Guide to Gel Nail Polish

With our gel nail polishes guide, you can find out everything you need to know before buying or using the product including how do you apply gel nail polish and how do you take off gel nail polish. If you're ready to buy or want to see our selection, visit our gel nail polish page.

Top Gel Nail Polishes Brands

  • DIOR
  • Barry M
  • essie
  • Le Mini Macaron
  • Nails Inc
  • PUPA

Gel Nail Polishes FAQs

How do you apply gel nail polish?

The first step is to ensure that your nails are clean, filed, buffed and shaped beforehand. If you are painting natural nails, take a nail primer and apply a thin layer. This will help to remove any oil and changes the pH of the nail for longer-lasting results.

Apply a gel base coat to nails and cure under the UV lamp for one minute. Once cured, take your chosen gel nail polish colour and apply a thin layer to nails. Cure under the UV lamp for the time recommended by the manufacturer and then repeat with a second coat. Lastly, apply a layer of gel top coat to nails and cure under the lamp. If you're using a top coat that leaves a sticky residue, be sure to wipe with a nail cleanser to reveal a gel manicure that's bursting with shine.

How do you take off gel nail polish?

The best way to remove gel nail polish without damaging your natural nails is to soak your fingertips in acetone. You can do this either in a small bowl that's filled with acetone and a few drops of cuticle oil, or by soaking cotton balls with acetone, placing one on each nail and securing them with a small square of aluminium foil.

After 15-20 minutes of soaking, the gel polish will begin to look as though it is peeling away from the nail. Once all the gel polish has lifted, you should be able to take a nail stick and, with gentle pressure, scrape the gel polish away from your nail. If the gel nail polish isn't lifting away easily, you'll need to soak your nails for a further five minutes and try again.

lady prepping nails

How do you prep nails before applying gel nail polish?

The first step to prepping your nails for gel polish is to remove traces of old nail colour. Use a non-acetone remover for regular nail varnish or an acetone remover to soak off old gel nails. Start by taking a cuticle tool and gently push back the cuticles at the bottom of your nail-bed. This will prevent your gel polish from sticking to skin and prematurely peeling off. Then, with a soft nail file, file nails to your desired length and shape.

Take a buffing block and using back-and-forth motions, run it over each nail. This will buff away any ridges and leave you with a soft, smooth canvas for gel polish application. Dust away any residue with a nail brush and use a lint-free alcohol wipe to sanitise and remove excess oils from the nails. Apply a thin layer of nail primer, and your nails are now prepped and ready for a salon-worthy gel manicure!

Can you leave gel nail polish to dry naturally?

Gel nail polish cannot be left to air dry as oxygen can disrupt the formula. Air stops the gel molecules from bonding and hardening, making it almost impossible for the polish to dry naturally. No matter how long you leave it, nails will remain runny and smudge easily.

In order to achieve a long-lasting, professional-grade gel manicure, you need to cure nails under an ultraviolet (UV) or LED lamp. The gel polish is designed to absorb the light, which then makes it harden and bond to the nail. The result? A well-gelled manicure that lasts for weeks.

Remember to check your bottle of gel polish to see if it works with a UV or LED lamp. If you're not keen on the idea of curing your nails under a lamp, there are plenty of regular nail polishes that mimic the gel-effect on the market to try!

person choosing from a nail colour palette

Should I get gel or regular nail polish?

Gel nails are a great option if you're looking for a long-lasting manicure, whether that be for a holiday, festival or special occasion. Gel nail polish is designed to last two to three times longer than a regular varnish, with some manicures lasting up to four weeks! Not to mention, gel nails provide a high-shine finish and are chip-resistant. Easy and convenient, they'll stay intact until you decide to remove the polish. Plus, there is a lesser chance of smudging your new colour whilst waiting for them to dry.

A gel polish manicure is also suggested for those that struggle to grow nails and often bite them, as your natural nail bed is given the opportunity to strengthen and lengthen.

If you enjoy switching up your nail colour or are pushed for time and money (gel polishes tend have a higher price tag), then a regular polish might be a more suitable choice. There is even a wide variety of regular polishes that give off the gel-effect that you can choose from.