Can You Over Cure Gel Polish?

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

With the pandemic shutting down nail salons for a time, many of us decided to learn to fend for ourselves. This has resulted in lots of people doing their own manicures. That’s great, but…

While a qualified nail technician can make the 45-minute gel nail session seem like a piece of cake, once you try to do gel nails on your own, you realize it’s not as easy as it looks!

Can you over cure gel polish?

Yes, it’s possible to over cure your gel polish. If you do, the nails will be more likely to discolor, crack, or chip. they will also be harder to remove.

In this article, we are going to look at what happens if you over cure gel nails, how to tell when your nails are cured, and how to avoid over-curing.

There is nothing like trying to do your own gel nails to give you a more profound respect for trained and qualified nail technicians. It’s not only an art but a skill that requires training and (lots of) practice.


Can You Over Cure Gel Polish?

All gel products have a recommended curing time set by the manufacturer. The gel polish is developed to plasticize and stay flexible, so it can flex and bend with your real nails when cured for the recommended amount of time.

That’s why they are called “gel” nails.

They are designed to be able to move with your natural nails.

If you go over the targetted time for curing, you run the risk of exposing the nails to too much UV light. This can over-harden the nails, and lead to some unwanted outcomes.

What Happens If You Over-Cure Gel Nails?

Beautiful Gel Nails

If over-cured, the gel polish will become solidified. The UV light basically bakes it on.

Not only does over-curing your gels make them more likely to crack and chip, but it will make them less reactive to acetone and make them much harder to remove.

Not only does over-curing your gels make them more likely to crack and chip, but it will make them less reactive to acetone and make them much harder to remove.

The harder your polish is to remove, the more chance there is of damaging your natural nails during the removal process.

Solidified gel polish prone to cupping and cracking that is hard to remove is what happens when you over cure gel nails.

How Long Do You Cure Gel Nails For?

Gel polish manufacturers will have a recommended curing time for the base coat, the gel color layers and the top coat.

The curing time for different layers may not be the same, so make sure you follow the instructions for the polish you’re using!

It’s not uncommon for people to cure each layer a little longer just to “make sure”.

DON’T do that!

Follow the gel nail instructions for curing time outlined by the manufacturer of the product you are using. You should avoid over-curing your gel nails. Curing too long can lead to gel polish discoloration and other issues.

How Do I Know If My Gel Nails Are Cured?

The gel polish should be cured properly if you followed the manufacturer’s instructions about how to apply the gel and how long to cure it for each layer.

Fight off the temptation to “check” if the gel polish is cured by touching it.

Not only will that not tell you if it’s cured, but it can mess up your smooth finish! And it can contaminate the gel polish surface with dirt or oil, which can cause your gel nails to bubble later.

Check our article: “What Causes Bubbles In Gel Polish?”

What If My Gel Polish is Still Sticky After Curing?

Most gel manicures will feel sticky after curing*. All of your gel coats will feel tacky after curing, not just the topcoat. It’s a gel thing.

It’s the tackiness that allows each coat to stick to the next coat.

Gel manicures are inherently sticky. That stickiness is there to make sure the gel sticks to not only your nail, but so the layers stick to each other.

Once you’ve applied and cured for the recommended time, the only thing left for you to do is to remove the sticky residue to finish off your manicure to that smooth glossy, stick-free shine.

*There two exception to this rule:

  1. The newest generation of gel polishes do not have the sticky topcoat, or ‘inhibition layer’, and do not dry tacky.
  2. Most other gel polishes do dry tacky unless you use a no-wipe topcoat. 

A no-wipe top coat is exactly what it sounds like: a topcoat for gel polish that doesn’t dry sticky, nor does it need to be wiped with anything. It’s quick, easy, and mess-free, not to mention saves you that extra step.

Here are a few of our picks for the best no-wipe top coats:

How To Remove the Gel Polish Sticky Residue

Once you’ve finished your gel manicure, there is one last step that is often not mentioned. You need to remove the stickiness and get that smooth, luxurious, glossy finish you were going for.

The most common, budget-friendly, and effective way to remove the sticky or tacky layer on top of your gel topcoat is to use Isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol will dissolve the sticky layer making it easy to wipe away.

Use a lint-free wipe  along with high concentration alcohol (91% or more) to wipe off the tacky layer from the topcoat.

You can also use disposable alcohol wipes .

Don’t be afraid to wipe the nail. It’s dry. Regardless of which you use – the wipe with alcohol or the alcohol wipe – it’s a good idea to use a fresh wipe for each nail to prevent cross-contamination from nail to nail.

You can also use a gel nail cleanser  instead of alcohol.

Take Away

While most gel polish dries tacky and may seem under-cured, do not cure longer than the product manufacturer’s recommendation, just to be on the safe side.

Remember that most gel nails require the removal of the tacky layer on the topcoat.

If you’ve followed the instructions, wiped your topcoat and your gel nails are still sticky, maybe curing is not the problem.

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).