What the gel, bro? A Quick Gel Polish Q&A

What is gel polish?  Good question. Let's get the basics out of the way so we all know what we're talking about. Gel polish is basically nail polish that needs to be "cured" with either a UV or LED light. Each layer has to be cured for a period of time but once the final layer is cured your nails are hardened and good to go. You can go from curing your nails to doing dishes in 2 minutes!

How do you apply gel polish? It's really easy and not too different from the way you (should) do any standard polish manicure. The main difference is that you need to cure gel polish after every coat. You start with a base coat and then you cure it under the lamp. Then you follow with a THIN layer of gel polish in the color you want and cure that. You can repeat the color coat and cure 2-3 times depending on the polish (if it's really sheer you may even need more coats). Then you apply a layer of top coat and cure that. Then you have to wipe off the sticky top layer with a lint-free nail wipe and isopropyl alcohol to finish your manicure. TIP: You can buy specialized "finisher" liquid for this last step but you can also by any old rubbing alcohol for a fraction of the cost. Then you're done! You nails are completely dried, hardened, and ready to go!

What is the difference between acrylic and gel polish? Both gel and acrylic look very similar because they're both thick, shiny, and super hard. However, acrylic is a liquid and powder mix that is applied to your nails with a brush that hardens without use of any UV/LED lamp. Gel, on the other hand, is a polish and is basically useless unless you have a UV/LED lamp.

How long does gel polish last? The gel polish that requires a lamp can stay on your nails for 3-4 weeks. This means that you won't be taking it off because it chipped, you'll be taking it off because you want a different color! Other non-lamp gel polish will last anywhere from 7-14 days. Be sure to check the gel polish bottle to see their wear time since wear time can vary from brand to brand.

Is there gel polish that doesn't require use of a UV/LED lamp? Technically, yes, there are gel polishes on the market that don't require use of a lamp. For example, the Sally Hansen two step Miracle Gel gives you a gel manicure without use of any lamp. However, the gel-without-a-lamp options DO NOT last as long as the gel-with-a-lamp options. I have used both types and can attest to the different in wear times. I used Sally Hansen for gel polish before I tried out my first REAL gel polish.

I read online you have to use a base and top coat. Is that really required? You know, I'm not sure. I have never tried a gel manicure without a base and top coat. I read online that if you don't use a base coat the gel polish won't stick to your finger....but I've never tried it so I don't know! If you have had success with gel polish without using a base coat, leave a comment!

Can I use regular nail polish in between the base and top coat? Yes. You can use regular nail polish in between the base and top coats. However, you can't force the regular polish to dry quickly by curing it under the lamp (it won't work). You will have to wait for the regular polish to dry COMPLETELY before putting the top coat. Also, your manicure will not last as long as it would have if you used all gel products.

Where can I buy gel polish? Depending on the brand you want, pretty much anywhere! There are good gel options at Target, Sally's Beauty Supply, and Ulta. Although, to be honest, I was a little disappointed in Ulta's selection. You can also find them online at Amazon. I like the Red Carpet Manicure gel polish I bought at Ulta and they're only $10.00. A typical gel polish will cost between $10-$15.

How do I remove gel polish? Unfortunately, removal of gel polish is sort of a huge pain, not gonna lie. I guess when you have a beautiful manicure that lasts 3 weeks we can handle a bit of a nuisance in removal. Gel polish is considered "soak off" which means you essentially have to apply acetone to your nails and let them soak in it for about 10-15 minutes. You can soak your nails in a bowl of acetone, use one of these manicure clip sets and clip an acetone-drenched cotton ball to your nails, or use a DIY foil wrap to keep the cotton ball on your nails. My only word of caution is DON'T PICK at gel nails. Picking is no bueno and can lead to damaged nail plates!

UV or LED lamp? What's the difference? The main difference is the length of time you have to cure your nails. UV lamps have longer cure times (between 2-3 minutes typically). LED lamps have shorter (30-60 second) cure times. Again, be sure to consult the brand of polish your using to determine the appropriate cure times.

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