Gel Polish F.A.Q.

If you have any questions about gel polish, this is the place to be. Hopefully this post addresses any questions you have. If your question is still not answered after reading this post, then please email me at kirstylee@whatthegelnails.com or message me on facebook.

Gel Polish Frequently Asked Questions

I plan to update this post as I get asked more questions, so be sure to check back whenever you have a question. Bookmark this page so you can get to it easily. 🙂

What is a gel manicure?

  • A gel polish manicure uses soak off gel that looks and acts like nail polish, but technically it is gel. You must do a base coat, 2-3 coats of the color, then finish with a top coat. Each layer of polish must be cured in a UV or LED lamp. “Cured” basically just means dried. After the top coat has cured in the lamp a tacky (or inhibition layer) must be wiped off using rubbing alcohol. It’s all a bit scientific, but the main thing is this, a gel polish manicure gives you shiny, chip free wear for 2 weeks. Plus, when the top coat has finished curing, it is complete dry! You do have to wipe off the inhibition layer, but after that your gel manicure is dry and won’t dent or smudge.

How do you do gel nail polish at home?

  • I have answered this question in depth in this post. Its a step by step tutorial with photos.

How do you take off gel nail polish?

Can gel polish cure without a UV or LED lamp?

  • No, not really. I guess theoretically you could cure your gel polish using UV rays from the sun, but dry times would be extremely inconsistent depending on how bright it is, what brand you are using, the chemistry of your nails, etc. I have never attempted to dry gel polish using the sun and I would not recommend it. It probably takes long enough that it’s not worth it, anyway. Just get a UV lamp or an LED lamp. They aren’t that expensive. 🙂 See this post for lamp recommendations.

What’s the difference between a UV lamp and an LED lamp?

  • An LED lamp can cure gel polish (base coat, colors, and top coat) in 30-60 seconds. The light bulbs last the lifetime of the lamp and never have to be replaced. A UV lamp cures gel polish in 2-3 minutes. I don’t know the exact times because I’ve only ever used an LED lamp. It usually says on the gel polish bottle how long to cure in LED and how long to cure in UV. Light bulbs in UV lamps do have to be replaced periodically. I don’t know much about it because I don’t have a UV lamp, but if your lamp seems to not be curing as well, try replacing the bulb. I have heard that gel polish tends to cure “harder” when using a UV lamp.

Does gel polish ruin your nails?

  • Gel polish itself doesn’t ruin your nails, but improper removal can definitely ruin your nails. Be sure to read my post about How to Remove Gel Polish at Home as well as Gel Removal Tips and Tricks. If you do it right, gel polish should keep your nails nice. The acetone used for removal does really dry out your nails though and this can make them weak. Never fear, there are lots of remedies to this problem. See the next question and answer.

My nails/cuticles are dry and/or weak. How can I correct this?

Is there an easier way to remove gel polish than foil method?

  • I think Nail Mates for removal are way easier, but it still takes 15 minutes of soaking no matter what method you use. See my Gel Removal Tips and Tricks for more ideas. Yes, gel polish removal can be a pain, but considering I get 2 weeks of perfect, shiny wear, it’s something I can live with.

Can I remove gel polish without acetone?

Can I use regular nail polish with gel polish?

  • No and yes. No, you cannot cure regular nail polish in a lamp and use it just like gel polish. Gel polish has a completely different formula. That being said, there are a few ways you can use regular nail polish with gel polish. Usually these methods do not last as long as a regular gel polish manicure, but they do last longer than just a plain regular nail polish manicure. First method, Sandwich: Use regular nail polish in between a gel polish base and top coat. The key is to let the regular nail polish dry completely before using the top coat. 24 hours is usually recommended. Second method, Regular Nail Polish over Gel: Do a regular gel polish manicure, but skip the color or just do a sheer color like 2 coats of IBD Cashmere Blush. After removing the tacky layer, paint regular nail polish over the gel polish. Third method, Turn it Into Gel: Use Gelibility to turn regular nail polish into gel. Michelle from Manic Talons has a great review and tutorial for it, so be sure to check it out!

Why are gel polish bottles opaque?

  • As you probably know by now, gel polish needs UV light to cure. A UV or LED lamp speeds up this process and makes it happen in a specified amount of time, but sunlight and even light from light bulbs have UV rays. These rays can eventually cure gel polish, which is why gel polish bottles are opaque. It protects the gel polish from any UV rays so that it doesn’t cure inside the bottle.

My dark colors aren’t curing or the color is getting on my top coat brush. What’s happening?

  • Try curing longer. Sometimes dark colors need 60 seconds in an LED lamp. I’m not sure about UV, but I would assume it’s the same. Also, the inhibition layer from the dark color could be getting onto the top coat brush. This won’t affect your manicure, just be sure to clean the brush before putting it back in the top coat bottle.

My gel polish is thick and goopy. How do I fix it?

  • I first suggest the Robart paint shaker. My bottle of IBD Whipped Cream was like this and the Robart fixed it up right away. I shake it for 20-30 seconds. It’s actually best the day after shaking (I have no idea why), but it’s also great right after. You can also try gel polish thinner. Do not use acetone because it will destroy your gel polish.

My gel polish is separating. How do I fix it?

  • I also suggest using the Robart paint shaker. Just strap your gel polish in and turn it on for 20-30 seconds. It should mix it all up nicely and be ready to apply immediately.

Can I use IBD with Gelish or CND Shellac with Cuccio, etc., etc. with any gel polish brand?

  • Pretty much any brand of gel polish can be used with another brand of gel polish. For instance, I use Gelish foundation (base coat) with IBD color with Gelish Top it Off (top coat) and it works great! Just make sure the gel polish will cure in your lamp. Today, most gel polish brands will cure in LED or UV lamps, but not all of them do. CND Shellac is supposed to only cure in a UV lamp, but some people can get it to cure in an LED lamp. Some brands have older colors that are only UV curable. As long as the gel polish cures in the lamp you have, you should be able to use it.

What is a flash cure?

  • A flash cure is just a fast cure. Just put your hand in the your lamp for 5-10 seconds, then take it out again. Flash curing helps with wrinkling and shrinking.

What if the gel polish on my brush dries because I accidentally took it outside or near my lamp while it was on?

  • Just soak the brush in acetone for about 15 minutes, then use your fingernail to scrape off all of the extra dried gel polish. Your brush will be a little wonky, but it will still work. And no, I don’t know about this one from experience. That would be so silly of me to think I could do a gel polish manicure outside by just using an extension cord. I mean obviously it would have occurred to me that the sun has UV rays. Ha ha ha ha ha ha, I’m not that silly… (Okay, yes, I did this with my IBD Funny Bone. Oops!)

What is a swatch?

  • A swatch is a picture of nails with a specific color of gel polish (or nail polish) painted on them. Many times, the bottle of gel polish is being held in the picture. See my Swatch Gallery for all the gel polish colors I have swatched.

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Hi, I'm Kirstylee. I'm a wife, mom, and lover of all things gel polish. I started this blog to share my knowledge and make new friends. :)