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Many of us take our time at the nail salon really seriously due to the fact that for many of us it is the only time of the month when we can allow ourselves to relax and be treated and pampered like goddesses. Busy schedules have led us all to not have time to relax.
If you find yourself in this situation, it is easy to lose track of time while talking to your favorite nail technician. While you are describing how your week has been going so far, the gel polish your technician is applying is at risk of over-curing.
If your gel polish is over-cured, it will be very hard to remove it, because it will solidify and bond with the natural nails. You would need to file all the layers up to the base coat and only then soak the nails in the acetone. If you try to remove the gel polish forcefully, it will damage the natural nails.
To prevent the gel polish from over-curing, there are a few pieces of advice that you should follow to ensure you will get the best possible manicure without damaging the nails. Stick with me while I explain for how long you should cure your nails and how to know if your nails are under or over-cured.
Standard Time Gel Polish Needs to Cure
The standard procedure for the gel polish application would require around 30 seconds under a LED lamp, or 60 seconds if you are using a standard UV lamp. Let me just clarify that both types of lamps emit UV wavelengths, but there is a difference in their configuration.
UV lamps take longer to cure a gel polish because they emit a broad spectrum of wavelengths. On the other hand, LED lamps emit more targeted waves, meaning that the UVA waves will only affect the nail surface where the gel polish is applied.
Depending on the condition the lamp is in, as well as the quality of manufacture, these times may be different up to 5 seconds more or less than the average I’ve mentioned. Also, the curing time can depend on the brand and the products you are using.
The main difference between these two types of lamps is that UV lamps need their bulbs to be replaced every three months, while LED lamps can last more than 10.000 hours. This basically means that you will never have to replace the bulbs inside LED lamps.
If the bulbs for the UV lamps are near the end of their life cycle, the lamp may not be working properly, so make sure to check that regularly as well. Maintaining your equipment is as crucial as it is using the right products in the right way.
Signs of Under-cured Gel Polish
There are few signs that indicate that your gel polish is not cured properly, which is causing your manicure to fall apart. If this happens to you, make sure to first check if the UV or LED lamp you are using is in a good condition.
UV lamps may need bulb change, as aforementioned. LED lamps may malfunction due to other technical reasons or physical damage, so make sure to eliminate these reasons before blaming the lamps on a bad manicure.
If the layer of gel polish you have applied is too thick, the UV lights will not be able to penetrate through it, and it will not harden as it is supposed to. To solve this issue, make sure to apply thin layers of gel polish.
A top coat can also show you if the polish is under-cured – if you can easily remove it with a cotton pad dipped in acetone after it has been cured, it is a clear sign that the nails are under-cured.
One easy trick to see if you need to cure your nails a little bit longer is to check whether the gel polish is still sticky. If it leaves color on a brush, it has not cured properly and it needs to sit under a lamp for a little longer.
There is one remark I have to make here regarding the stickiness of the gel polish or the top coat. When it first appeared on the market, the gel polish was formulated in a way that was leaving a sticky surface for the next layer to adhere to.
In order to finish the manicure, all women had to do was remove the sticky layer by using an alcohol wipe. Although this formula has been discontinued a long time ago, you may still encounter some residue of these products on the market.
To differentiate whether the stickiness is from under-curing or the product, there is a simple trick. If the gel polish stays on the wipe, or it shifts on the nail, it is under-cured. If the tacky feeling disappears after you wipe it off, and it does not damage the layer in any sense, then it is because of the formula of the product.
How to Cure Gel Polish Properly?
If you want the gel polish to cure properly, make sure to prep your nails correctly and apply the base coat in a thin layer. If the base coat is not cured, the gel polish would not adhere and thus it will not cure as well. If you apply too much of a product, it will not cure and it will cause you further troubles.
Usually, 30-60 seconds is enough for gel polish to cure, but this is only if you apply gel polish layer by layer, gradually building density and color. If you are not satisfied with the color of the gel polish, and it seems rather opaque, instead of applying a lot of color in one coat, apply two to three coats of polish.
Make sure to cure each one of them before applying a new layer. After you finish, apply a top coat and cure it for around 45 seconds. Because the top coat is clear, it is easier for the UV waves to go through it, and thus it requires less time to cure under a UV lamp.
The top coat may look dull after you cure it. If that happens, it is because it is under-cured, or the lamp is not working properly. I’ve already mentioned how to troubleshoot under-curing.
What If I Over-cure the Gel Polish?
Not only can you under-cure your gel polish, but you can also over-cure it. Let me explain what happens during the process of curing.
If you cure the gel polish for the time that is recommended, it will plasticize, meaning it will harden but it will also still have its flexibility. This will prevent it from breaking when performing everyday tasks.
Sometimes you may worry if the gel polish has cured, and you may think that if you leave it for longer than recommended, it cannot do any damage. The truth is that if the gel polish is over-cured, it will solidify, meaning it will not have its standard characteristics anymore and it will not behave in a way you’d expect it to.
That being said, be careful not to over-cure the nails, because if you do, they will not be flexible and they will break, lift or chip off very soon after you finish your manicure. The gel polish nails will not be able to bend with the natural nail, and they will be prone to damage.
Another issue you may encounter is that gel polish that has solidified too much will not be easy to remove. This is because the acetone will not be able to penetrate the hard gel polish and break it into pieces. This will lead to further damage to the nails because many will be tempted to peel off the gel polish.
If you over-cure the gel polish, make sure not to use force to remove it. Rather than this, just read the text until the end where I explain how to remove the over-cured polish. The main thing you need to know is that removing it would be very time-consuming, so you need to arm yourself with a lot of patience.
Does Peeling Gel Polish Damage Nails?
Peeling gel polish is wrong on so many levels, and it can cause immense damage to natural nails. During application, the gel polish is bonded with the natural nails. The only correct way to break this bond is to follow recommended steps and soak the nails in acetone for some time.
This will allow the acetone to work and break the gel polish, thus making it easier to remove from the nails. You will notice the acetone has worked when you can remove the gel polish from the nails without too much trouble.
If you have over-cured the gel polish, it may be really hard to remove it from the nails, because the bond between the gel polish and the natural nails has hardened so much that the acetone cannot break it effectively.
When this happens, the instant reaction would be to peel the gel polish off the nails. This is a big no-no because it can be very painful and for a reason. When you peel off the gel polish forcefully, you are also peeling a layer of your natural nail that has bonded with the gel polish.
After you try this removal method, the natural nails would remain damaged and more prone to layering. Because they are weakened, there is no cure to this other than letting them grow at their natural pace.
At this stage, if you do this, it is better not to put another set on manicure after, and just give a few weeks for your nails to grow and recover. If you don’t follow this advice and just keep on doing another manicure on top of already damaged nails, it will further weaken them and they will not be able to properly recover.
How to Remove Over-cured Gel Polish?
Luckily, over-cured gel polish nails can be removed, but it will be very consuming. You will need to get a nail file, a bowl, and acetone – all standard items that you would require to remove gel polish.
Generally, you would remove the gel polish by filing down the top coat and some of the gel polish, and then soaking the nails into the acetone-filled bowl for around 15 minutes. This would usually be enough for the acetone to work and dissolve the gel polish.
Now, because you have over-cured your nails, you would need to edit this process and make sure to file down everything you can, up to the base coat layer. This process will create a lot of dust, so make sure to get a wet towel that will collect it all.
During filing, make sure that you don’t file the nails to the level that you start filing your natural nails and thus damaging them. A typical sign that you have overfilled the nails is pain. If you start feeling any pain during this process, stop immediately.
Try to file the nails from side to side, without applying too much pressure. Just take it slowly and be gentle to your nails. I know that it will take you a lot of time, but this is crucial if you want to keep your nails healthy.
Once you reach the base coat layer or you are very near it, soak the nails into the acetone bowl. If after 15 minutes the polish is not coming off your nails, soak them for a little longer.
Alternative to this, you can use aluminum foil to wrap each finger in acetone. This will create heat which is known to speed up the process. Once you remove the foil if the gel polish is not coming off, just soak the nails in a bowl for another 5 to 7 minutes to allow the acetone to work.
When you notice that the gel polish and the base are coming off easily, you can use a cotton pad to remove everything from the nails. If you still have some small spots of the gel polish remaining, use a wooden stick or cuticle remover to remove the residue with ease.
After you finish, wash your hands and hydrate them generously. Moisturizing your hands and cuticles will keep them in a good condition and will restore their moisture level after such an exhausting treatment.
How to Prevent Over-cured Gel Polish?
To prevent the gel polish from over-curing, the best advice is to apply thin layers and to cure them as per recommended time, based on the type of lamp you are using. Thin layers will allow you to correctly estimate whether the gel polish is cured or not.
Another trick you can use is to use a good quality base and top coat from the same manufacturer. To prevent the nails from over-curing, try the Gelish base and top coat that require only 5 seconds and 30 seconds under a UV lamp, respectively.
I know it can be hard to track how long your hands have been under a lamp, especially if you are using those old-school lamps that don’t have automatic timers that set off after a specific time.
All new lamps usually have three intervals – 30, 60, and 120 seconds, and after the time runs out, the lamp automatically shuts down. This is good because it can prevent over-curing.
The old lamps have a timer that goes up to 120 seconds only, and when you are using these types of lamps it is easy to forget to count how many seconds were your nails inside. They really make the whole process a little bit more complicated, because if you lose track of time, the manicure can be ruined.
Make sure that if you own such a lamp, replace it in a timely manner, especially if you don’t have a habit of tracking time very precisely. New automatic lamps will make your life much easier.
In the end, everything comes down to you. Equipment may relax you from thinking about time and help you in that way, but you need to do everything correctly before the equipment even comes to the point where it should do its part.
This means that you should take care of which products you are using since good quality products can reduce the risk of over-curing. Also, make sure to always apply thin layers. It is easier to fix the mistake if the layers are too thin than it is if the layers are too thick.
And, if even after all this happens that you over-cure the nails, I cannot stress enough how important it is not to use force to remove them. If you are in a rush, just postpone the removal to a moment where you will have more time to focus on the process.
If you want to learn how to prepare your natural nails for Gel polish you can read it here.
- Nails FAQ: What happens if you over-cure your gel polish
- Renewbeauty.co.uk: How long to cure gel nails with led light
- Nailsmag.com: Why isn’t my gelish application curing properly
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