Why Does My Gel Nail Polish Peel Off?

four gel nail polishes

“Why is my gel nail polish peeling off?” If you have to ask yourself this question a few days after you leave the salon, then you’re probably more than a little annoyed.

Unfortunately, there are some situations where the manicure itself may be the culprit. In other situations, something you’re doing or not doing could be the reason why your gel polish is peeling off.

To help you narrow down the issue, let’s take a look at 6 reasons for peeling gel polish.

1. The cuticle wasn’t prepped properly.

Here’s the thing -- there are a lot of slip-ups that can happen during the manicure stage that can cause your gel nail polish to start peeling off way too soon. Your cuticles not being prepped correctly is one of them. 

If your cuticles aren’t pushed back enough and if the sides aren’t trimmed properly, all this does is create a ledge for your polish to lift off from. So whether you’re applying the polish at home or at the salon, make sure you keep a close eye on those edges.

2. Your nails aren’t dehydrated enough.

Similar to your cuticles, if the nailbed isn’t prepped correctly, then it could result in fast-peeling polish. There’s a lot that goes into this, but one big area is moisture. Water will make your nails expand. If you apply polish on a nail that has too much moisture, it can chip and peel sooner than it should. This is one reason why nail techs will apply nail polish remover or alcohol right before applying the gel polish. (So don’t skip this step at home.)

On top of this, it’s also a good idea to apply nail primer before applying polish. This will make sure the product adheres better to the nail.

3. Your lamp didn’t cure the right way.

How your nails are cured can also impact how soon your polish starts to lift. If the lamp is old and the bulb is all out of whack, then you should technically be adjusting your curing times. If the light isn’t strong enough to penetrate the color, then the top layer will be cured but the bottom layers will not be cured. 

4. You normally pick at your gel nail polish.

If you don’t ever pick at your gel nail polish, then feel free to skip over this section. However, if you do, listen up... 

If you peel off your gel nail polish and then go back to the salon a few days later to get a new gel manicure, this will create issues. 

When you peel off your gel nail polish at home, you will almost certainly damage your nails. You’ll end up removing layers of your natural nail, which will leave your nails very brittle and uneven. If you then apply gel nail polish on top of an unhealthy nail, you’ll have a less-than-perfect experience with that polish.

Gel nail polish is not bad for you, but if you tend to pick and peel at it, then yes — gel polish is bad for you. If this sounds like you, then soak-off gel nail extensions might be the right move for you.

5. You didn’t patch up your nail when it chipped.

Let’s say you chip your nail while you’re at work. The most ideal response to that situation would be to drop everything and head to the salon. But literally no one would do that.

Instead, we recommend keeping a nail file and topcoat in your purse or car. If your nail chips, go ahead and patch it up when you have a free moment. File the chip and seal it off with your topcoat. This should prevent your gel polish from peeling at the chip.

6. Your layers are too thick.

A gel manicure has many layers to it. If these layers are too thick, then your polish won’t cure and bond the right way. When this happens, you’ll start to peel much faster than you should. 

The best way to avoid this is to avoid thick layers. Don’t gob on the polish. Take it slow and work with thin layers. 

You might think you’re saving time by using thick layers, but this is not the case. Not only will your layers take much longer to dry, but you’ll likely add another layer before the last layer even has enough time to dry.

Ready to keep learning? Check out these resources.