Can You Swim With Gel Nails?

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

Chlorine is a powerful chemical and does funny things to the body. It is well known for stripping dye out of your hair and making it frizzy, but is it bad for your gel nails? And what about salt water?

Can you swim with gel nails? How much damage will swimming do to your beautiful gels?

If you have a topcoat and wash your nails after you’ve finished swimming, they should be ok. 

A topcoat can be used to protect the nails and help seal the sides of the nails where water can soak in.

  • Swimming can discolor the nails
  • Chlorine can make the gel nails weak
  • Gel nails can lift away from your natural ones

Your gel nails will likely be fine as long as you follow the before and after care of your gel nails. It is also important to limit your time out swimming.

Here we explain which swimming water is the worst and just how to prepare your nails for swimming.


Can You Swim With Gel Nails?

There is no problem swimming with gel nails, just as it is ok to swim with press-ons and acrylics.

There is no problem swimming with gel nails, just as it is ok to swim with press-ons and acrylics.

However, it is important to consider the time you plan to be in the water.

Prolonged exposure can badly damage your nails.

Gel nails are not the best option for those who love to swim and are in the water every day. Water can loosen your nails or cause them to chip more easily if you leave them in water for a long time.

If you swim as a one-off for a few hours, however, your nails should not be affected. There should be no long-term damage.

Does All Swimming Water Damage Gel Nails?

1. Chlorine

Gel nails can still be damaged by chlorine, which weakens them and makes them gummy. Compared to lacquer nails, which can be damaged by chlorine, gels will last longer before starting to get harmed.

And you can almost completely eliminate your risk here with a good top coat. 

modelones Gel Nail Polish Top Coat- 15ml No Wipe, High Gloss Shiny Long Lasting Top Gel for Clear Nail Gel and Acrylic Nails, for Home DIY and Nail Salon
  • 🔥 Top Coat: You will get modelones...
  • 🔥 28 Days+ Long-lasting: modelones...
  • 🔥 Upgraded Formula: Modelones nail...
  • 🔥 Smooth & Easy application: The Gel...
  • 🔥 Notice: Use the same brand of Nail...

It’s essential to wash your hands after exposure to chlorine. Also, if you’ve just got a manicure, wait a day or so before spending time by the pool.

And finally, the strength of gel nails weakens over time. So if your gel nails are over a week old, they may be impacted by the chlorine.

2. Fresh Water

Swimming in rivers, lakes, and plain water pools won’t affect your gel nails as much. Gel nails are less vulnerable to fresh water because water can only penetrate the cuticle edge. Water may not be possible to enter the cuticle point, depending on the skill of your manicurist.

Aside from being water-repellent, gel nails are also durable. 

As a precaution, if you don’t want water trapped between your gel nails and the nail bed (a potential risk of nail fungus), you should apply a topcoat to ensure they are completely waterproof.

You’ll avoid a lot of trouble if you use a topcoat.

3. Salt Water

Similar to chlorine, top coats will prevent salt from getting everywhere. Gel nails can become discolored and weakened by salt, but not as much as regular nail polish. Still, it’s important to take precautions when swimming in the ocean.

Swimming water of any kind isn’t great for gel nails, but they will tolerate water more than regular lacquer polish kind. 

How Do Gel Nails React If You Get Water Under Them?

Unlike acrylic nails, gel nails are at less risk if you get water under the gel. As there is typically no false nail in the case of gel nail, you’re less likely to get fingernail fungus from gels than if you were wearing acrylic nails.

Fungus from acrylics is common, and a major downside to acrylic nails.

Still, if you feel that water has gotten under your gels, you should remove them immediately at a salon, and have your nails checked.

When Swimming, Can Gel Nails Be Protected?

Mention to your manicurist that you plan to go swimming. They will give you advice and tips on how to look after your nails and the right products to use.

Don’t let your nails stop you from enjoying some fresh water!

1. Several Thin Layers of Polish Should Be Applied

As with your manicure, apply a couple of thin layers if you want it to be dense and strong. There might be a perception that thick nails are stronger, but thick nails are more likely to crack in the water. 

There might be a perception that thick nails are stronger, but thick nails are more likely to crack in the water. 

2. Oil Your Cuticles

Before and after swimming, apply cuticle oil to repel water between your manicure and nail bed. In addition, you should ensure that after swimming in chlorinated or salt water, you thoroughly wash your hands afterward to ensure proper cuticle oil absorption.

3. Bathe Your Nails in Ice Water

After applying the polish, soak your fingers for approximately five minutes in an ice-water bath. As a result, a smaller molecular space is created in the paint, creating a denser, harder finish and greater durability.

This will help to prevent water from getting in.

4. Rest and Wash Them

If you plan to spend the whole day in the pool, you might want to hop out periodically and wash your nails off, particularly if the water is chlorinated or salty. As time passes, the severity of prolonged exposure increases exponentially. 

There is more damage done when the exposure is prolonged without a break. If you get out to dry off and have a drink, wash your hands so the chemicals are not sitting and soaking into the nail.


The only thing you can do to safeguard your mani is to protect your nails and limit chlorine exposure. You can’t do much else to protect your manicure.

In most cases, if you’re an occasional swimmer or vacation beachgoer, you won’t have any problems keeping the gel manicure on after swimming or going on vacation.

You can follow a few tips mentioned above to help protect your nails.

Getting your manicure done professionally and ensuring the company is reputable is also a good idea when you go swimming. 

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).