Why Does My Gel Polish Peel Off?

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What is your go-to nail product that keeps your nails looking great for a long time? Regular nail lacquer just doesn’t cut it anymore. It tends to chip in just a matter of days. Who wants to deal with that?

One type of nail that you could get is gel polish. Gel polishes have been increasing in popularity due to the fact that they last much longer than traditional nail lacquer.

Although it is meant to last long, it sometimes ends up peeling off. Have you ever asked yourself this question: Why does my gel polish peel off?

If you have, you are not alone! Many have experienced their gel polish peeling off of their nails.

There isn’t a single cause as to why this happens. There are various factors during the preparation, application, and aftercare that could lead to it.

Let’s discuss each in detail so that you can avoid your gel polishes from peeling off and enjoy them for a longer period of time.


Why Does My Gel Polish Peel Off?

Gel Polish

Gel polishes look really nice, whether you’re going for a traditional look or going wild. They are durable and can last quite a long time.

However, one downside to using them is the possibility of peeling off.

When the gel polish starts to peel off from the edges, there is a very tempting urge for us to completely peel it off.

It just feels so satisfying to peel it off easily. We know.

However, that would definitely ruin the aesthetic factor. Apart from that, gel polishes that are starting to peel could trap moisture that could lead to infection.

You don’t want that as that could ruin your nail bed if the infection spreads.

So the next time you get your gel polish done (or the next time you do it yourself), you should be careful and avoid the following causes of gel polish peeling off.

  • Improper cuticle preparation
  • Nails Aren’t Filed
  • Too Much Oil Or Moisture On Nail Plate
  • Thick Layer Of Gel Polish Is Applied
  • Absence Of Either Base Or Top Coat
  • Failure To Cap The Free Edges
  • Gel Polish Wasn’t Thoroughly Cured
  • Failure To Moisturize Adequately After The Procedure
  • Exposing Nails To Harsh Conditions

Let’s dig into all this below.

Improper Cuticle Preparation

Do you know what a cuticle is? Well, it is the clear skin that you’ll find at the back part of your nail

In order to get the most out of your gel nail polish, you should properly prepare it.

Usually, the cuticle is either pushed back or cut. Most professionals will suggest pushing them back instead of cutting them to avoid injuring yourself.

If you fail to properly clean your cuticles, your gel polish is going to attach to them. Eventually, it lifts and starts to peel off from the nail plate.

To properly prepare your cuticles, you may need to soak them in soapy water and oil to soften them first. Then you could push them gently.

You Forgot to File Your Nails

Nail File

Another thing that you should do to your nails in order to prevent the gel from peeling off is to file it properly. 

There are some who think that filing their nails before applying the coats will make them weaker. That is not true at all! You won’t be wearing away layers of your real nail regardless.

In order to file them, you should use a coarse grit file . You could either do it yourself or let the professionals handle it.

Filing your nails will create a rough surface that allows the gel polish to fully adhere. This creates a grip that the gel polish needs so it doesn’t easily peel off.

Apart from that, filing the nails can remove the dead cuticle or excess oils on the nails. 

Too Much Oil Or Moisture On Nail Plate

nail dehydrating solution

When your nails are overly moisturized with oil, the gel polish can’t stick to them.

This will eventually cause gel polish to peel off from the edges.

On the other hand, if you have too much moisture on your nail plate, it makes it difficult for gel polishes to stick properly to it.

Both the oil and excess moisture will create a barrier between the nail plate and gel polish. This may be the reason why the gel polish fails to adhere to your nails.

To fix this, you should make sure that you rub the nails with acetone or rubbing alcohol plus a dehydrating solution for nails  afterward.

This is done before using the nail primer.

Not Enough Primer On Your Nails Before Applying Polish

Nail primer

It’s important for you to apply primer  on the nails before applying any kind of polish. This is because primers are used as an adhesion base between gel polishes and your nails.

To create a good bond, you should apply it even before painting your nails with a base coat.

Without primer, the bond between the gel polish and the nail plate will be weak. That’s why it can easily peel off or chip after curing.

To fix this, you should always apply primer to ensure that your gels stay on for as long as possible.

Skipping Either the Base Coat Or Top Coat

The base coat and top coat are both important when you’re applying gel polish.

Though they sound like the same thing, they are actually two different things. Both of them have their own specific jobs that result in those perfect nails.

A base coat  is used for adhesion while a top coat seals in your gel manicure. They do it by creating a film on top of your gel polish.

If you don’t apply either one of them, the bond between layers will be weaker and less durable. This means that your gel nail polish is going to peel off easier.

To fix this, you should always apply the base coat before applying gel polish. Make sure that you apply the colored gel polish in thin layers.

After that, you should make sure to seal it with a topcoat. This can help keep your gel nails on for longer without peeling off or chipping.

Gel Polish Layers Applied Too Thick

Sometimes, too much gel polish is applied to the nails. It’s not a good thing because thicker coats are harder to dry.

Also, they add thickness to your real nails which may limit their growth and prevent it from going back into their normal shape.

When you apply thick layers of gel polish, it makes it harder for your nails to breathe. This will eventually cause more moisture on the nail plate.

The excess moisture isn’t good for the gel polish, so it lifts and peels off from the edge of your real nails.

To prevent that, you should always apply thin layers of nail polishes and check to make sure each layer is cured. Don’t just apply one thick layer to your nails.

Gel Polish Didn’t Get Thoroughly Cured

LED Nail Lamp

Unlike with other nail finishes like acrylics, you need to harden gel polish. For the gel polish to harden, it needs to be adequately cured under a UV or LED nail lamp (note: be sure you know which one you need to use!).

Otherwise, it will fail to harden and may become tacky. This makes it prone to peeling off from the nails.

Also, when you don’t cure your gel polish thoroughly, the moisture is trapped inside, potentially leading to bubbles and making it easy for bacteria to grow.

When the nail bed has been exposed to bacteria growth for a long time, it can cause nail fungus.

See also:

Did You Forget To Cap The Free Edges?

The free edges or tips of your nails are more prone to chipping and peeling off.

To protect them, you should always cap the nails with gel polish before curing them under UV light.

Because if they aren’t protected, the chance for your gel polish to break and peel away from the edges is higher.

Forgot To Moisturize Adequately After The Procedure

Although excess moisture can cause the gel polish to peel off, lack of it could cause it to peel off. That’s because the gel polish could dry out and easily peel off.

To ensure that your nails stay moisturized, you should always apply a good nail hydrating solution or cuticle oil after getting gel polish and repeat using it regularly.

Exposed Your Nails To Harsh Conditions

Nail aftercare after getting gel polish is important. You should avoid exposing the nails to any harsh chemicals like strong cleaning solutions.

Other environmental factors such as too much heat due to cooking and baking plus extreme cold temperature due to refrigeration can negatively affect the gel polish and cause them to peel off.

This is the same with other types of nails.

See also:

What Should You Do If Your Gel Polish is Peeling?

If you’re wondering how to fix a peeling gel polish, there’s nothing much that you can do. If the gel polish has already started to peel off from tips or edges, it will eventually make its way all-around your nails.

This means that there could already be trapped moisture underneath the gel and above the natural nail. Sealing this will just trap the moisture and could lead to an infection. 

The best thing to do is to simply avoid this from happening in the first place. Use the information as a guide to know what you should do in order to make sure that your gel polish doesn’t easily peel off.

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).