Reasons Why Your Gel Nail Polish Isn’t Staying On (Plus Solutions!)

Gel nail polish can look incredible.

When your nails are done, you can easily spend hours just staring at them because they look that good. Except, when you get home you’re met with quite the surprise – the polish has already started peeling off!

This can be quite a bummer to experience, but as it turns out there are a number of reasons why this can occur.

Reasons Why Your Gel Nail Polish Isn’t Staying On (Plus Solutions!)

There are two key reasons why your gel nail polish may be coming off not long after you’ve applied it. In one instance it could be because there’s excessive moisture build-up on the nails.

Other times, it could simply be because the nails have too much oil on them.

There are a number of problems that can happen when you are trying to apply gel polish to your nails. Thankfully most of them come with simple solutions so your manicure can look fresh and untouched for so much longer.

Ultimately it’s best to remember that if your nails are wet or too moist before you apply the polish, it’s not very likely to stick. To counter this, many people will put a nail prep primer on their nails before they apply the gel nail polish.

Basically, if you want to successfully apply the gel nail polish and ensure that it sticks onto your nails, it’s imperative that the nails are already dry before you start the application. Nails can often absorb water in a similar way to sponges, and this means that they can get bigger in turn, at least temporarily.

For that reason, it’s a bad idea to paint your nails when you have recently come out of the shower or the bath, or after you have done the dishes. Your nails are more expanded at this point meaning that it’s more likely that they will be damaged by the water.

Essentially, you’d end up wasting your time. Your nails would end up expanding thanks to the water, and then they’d begin to dry out and go back to the size that they were to begin with. When the nails shrink back to their original size, the nails can start to peel away.

What To Do About It

What To Do About It

As you can probably tell, the solution to this particular dilemma is quite a simple one. All you need to do is avoid getting your gel nail polish done right after you’ve had your hands in water. This includes following baths or showers.

Before you get your gel nail polish done you will first need to ensure that the nails are thoroughly dried. It can sometimes help to put the nails under a hairdryer to dry them off, but again you will need to let them cool before applying the polish because heat can cause nails to expand too.

You’d basically be creating the same problem for yourself otherwise, except with heat instead of water.

Alternatively, you can simply put some acetone on the nails after you’ve dried them off, since it will help the nails to dry out a little faster.

The Problem With Oil

The Problem With Oil

Water isn’t the only thing that can cause some problems for you and your gel nails. If you have very oily nails, you may also encounter some problems.

This is especially problematic if your nails are naturally rather oily. In this scenario, you may have a hard time getting gel nail polish to stick at all.

With that being said though, where there is a will there is almost always a way, and that is the case with gel nail polish. There are some things that you can do to help your gel nail polish to stick if you have oily nails.

What To Do About It

Before you apply your gel nail polish, you should always ensure that you take the right steps to prepare the nails in advance.

When you’re ready to start applying your gel nail polish, you should first start by getting a nail prep wipe solution or some rubbing alcohol and putting it on your nails first.

This is a good idea because any oil that’s lurking on your nails will be removed before you apply the polish.

In addition to that, it’s a good idea to do what you can to stay away from touching your nails using your fingers after you have applied the rubbing alcohol.

This is because the oil from your fingers may just end up getting back onto the nails again, making the whole ordeal of applying it in the first place pretty much redundant.

Rubbing alcohol isn’t effective for everyone, though. If you find that it isn’t working well for you then look for a nail dehydrator online. This is a product that you can apply to your nails to dry them out.

The product is easy to use and is applied in exactly the same way that you would apply any normal nail polish – it even comes in a similar-looking bottle.

Nail polish primers for gel polish also exist and these are useful for helping you to avoid polish chipping.

It’s easy enough to put just a bit of primer onto the whole nail or even only the places where chips tend to happen. It’s usually a lot easier just to put the primer onto the tips of the nails though since it’s easier to remove that way.

If you apply a dehydrator and a primer before you apply the base coat, you may be able to avoid issues with the gel nail polish when you come to apply it on oily nails.

In some cases, people will put sunscreen on before they apply gel nail polish because the gel needs to cure under UV light. This isn’t actually necessary because the lamps are effective at curing the nails really quickly, so you’re not going to cause any problems for your skin or nails as a result.

If you’ve put additional things onto your nails, things that aren’t designed for preparing your nails or rubbing alcohol, then these can cause issues because they can add more moisture into your nails.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to avoid using too many products when you are planning on putting gel polish onto your nails.

If you are still having issues with getting your nail polish to stay where it should then don’t apply any extra products to them unless they’re the ones we have listed above. This includes hand cream, sunscreen, and cuticle oil.

All of these things can cause problems for getting your gel nail polish to stick properly on your nails.

Lack of Base Coats

Lack of Base Coats

If you’re lazy, you aren’t going to like this one. Always, always apply a base coat before putting gel polish on. This is because these coats of polish are specially made to help the gel to stick to your nails.

The colored polish is then made to adhere to the base coat. If you don’t apply the base coat then you will have issues getting the polish to actually stick to your nails. 

Help! My Nail Polish Keeps Chipping

Help! My Nail Polish Keeps Chipping

A lot of people seem to have this idea that gel nail polish is indestructible and incapable of actually chipping. This isn’t the case at all.

Chips aren’t as likely to happen if the polish has been applied well, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for it to chip at all. You could do everything right and there’s still a chance that the polish may chip at some point down the line.

Gel nail polish does dry hard and that’s why it can be easy to think that nothing is going to chip them, but that’s not true.

It’s a good idea to be careful with what you are doing when you have gel nail polish in order to avoid chipping your nails. 

If you are a little concerned that your nails are going to chip, then the best solution is to make the gel nails a light color that’s similar to the color of your nails. This means that if any chips do happen you are far less likely to notice them.

In some cases, your gel nails might also end up chipping if you haven’t applied them correctly. Doing something called capping will help you to reduce the likelihood of chips in your polish.

Okay, so what is capping?

Get the brush of your nail polish and then run it across the tips of your nails. Do this before you cure, and you have then capped your nails.

This can be a bit tricky to do so we definitely recommend finding a video tutorial since what we have mentioned here is a fairly simple explanation of it. It’s worthwhile to do this though since your nails will look beautiful and fresh for much longer.

When you first try to do it there is a chance that you will get some uneven tips or some tips that could look somewhat out of place. If you do see this happening then all you need to do is to file them and put another coat on top in order to seal it. 

What To Do About It

If you are experiencing chipping because you haven’t applied a base coat, it’s not hard to figure out what you need to do in order to ensure that you don’t have the problem in the future.

That’s right – just put a base coat on first. Simple!

Using a gel base coat is always necessary if you would like to get the best possible results. It may seem like a hassle, but it’s vital if you want your gel nails to stand the test of time.

Gel Nail Polish Application Time

What To Do About It (2)

You may be surprised to know that you can usually apply gel nail polish a lot faster than you can apply normal polish.

You will eventually get used to applying it, and thanks to this it’s easy enough to get the nails completely sorted in less than an hour and a half. This isn’t just for applying the topcoat either – this includes when you are preparing and painting the nails.

If you have a high-quality lamp then this can have a big effect on how long it takes to apply the polish though. It’ll take longer if the lamp isn’t very good.

My Nails Look Dull – Why?

My Nails Look Dull - Why

If you are noticing that the nails are looking a little boring and without their shine, then it’s most likely because the curing process has gone wrong.

If the nails haven’t been cured correctly then they can end up losing their color or looking less shiny. It generally happens because you have cured the gel nails too much.

If this happens to you, all you need to do is cure the nails for a shorter duration of time.

Play around with it to figure out what will work for you. It’s worth using a different lamp too since some lamps and polishes simply don’t work well together. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use acetone to thin gel nail polish?

No – you should not use acetone to thin gel nail polish. If you want to get the best results then it’s best to use things that are specifically designed to thin gel nail polish instead.

What happens if you cure gel nails too much?

If you have cured the nails too much, then the most likely outcome is that the nails will become too hard and this can result in chipping. Your nails may also end up looking dull after the fact.

How many coats of gel nail polish do I need?

This will usually depend, but it’s usually best to use a minimum of two coats of gel nail polish. Keep the layers thin, as they can look a little strange if they are too thick.

Miranda Cole
Latest posts by Miranda Cole (see all)