Can You Put Press on Nails Over Gel Polish?

LuxeLuminous is reader supported. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

There are few things you can do to give your look a boost that are more powerful than a fresh manicure. However, with our busy schedules, a trip to the nail technician or beauty salon is hard to fit in, and expensive!

This is probably why press-on nails are making a huge comeback. They’re easy to apply and have loads of options. But what about nail prep? Can you take a few shortcuts and get the same beautiful results?

Can you put press-on nails over gel polish?

You can apply press-on nails over polishes such as gel polish, but it isn’t a good idea. Here’s why:

  • The gel polish will affect the adhesive’s performance. It’s not going to stay for long.
  • It may dry out the nail over time
  • Nail polish can scuff the nail when removing the press-on nail 

We’ll explain this in a little more detail below.


Can You Put Press-On Nails Over Gel Polish?

Press On Nails

If you’re in a major hurry and need to put on press-ons this instant for an event that’s only going to last a short while, then yes, you could put the press-ons directly on top of your gel manicure.

The adhesive tabs or nail glue you use will adhere to the gel polish for some time.

How long will they last? It’s hard to say!

But it is certain that the press-ons will last longer if secured to a natural nail without any nail polish on it and properly prepped for press-on nails.

Press-ons will last longer if secured to a natural nail without any nail polish on it and properly prepped for press-on nails.

If you want your press-ons nails to last for the longest time possible, follow the instructions for your product. We’re sure they’re going to say that you need to remove any existing nail finish before applying.

Some people may use gel polish (specifically builder gel) to help make press-on nails adhere, but this is a different method than putting press on nails on top of dry gel nails.

Why You Should Remove Nail Polish Before Applying Press-on Nails

Whether you’re looking for short or long nails, polished or plain, press-on nails can be customized to suit any look. Not just that, many users testify to them being much less harmful to your natural nails as well when compared to similar products.

Certain nail polishes are potentially more damaging beneath press-on nails than others, such as gel polishes. The main reason for this is the chemical structure of the gel nail polish and the impact it has on the nail glue or adhesive that you use to attach your press-on nails. 

Poor Adhesion

Gel polishes tend to possess a fair amount of oils and similar products that give them their shiny appearance. However, adhesives like nail glue and oils do not mix well!

When the adhesive is applied directly to the gel polish, there is a good chance that it will not attach firmly. It will become loose and pop off after a little while.

adhesives like nail glue and oils do not mix well!

Nail Damage

Next, due to the chemicals found in gel polishes, if you decide to keep your press-on nails for a longer period, the gel polish beneath the nail may begin to affect the nail negatively as it soaks in and is unable to breathe beneath the press-on nail.

This results in staining and/or drying out of the natural nails.

Problems with Removal

Depending on the strength and quality of the nail glue or adhesive, the gel polish may become attached firmly to the glue, which can cause issues during removal. When peeling off your press-on nails, the gel polish may also peel off the nail.

This can scuff the nail’s top layers, making them weak and susceptible to breakage.

How to Apply Press-on Nails The Right Way

Press On Nails

Preparing your natural nails before applying your ABS plastic press-on nails is a key part of ensuring that you minimize any potential damage.

Most press-on nails come with a kit that typically caters for application in one of three ways: nail glue, double-sided glue gel strips, and in some instances, the press-on nails may already have an adhesive strip attached to them.

Here are a few simple steps to give yourself a proper press-on manicure:

Step 1

Be sure to sort the nails correctly and apply the correct nail to each finger. There’s nothing worse than realizing you’ve applied the wrong press-on nail when you’ve already completed half of them.

The last thing you want is to have to remove a freshly applied press-on!

Step 2

The next step is arguably the most important and involves preparing your nail bed and surface for effective application. This typically involves the following process:

  • Disinfect the surface using a suitable water-based hand sanitizer to remove any heavy debris or oils that may be present.
  • Focus on the nail bed and cuticles. Gently push back the cuticles using a cuticle pusher and remove any dead skin or tissue that’s present. This is a very important step, as loose skin and uneven cuticles may cause the press-on nails to detach easily.
  • Next, give your nails a quick buff using a 180/240 nail buffer to remove the shine and any more surface oil that may affect adhesion. File your nails, following the natural contours of the nail.
  • Once the nail is completely free of oils, and gunk from the steps above, remove the nail dust caused by the nail buffer. The best way to do this is to use a swab of alcohol or a similar nail wipe and allow that to dry when complete. Ideally, your nails should look chalky white before applying press-on nails.
  • This step is optional and is mainly suggested for individuals who experience lifting problems or have had prior nail enhancements. In such cases, it may be advisable to first apply a bond enhancer.  

Step 3

Now that your natural nail surface is fully prepared, you can start applying your press-on nails. It’s usually advised to start with your pinkie finger, working your way to your thumb.

Some nail technicians suggest that there are benefits of applying a thin layer of natural polish beneath the press-on nails; however, this is much more suitable for individuals whose nails are already dry or damaged and that may be affected by applying nail glue directly to them.

How to Remove Press-on Nails Safely

Press-on nails are relatively easy to remove compared to other options, such as acrylic nails. however, regardless of which fake nail you use, you should never try to pull or force them off physically.

Below are three simple and proven ways to remove fake nails and glue residue while keeping your natural nail health intact:

1. Acetone Boiler Method

One of the more common methods involves adding a small bowl of acetone to a larger bowl of hot water and allowing the acetone to heat up. Once the acetone is warm enough, you can dip your press-on nails directly into it, and the nails should begin to detach within a few minutes.

Acetone does tend to dry out your fingertips and nails fairly rapidly, so it is advisable to slap on some olive oil or moisturizer beforehand and wash your hands thoroughly again afterward to ensure that any acetone residue is removed completely.

2. Cuticle Oil Method

The most natural of the three methods, this removal process involves applying cuticle oil to your fingers generously, all around the nail and beneath it where it attaches to your natural nail.

Use a q-tip or cotton ball to get into the small gaps and ensure even coverage.

Allow the cuticle oil to soak and work its way into the nail and adhesive for a few minutes, and after a little while, you’re likely to notice the press-on nail start to loosen. At that point, you can easily remove it.

If the entire nail is not loosening, you can gently lift part of the nail and apply a little more cuticle oil to the area still attached.

3. Foil Method

Nail foils are designed to enable fake nail removal by applying heat to it, which in turn, causes the adhesive to melt. This method has evolved over the years into nail clips which work just as well on acrylic and gel nails as well.

Using foil or nail clips can also be combined with either of the two methods mentioned above for a quicker and more effective removal process.

Tips to Help Your Press-on Nails Last Longer

If you’re planning on keeping your press-on nails for a longer period, these are a few tips that can help you achieve this:

  1. Clean the surface thoroughly, removing all debris, dirt, and oil. By that, we mean: no gel polish!
  2. Use enough glue to ensure that the press-on nail is fixed firmly. You may want to consider swapping out the nail kit glue for a higher-end option.
  3. Consider shorter nails as opposed to longer ones. The latter is more likely to snag on surfaces and fabrics, making them easier to pop off.
  4. Reduce direct exposure to water. Consider using gloves when bathing and washing dishes, as the soap and water will affect the adhesive and make it less potent.


It’s not a good idea to apply press-on nails directly on top of gel nails. The adhesives won’t work as well, and your nails will pop off much sooner than they otherwise might.

But there could be some scenario where you only want your press-ons to last for an hour or so, and don’t have time for proper gel removal. In that case, you can try applying the press-ons directly to the gels.

Just don’t be surprised if they start to loosen unexpectedly!

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).