5 Mistakes You Didn't Realize You Were Making With Your Gel Nail Polish

Gel polish is fast becoming the go-to nail treatment for style gurus. If you're sick of traditional nail polish that constantly chips, and you don't want to commit to frequent salon visits for dipping powder or acrylics, gel polish provides a natural yet long-lasting look. Los Angeles-based nail polish brand OPI explains that gel polish is simply colored gel that looks similar to nail polish. It's applied with a brush, in the same way as regular nail polish, and achieves a shinier, more professional finish. While most traditional nail polishes start to chip within a few days, gel polish can last for two to three weeks.


While gel polish offers a solution to the fragility of regular nail polish, the American Academy of Dermatology Association warns that it can have a damaging effect on nails, leading them to become brittle and prone to breakage. To keep your nails healthy and still rock a gel manicure, there are a few common mistakes to avoid when applying your gel polish. This will also help your gel polish to look better and last longer!

Not preparing your nails properly

One of the biggest mistakes that people tend to make when it comes to gel nail polish is not prepping their nails properly before application. IGEL Beauty explains that adequate preparation is essential for any nail service, including gel manicures. Properly prepping your nails involves removing old nail polish with remover, buffing the surface of your nails, pushing your cuticles back, and applying a clear nail base coat. This last step will ensure that the gel binds with your natural nail. It's also important to shake the gel polish before application.


Careless application

To apply your gel polish flawlessly, avoid painting in long strokes, as this gives you less control of the product (via Kiara Sky). Long strokes also result in uneven layers, which will stop the gel from adhering to the nail. Additionally, shorter strokes will help you to avoid getting gel on your cuticles, which will result in the entire layer of polish peeling off. 


Though it's tempting to flood your nails with thick lashings of gel, this is another mistake. Less is always better. It's especially important during the application process to avoid getting gel polish on your skin as it won't simply wipe off like nail polish, per Nail Thoughts.

Not curing your gel polish

Most gel nail polishes require a UV lamp to cure them. However, UV lamps emit small amounts of radiation, which has been linked to cancer (via Cancer Council). Luckily, there are gel nail polishes on the market that don't require a UV lamp for curing, so always opt for those brands if you want to avoid using a lamp. Alternatively, My Body Day recommends several other methods for curing gel polish with no UV light, including soaking your painted nails in an ice bath for five minutes, coating your painted nails with cooking spray, or applying a liberal amount of quick-drying nail polish spray.


Don't forget to finish your gel nails with a top coat to seal the manicure and prevent chipping, which you can do after curing.

Not removing your gel polish carefully

Your gel polish may last for up to three weeks, but you should never leave it on for longer than this, even if it hasn't cracked. Harmful bacteria can accumulate beneath the gel, so it's important to remove it after three weeks. 


When it comes to removing, resist the urge to peel or pick off the gel, as this can also harm your nails. The most effective way to remove gel polish at home is with acetone, but you can also visit a salon and have your gel polish professionally taken off (via the American Academy of Dermatology Association). 

Getting back-to-back gel manicures

Another mistake to avoid is getting back-to-back gel manicures, as the process can dehydrate your nails. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra told Today that gel polish can cause "nail thinning" and prolonged use of hard gels can "give rise to a yellow-orange discoloration of the nails or to white, rough patches, called keratin granulation." Avoid this by having a break from your gel manicure for a few weeks at least. If you're concerned about the state of your nails, have a professional assess whether you should go ahead and apply more gel polish. 


When applied carefully, gel nail polish can make your nails look professionally done. However, it's important to avoid these common mistakes to ensure the manicure looks immaculate and your nails remain healthy.