Tips for Giving a Perfect Gel Polish Manicure and Damage-Free Removal

by Tiffani Douglas

Gel nail polish has been all the rage since it hit the scene in 2010. First introduced to the market by Creative Nail Design (CND), Shellac has evolved from a luxury service to being an absolute necessity for busy women around the world. The promise of a 10-14 day no-chip manicure with no drying time is a dream come true for many, but gel nail applications are only as good as the nail technician providing the service.

What is Gel Polish?

Gel polish is not regular polish so it’s important to know what’s in it to better understand how to work with it. Gel polish contains acrylic monomers and oligomers that bond together when placed under ultraviolet light (UV), and it combines both the properties gel and traditional nail polish. It doesn’t “dry”, perse but it cures or hardens when exposed to UV light.

Faultless Gel Polish Application

Flawless gel nail polish application is all about the preparation. The longevity of your client’s 14-day manicure begins with how well you prepare the nails. Proper nail preparation can make a huge difference in how long the manicure lasts.

6 Tips for prepping the nail for gel polish that won’t lift or chip

  1. Don’t soak the nails. Soaking the nails in water causes the nail plate to expand. When the nails dry, they contract and cause the polish to chip. So, when giving a gel manicure, especially gel, always do a dry manicure first to avoid this issue.

  2. Use a gel or cream cuticle softener. Cuticle softeners with a lot of water in them can create the same effect as soaking nails in water. Using a thicker cuticle remover that you can easily control without it spilling all over the nail plate is the best option for preventing lifting or chipping.

  3. Etch the nail well. Clients like to believe that gel manicures do not cause damage to the nail, but anytime you apply an artificial surface, you must do some roughing for optimal adhesion. Etch the nail lightly until it is white and chalky-looking. You don’t have to etch forcefully, but make sure there aren’t any shiny spots on the nail once you’ve completed this step.

  4. Dust the nails thoroughly. After you’ve carefully etched the nails, remove all the dust you can with a nail brush any dust left on the nails can cause chipping and lifting as well.

  5. Clean very well with alcohol or an alcohol-based cleanser. What you cannot remove with a nail brush can be cleaned with a lint-free cloth soaked in alcohol or an alcohol-based cleanser. The alcohol removes any leftover debris and sanitizes the nail plate.

  6. Apply a nail dehydrating and pH-restoring product. Applying a bonding agent helps the product adhere or bond to the nail better, thus reducing the likelihood of the polish chipping.

3 Tips for applying gel polish that won’t lift or chip

When applying gel nail polish take these steps to ensure a beautiful, long-lasting gel manicure.

  1. Make sure your polish isn’t old or thick. Thick applications are unattractive, and they can bubble, later causing lifting or peeling.
  2. Apply polish evenly and neatly.
  3. Do not touch the cuticles or sidewalls (skin alongside the nail plate) with the gel polish. If you do get polish on the sides or cuticles, remove it with cotton on an orangewood stick before you cure it. The natural oils in your skin can cause gel polish to lift if left on the skin. Gel nail polish is very forgiving until it’s cured or hardened.

3 Tips for removing gel polish

Removing gel nail polish with minimal damage takes patience, and it is not recommended that manicurists use a drill for natural nail care services, like gel manicures. Gently reducing the amount of the product and waiting for the acetone to soften the gel so you can remove it gradually is ideal.

  1. Using a 180-grit nail file, file off the topcoat.
  2. Apply acetone to cotton balls and wrap each nail individually in foil. Your client’s body heat will accelerate the process.
  3. Let the client soak for at least 20 minutes before attempting removal. If the polish cannot easily be removed with an orangewood stick, wrap it back up and wait to avoid damaging their nails.

Ensuring the promise of longevity and chip-free nails for two weeks is a combination of using great products, and the manicurist's skill and precision. Knowing how to apply gel polish and removing the product to keep clients' nails healthy is crucial to customer satisfaction and retaining business.

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