The Do’s and Don’ts of Gel Polish




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Gel polish may seem effortless once the look is completed, but there is a lot of hard and precise work going on behind the scenes. Because the gel polish application can be a little time-consuming, there are many things you should be careful about.

To achieve a shiny, long-lasting manicure effect, there are few things you need to pay attention to. Otherwise, if you do the manicure in a rush and you are sloppy, the chances that the gel polish won’t last long are really high.

Make sure that all the layers are not touching the skin, because this can damage the manicure. The top coat can be applied more than once, but each layer must be properly dried for at least 45 seconds before you apply a new top coat. The biggest don’t of gel polish is peeling. It will hurt the nails and weaken them irreversibly.

To be able to understand why some of these things you should or should not do, stick with me while I explain the biggest do’s and don’ts of gel polish. But first, let’s start by explaining what exactly a gel polish represents.

What Exactly Is Gel Polish?

Many women are confused with the difference between gel polish and regular nail polish in the beginning. If you ever applied regular nail polish by yourself, you have probably noticed that it can be challenging to achieve a seamless look.

With every brushstroke you would make, it would leave a streaky mark on the nail itself. This is especially an issue when you are applying a really light color, like white or beige, where the strokes are showing even more.

Gel polish with its formula solves this issue and is often called self-regulatory polish because it is capable of solving this issue on its own. This is because it will not air dry, meaning your manicure could never be complete without the use of a UV or LED lamp.

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Usually, a gel polish would require around 30 to 60 seconds to solidify under the lamp. Here you should be careful not to over-cure the nails, meaning that they have solidified beyond the optimal point. 

On the other hand, it is also possible to under-cure a gel polish, which means that the layers have not solidified enough, and the gel polish is still in a liquid state on the nails. 

Under-cured or over-cured nails can significantly reduce the duration of your manicure. When you cure the gel polish for the optimal recommended time, it plasticizes and remains flexible on the nails.

The flexibility of the gel polish is important because it will allow the gel polish to bend alongside the natural nails during the stress they’ve been exposed to. If the nail polish is solidified beyond this optimal point, it will not be able to endure everyday activities.

This means that over-cured nails will be more prone to breaking and lifting off. Usually, after a few days, you would notice the first signs of the nails falling apart, which will indicate it is time for the new set of manicures.

If properly cured, the gel polish could last for up to 4 weeks, depending on the overall condition of your nails and the everyday activities you are performing. If your hands and nails are exposed to liquids or abrasive substances, the manicure would damage quickly.

I must say that gel polish isn’t for everyone. If you have naturally strong and healthy nails, then gel polish is your optimal choice. If your nails are weak, the gel polish would create a barrier that would protect them, but this barrier won’t be hard enough for you.

This may cause the gel polish to break and lift off from the nails, possibly damage the natural nails in the process even more. To prevent this from happening, consult your nail technician before deciding which type of manicure you would like.

How to Apply Gel Polish?

The application of gel polish is a little bit more complicated compared to the application of regular nail polish. This is because the gel polish requires a few extra steps in the process in order to get a nice finishing look.

Further in this article I will touch on a few do’s and don’ts when we talk about gel polish, so you can make sure that after following this advice you will get the perfect manicure you are looking for.

Do Prepare the Nails

Nail preparation is key to a successful manicure. Natural nails are surrounded by natural oils our skin produces. On top of that, on our hands, we usually have a build-up of many products we use on a daily basis, like soaps, creams, moisturizers…

All these products naturally come in touch with the nails themselves. And all these products are a natural enemy to gel polish or any other kind of manicure, like gel or acrylic.

To ensure the manicure would hold onto the nails, you must create a bond between the natural nails and the base coat. For this bond to work, the nails should be deprived of all the oils that have been building upon them.

To remove the oil from the nails, use a cotton pad dipped in acetone or alcohol, or an alcohol-based wipe to wipe off all the excess oil. This will create a smooth surface for the base coat to stick to.

If you miss removing some dirt from the nails, the base coat would still stick to them, but after a few days, you would notice that the gel polish has started to lift off the nails and it will eventually break.

Also, it is recommended to moisturize the hands for around 30 minutes before the treatment, because acetone and alcohol can dehydrate the skin. If your skin is already damaged, this will make things even worse.

The nails also need to be buffed with a buffer or a fine nail fine before you proceed to apply the base coat. There is a simple trick to check whether you have buffed the nails enough. 

All you need to do is to remove the shine from the nails, and it would need just a few gentle strokes with the buffer to achieve that. If you start feeling any pain during buffing, it is a clear sign that you have over buffed the nails and that you should stop any further buffing straight away.

Buffing is necessary because the base coat requires a rough surface in order to stick to the nails properly. If you apply the base coat to the shiny, unbuffed nails, the manicure would separate from the nails and lift off in a few days.

Don’t Touch the Skin

While applying a base coat or gel polish layers, precision is everything. The base coat is probably the most important layer because you will set the basis once you apply it. After you have properly prepared the nails, carefully apply the base coat on the nails, starting from the base and slowly moving to the tip of the nails.

Make sure that you are covering the entire nail because the gel polish would later stick only to the areas that are covered with the base coat. A base coat is like a bond between the natural nails and the gel polish.

If you have two left hands, as I do, then you probably had issues with regular nail polish going over the edge of your skin. This would make the manicure look very messy and sloppy and it would ruin the whole look.

Similar issues can happen here – the base coat or gel polish may go over to the cuticles and it may go unnoticed until the very end. If this happens, the manicure would probably lift quickly and it would look uneven.

Depending on where the gel polish has touched the skin, you may be tempted to rip it off, and that can break the polish which will damage it and eventually cause it to fall off the affected nail.

To prevent this from happening, luckily the gel polish will not air dry, meaning you will have time to manipulate and correct any errors that might occur. After you apply a layer of base coat or gel polish, use an angled brush dipped in acetone to carefully remove any excess polish from your cuticles.

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This simple trick won’t take you much time and it will save you from the hustle later on. If you notice that you have gone on the skin after you cure the polish, the best solution is to remove it completely and to do that nail from the beginning.

Trying to file or buff that affected part will help you only short-term. It is still damaged and in the long run, it would break and chip off.

Do Apply Thin Layers

I know it can be irritating when the color does not look the same in the bottle and on the nails. I’m sure you know what I am talking about – you have picked this gorgeous-looking beige color, and once you apply it is showing the nails through.

This is because lighter colors in general require more than one layer to achieve the density and the color you see when they are in the bottle. In a situation like this, you might think that applying a thick layer of gel polish in one go is the solution, but you are wrong.

When you apply a layer that is too thick, the UVA wavelengths that are emitted by the UV and LED lamps can’t reach the bottom through the thick layer of gel polish. This will result in the gel polish not curing properly (the under-cure issue I’ve been talking about before) and the manicure would never be complete.

Thick layers of gel polish can also look really sloppy on the nails even if you somehow manage to cure them in the end. If you are persistent to cure them, and you keep repeating keeping them under the lamp, in the end, you might over-cure them.

Either way, it can cause you trouble later on and is bad for your nails. This is why you should always apply thin layers and build the color and the density gradually. It is completely normal to apply two or three coats of colors when you are using lighter shades.

And with thin layers, you will also avoid the gel polish to look streaky, which is also an issue associated with the lighter gel polishes.

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Don’t Peel the Gel Polish

The standard process of gel polish removal indicates filing down the top coat and a bit of the gel polish, and then soaking your nails in acetone and wrapping them in aluminum foil. This will create heat that will speed up the degradation process.

However, if you are a beginner or just worried if the gel polish is cured, you may fall into a trap of over-curing it. Over-cured gel polish has solidified beyond an optimal point and has lost its properties (mostly flexibility).

Over-cured gel polish can be very hard to remove, due to the fact that it is no longer a flexible plastic layer, it is hard rock now. Of course, it is still possible to remove it, but it would require more time and patience.

To remove over-cured gel polish you should start by filing down as much of the gel polish you can, even up to the base coat layer. The thinner the better, because the acetone cannot work with the thick layers.

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Once you see that the gel polish is coming off easily, it is a sign that the nails have spent enough time wrapped in the foils with acetone. If the nail polish hasn’t rested for enough time, some parts may come off, but others may still stay strong on the nails.

When something like this happens, you may be tempted to peel off the gel polish from the nails by using force. This is something you should avoid doing at all costs because peeling the gel polish can make significant damage to the nails.

Let’s go back to the point when we talked about base coat application. I’ve mentioned how the base coat acts as a glue between the natural nails and gel polish. If this glue is not properly dissolved and you try to peel it off, you would peel the layer of the natural nails together with the base coat.

During this process, you may even feel pain, which is a clear sign to stop what you are doing and to proceed with another acetone bath, before you opt-out for another solution. Usually keeping the nails in acetone for another round would fix this issue.

However, if you peel the nails, you would damage and weaken them, and it is not recommended to put a new set of manicures on top of these damaged nails. The best thing to do in this situation is to let the nails breathe and grow at their own pace, so you can start removing the damaged parts bit by bit as they grow.

While they are growing, make sure to treat them very gently with special oils for nail reinforcement and to nourish the skin around them. The nails can grow healthy only if the skin around them is in a good condition as well. If you decide to go for a new set of manicures instead of this, you would risk even further damage.

Can You Apply a Gel Top Coat Twice?

Gel polish top coat has a very important role to play – to protect the color of the nails and to provide the perfect shine. Usually, nail technicians apply only one top coat and you are good to go.

Sometimes, you can apply more than one layer of top coat, but under a few circumstances. You must ensure that each layer of the top coat is properly cured for at least 45 seconds before you proceed with the application of a new top coat.

Two layers of top coat will be meaningful only in two situations. In the first one, you have naturally very thin nails and you would like to create a thicker surface that will be less prone to damage or breakage.

In this situation, adding another layer of top coat will replace the natural layer that you are “missing” and that is causing your nails to look thin. 

Another situation where it would make sense to use two layers of top coat is a situation where you are in constant touch with abrasive substances and you would like to ensure the duration of the shiny nails for as much as possible.

Adding two layers of top coat will prolong the shine because it would slow down the damage caused by abrasive substances. If they damage the first layer, there will be another layer underneath protecting the color and giving it shine.

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If you want to learn about gel polish and ombre nails you can read about it here.


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