Gel polish manicures are known for being extremely durable and long-lasting. But in some cases, they are prone to premature peeling and lifting.
Now the main reasons why gel polish tends to lift or peel off are:
- The cuticles were not prepped properly
- The nails were not filed before gel polish application
- The nail plate had too much moisture & oil
- The gel polish wasn’t sufficiently cured.
- Your gel manicure isn’t being moisturized regularly.
- The gel polish was applied in thick coats
- Either a base coat or a top coat wasn’t used
- The free edges weren’t capped
- The gel nails are being exposed to harsh conditions
Now in this article, I am will explain these reasons for peeling in detail. And more importantly how you can prevent them from peeling in the first place.
1- Cuticles Were Not Prepped Properly
The cuticle is the clear skin at the back edges of your nails. Now before applying your gel polish this skin needs to be pushed back and aligned
If not the gel polish will adhere to the cuticle skin and not directly to the nail plate which means that the gel polish will be more likely to lift and peel.
How to Fix
I recommend soaking your cuticles with oil and soapy water to soften them up and then using a cuticle pusher to push back and align your cuticles. Citation.
Now you don’t necessarily need to soften your cuticles up but it’s more effective and less painful.
You can check out the video below to see exactly how it’s done or you can click here to read my article where I will guide you through how to push back your cuticles correctly.
2- Nails Were Not Filed Before Gel Polish Application
Filing is often an overlooked aspect during the application of gel polish but it is essential to prevent peeling and lifting.
Correctly filing your nails before applying your gel polish helps to
- Remove any oil and dead cuticle tissue on the surface of your nails which can prevent the gel polish from bonding directly to the nail plate.
- Roughen up the surface of the nail plate to allow the gel polish to grip onto the nails better.
How to Fix
Use a medium grit nail file to gently file your nails. Ensure that the entire surface area for each of your nails is filed, if you miss any area that part is likely to lift and peel.
I recommend using a 180 grit nail file when prepping your nails for gel polish application.
3- Nail Plate Had Too Much Moisture & Oil
Now once your cuticles have been prepped and your nails have been filed you will need to remove all of the dirt, dust, and more importantly any oil and moisture on your nails.
You see both moisture and oil prevent the gel polish from properly bonding to your nails. This is because it forms a barrier between your gel polish and your nail plate.
That is why it is essential that you remove most of the moisture and oil from your nail plate before applying your gel polish.
How to Fix
I recommend wiping your nails with rubbing alcohol or acetone to clean them off and then applying a coat of the nail dehydrator before applying your gel polish.
Dehydrators are really effective at removing most of the oil and moisture on your nails.
For an affordable and effective dehydrator, I recommend Mia Nail Prep.
Now you can also use a combination of rubbing alcohol and acetone as a DIY Nail Dehydrator. But the DIY method is not as effective as a brand-name dehydrator. But it will definitely help to remove a lot of the moisture and oil.
4- Either A Base Coat or a Top Coat Wasn’t Used
It’s absolutely essential when you are applying gel polishes that you use both a gel base coat and a gel top coat.
You see gel polishes were designed to work with both coats, without them the gel polishes are prone to peeling, lifting, and getting damaged easily.
- The gel base coat are designed to bond tightly with your nail plate and then act as an anchor for your colored gel polish.
- Whilst a top coat creates a hard surface on the top of your nails to protect and seal your polish.
You can click here to read more about why it is essential that you use a Gel Base and Top Coat with gel polishes.
How to Fix
Ensure that you apply both a gel base coat and gel top coat with your gel polishes.
I recommend Gelish Base and Top Coat, they are really effective and they would work with any brand of gel polish. You can click here to see the current price for a Gelish combo set on Amazon.
5- Your Gel Nails are Not being Moisturized Regularly.
Your gel nails and cuticle need to be moisturized regularly, I recommend twice a day. If not your gel nails will dry out and be prone to peeling.
Related Article – Pros and Cons of Gel Manicures
How to Fix
The best way to keep your gel manicure moisturized is to use cuticle oil and apply it twice a day to your nails and your cuticles.
I recommend using a cuticle oil pen since they allow you to keep your nails hydrated even when you are on the go.
6- The Gel Polish Wasn’t Cured Completely
If your gel polish wasn’t cured completely can easily lead to peeling and lifting.
You see usually what happens with incomplete curing is that the top part is cured but the bottom part is still soft and uncured.
Related Article: Tips to Help Correctly Dry & Cure Gel Nail Polish Faster.
Curing problems usually happens because:
1- Your UV Led Lamp isn’t powerful enough or broken and not working as it should. This means that the UV light can only cure the top layer and can’t penetrate to the lower layer.
2- You didn’t follow the instructions correctly and didn’t allow the gel polish to cure for long enough.
How to Fix
- Upgrade to a more powerful UV Led Nail Lamp – if your current lamp is under 24 watts I highly recommend upgrading.
- Ensure your Nail Lamp is working properly, if its dimmer than when you bought consider replacing it
- Cure your gel polish for the time stipulated by that specific brand’s instruction You see each brand will have a different curing time, usually the bottle or box will have how long you need to cure it for.
- Also, if you are doubting your nail lamp’s strength you can cure your gel nails for a bit longer
If your nail lamps are very old you need to check the bulbs to ensure that they are in working order.
How to Interpret the Directions of the Nail Lamp
Now, if the instructions on your gel polish say 1 minute with a 48-watt lamp, and if you have a 36-watt lamp then you need to cure it for 1 minute and 25 seconds.
I usually use a 48watt UV Led Lamp, you can click here to see the current price on Amazon for the one that I recommend.
7- The Gel Polish Was Applied in Thick Layers
If you apply your gel polishes in thick layers it can also lead to them not curing properly.
You see when you apply your gel polishes in thick layers makes it is for the UV light to penetrate and cure the polish completely.
And with thick layers, your gel polish is more prone to pooling which can it to become uneven.
Related Article – Why Does Gel Polish Wrinkle – How to Fix & Prevent
How to Fix
Apply your gel polishes in multiple thin layers and cure after each layer and your gel polish will look more smooth and last longer.
8- The Free Edges Weren’t Capped
If you don’t cap the edges of your nails with some of the gel polish you leave a gap where the polish will be more prone to lift and peel off.
How to Fix
Capping is basically covering the tips of your nails with polish to close off the gap between the gel polish and your nails
I have a video below that will guide you on how to quickly and easily cap the edges of your nails.
9- The Nails are Being Exposed to Harsh Conditions.
If your gel manicure is being constantly exposed to harsh conditions and strong chemicals then peeling is more likely to occur.
You see environmental factors such as heat from cooking and baking, intense cold from refrigeration and strong chemicals such as bleach and detergent will break down the gel polish.
How to Fix
I recommend using gloves when doing activities that you know would damage your gel manicure.
Also, you need to keep your nails moisturized and hydrated this prevents the gel polish from drying out and cracking. So you should use cuticle oil or a good moisturizer on your nails at least twice a day.
How to Fix Gel Polish That Is Already Peeling & Lifting
1- Apply an Additional Layer of Top Coat
If you see your gel polish is starting to peel off, you can apply a top coat over it. The top coat will help to slow down the peeling and give your gel manicure a couple of days more of wear.
Ensure you use the top coat to cap the free edges.
2- Moisturize More Often
If you notice your gel nails are peeling, I recommend applying cuticle oil to your nails as often as you can. This will prevent them from drying out and help to prolong their lifespan.
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