel layers for hours and still get no results as the light cannot penetrate through the thick gel layer to cure it. Therefore, if you want a quick curing gel, ensure that you apply your gel polish layers as thinly as possible. 

Applying thin layers of gel polish is an art you can practice and learn so that with time you can do it like a pro. Gel polishes are generally thicker than non-gel polishes, so you have to be careful and keen when using them. 

First, you’ll need to identify thick gel polish, check for its consistency, and know-how to thin it to a suitable thickness. With the right gel polish that has the correct texture, you can now apply it thinly on your nails. 

Ensure that you load the nail brush with as little gel polish as possible so that it will be easier to drain it to the amount you need without messing up the bottle’s neck. It’s a simple practice that you can learn and master with time. 

Here’s how to do it. 

  • Turn the bottle’s cap to open, but do not pull it out yet. 
  • Slowly pull up the cap until you can see the brush bristles. 
  • While still pulling out the brush, move it to the side so that the bristles touch the walls of the bottleneck from inside. Continue with the back and forth movement until the brush comes out of the bottle. It will have little polish on it, which you can now drain further on the bottle’s neck without making a big mess. 

Doing this a couple of times will give you enough practice for when you’ll be making the actual application. You can also practice on artificial nails until you’re ready. The good thing about fake nails is that you can mess them up and start again without messing up your nails.

Try to apply the gel polish on artificial nails, making them as thin as possible, and watch how long it takes to cure completely. Once you’re ready, you can go ahead and do it on your natural nails.

  1. Use the right lamp for the gel polish

Both UV light and LED light lamps are used for curing gel nails. But UV light bulbs take more time to cure gel polish than LED light lamps because of the type of light wavelengths they produce. 

UV light lamps emit light that has a broad spectrum of wavelengths, while an LED lamp focuses on a number of required wavelengths to give better and faster results. That’s why someone curing their nails under an LED lamp may feel some heat around the fingers as a result of the high light wavelength intensity. 

An LED lamp is, therefore, able to cure the gel polish in about 30 seconds, a lot faster than the UV lamp, which takes about 2-3 minutes. Some gel polishes are designed for use with the LED lamp, while others dry better with a UV light lamp. To achieve faster results when applying the gel, you may want to use products that allow using an LED lamp for curing. 

These lamps differ in cost, with the LED lamp costing more than the UV lamp because of its advanced curing technology. Therefore, you choose one that works faster; you’ll need to invest more in terms of cost to get the LED lamp.

 You should be careful not to over-expose yourself to UV or LED lights as they can harm your skin in the event of continuous exposure. 

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  1. Use high-quality gel polish

The quality of the gel polish determines how fast and how well it cures when applied to your nails. Most reputable brands package their gel polish with accompanying gel base coat, topcoat, and polish remover, which are designed to adhere well with each other. Therefore if you go for a quality brand that comes with all these, you’ll be in a position to achieve better and quicker results. 

If the products you’re using are low on quality, you’ll notice that they may take longer to cure. This happens because of the substandard ingredients used to make them. Some of these ingredients have high reflective abilities, which reflect off the light from the lamps instead of absorbing it for curing. 

If you’re working to increase your gel’s curing speed, you may need to invest in a brand that produces high-quality gel polish. You’ll also need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the usage of the gel polish and the recommendations on it. 

It’s essential to use the other products accompanying the gel polish, like the base coat and the topcoat, instead of mixing up products from different brands. Doing this will ensure consistency and proper adherence of the layers to each other. The gel polish will also dry according to the manufacturer’s specifications for the curing time. 


If you are using gel polish for the first time and you notice that your gel polish feels sticky even after curing, it should not worry you. Instead, find out the reason for the sticky feeling and solve the problem. Removing the tacky layer will give your nails a shiny look and a smooth feel. We have discussed several ways you can remove the sticky layer without damaging the properly cured gel polish. Your polished nails will boost your confidence and help you maintain your glow. 

Here you can read about how you prefer your natural nails.


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