Want to know the secret to having fabulous nails for weeks on end? It's gel manicures! Using special polish that's cured under an LED or UV lamp, you can rock a glossy, durable finish that will make your nails look stunning for up to 2-3 weeks.  

A gel polish manicure generally requires less maintenance compared to regular polish, so you don’t have to worry about chipping, fading, or lifting. A nail technician knows the proper gel manicure products and application techniques to use, but UV lamps are now readily available and are a great option for those who want to save a trip to the nail salon and get a gel manicure look right at home.

This all sounds great, right? Then why is your gel polish peeling? There are a few common reasons:

  • Poor Nail Preparation: If the nail surface is not properly prepared before applying gel polish, it can compromise the adhesion, which can cause the polish to peel or lift.
  • Excessive Moisture: If the nails are exposed to excessive moisture or water for extended periods, the gel polish can lose its adhesion and eventually lift.
  • Incorrect Application: Applying too thick or thin layers of gel polish can cause bubbling and peeling. Moreover, not curing the gel polish for the recommended duration can lead to early peeling.
  • Natural Nail Growth: As the natural nail grows out, the gel polish can become detached from the nail bed and start to peel.
  • Curing: Gel manicures require enough curing time after each layer with a high-quality LED or UV Light to ensure that the polish doesn't weaken. However, overexposure to LED or UV light during the curing process can also cause the gel polish to peel off. It's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for curing times and not to under-cure or over-cure the gel polish.

In order to achieve a long-lasting gel manicure, there are some important steps to be aware of. Here is a short, step-by-step guide:

Nail Preparation

This is such an important step in achieving a long-lasting gel manicure. Proper preparation ensures that the gel polish adheres well to the nails, preventing any peeling, lifting, or chipping of the polish.

  • Clean the nails: Thoroughly clean the nails using isopropyl alcohol or specialized nail cleansers to remove any oils and dirt.
  • Remove old polish: Use nail polish remover and cotton balls or cotton pads to remove any old nail polish.
  • Trim and shape nails: Clip and file the nails to the desired length and shape. File the nails in one direction, avoiding a back-and-forth motion that may weaken the nail.
  • Push back cuticles: Gently push back the cuticles with a cuticle pusher. Use a cuticle remover to remove any visible cuticles. You can use an electric nail file or an emory board to remove any dead cuticle skin from around the edges of your nails. 
  • Buff the nails: Use a gentle nail buffer to buff the nails slightly. Doing this will rough up the surface, providing a better surface for the gel polish to adhere to.
Product Application
Nail Dehydrator: 

Now that the nails have been prepped, the first product to apply should be a nail dehydrator. 

This product is applied to the nails to remove any moisture and oils on the nail plate, leaving the surface completely dry and ready for gel application.

It's important to use a nail dehydrator as the first step in a gel manicure because it ensures that the gel binds to the natural nail properly. If there is too much moisture on the surface of your nails, the gel may not adhere well to the nail surface and may begin to lift and peel soon after application.

Dehydrating the nails can also prevent common nail infections that can occur when bacteria and fungi multiply in moist environments.

Using a nail dehydrator product takes only a few seconds, and it significantly increases the adhesion and longevity of the gel polish. It is an essential preparation step in the gel manicure process.

Primer or Bonder: 

Next, apply a thin layer of primer or bonder to your nails, which helps the gel polish adhere to your nails better. Allow it to dry completely. 

Nail primers typically contain bonding agents that help to create a strong bond between the nail and the gel polish. Without a nail primer, the gel polish may not affix to the natural nail correctly, which can lead to peeling, lifting, and chipping. 

Base Coat:

After applying the nail primer, the next step in a gel manicure is to apply a gel base coat. The base coat serves as the foundation that holds the gel nail polish in place.

With a small amount of polish on the brush, apply a thin, even layer to the nail. Make sure that the base coat completely covers the entire nail surface and that the edges and tips of your nails are also covered.

Cure the base coat under a UV lamp or LED lamp for as long as the manufacturer's instructions say to. This will ensure a strong bond between the natural nail and the gel polish.

Gel Polish:

After curing the base coat, apply the first layer of gel polish and cure under a UV nail lamp or LED light for the specified amount of time. The number of gel polish coats applied varies by brand and color of the gel polish, but typically two or sometimes three layers are required.

The best way to apply gel polish is in thin, even layers. Gel polish applied in thick layers will result in peeling and/or cracking.

Top Coat:

Once the last coat of polish color has cured, the final step is to apply a top coat to seal the gel polish, create a glossy finish, and protect your gel manicure against chips and scratches. 

Apply the top coat in a thin layer over the entire surface of the nail and cure under the UV/LED lamp for the amount of time your UV unit recommends. 

To extend the life of the gel manicure, moisturize your hands regularly to keep nail beds healthy and prevent dryness. Avoid exposing your hands to strong chemicals, such as cleaning agents, acetone, or chlorine. It's a good idea to wear gloves when doing tasks that require your hands to be in hot water for an extended period.

With a little bit of patience and practice, even novice nail techs can create a salon-worthy look in the comfort of their own homes. By following these steps and using quality products, you can create your own flawless gel nails. 

About the Author

I am a licensed cosmetologist with 5 years of experience in the beauty industry. I also work in beauty retail, I am a Clinique Beauty Advisor, and I have a product addiction. I want it all. I'm a Gen Z Scorpio, persistent, and creative. I'm an Air Force girlfriend. I sing, play guitar, make spoon rings, and I bake the BEST chocolate chip cookies.

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