Soak-Off Gel Polish & General FAQ’s
Does gel polish damage or weaken your nails?
Gel polish should not weaken your nails when applied & removed properly. It provides extra strength and prevents your nails from ripping and breaking, allowing them to grow longer and stronger. The key is proper removal using a soak-off technique. Don’t chisel, chip, file or peel your polish off… doing this will absolutely damage your nails. Use an orange stick to aid in the removal if needed, but don’t use tools that will gauge your nail beds. Also, be careful not to over-buff your nails prior to applying gel polish. You only need a very light buff (if at all), and buffing too frequently can cause your nails to become thin.
Why is my gel polish lifting/peeling?
Premature lifting or peeling is often caused by improper nail preparation. Before applying gel polish your nails should be completely dry, so don’t apply just after taking a shower, washing dishes, etc. Be sure to lightly buff your nails and then cleanse them extremely well with an alcohol-based cleanser to remove any oils from your nails. Don’t apply lotion or oil to your nails prior to applying gel polish… use those products after your manicure is complete. Read this article about proper nail preparation.
Other possible causes are excessive exposure to water and/or steam including washing your hands a lot or wearing rubber gloves. And if your nails are already brittle, weak or damaged, gel polish may not adhere well. Gel polish adheres best to healthy nails. If your nails are peeling, the polish will also peel right along with it.
The brand of base coat could also be the culprit. Do some experimentation to find the brand that works best for you since they don’t all wear the same on everyone.
Why is my gel polish cracking?
The only time I have ever experienced cracking was when my nails were thin and weak. If your nails are super flexible and can bend, the polish is very likely to crack. You could try applying Gelish Structure Gel or use the acrygel technique for added strength to prevent your nails from bending.
Where can I buy Gelish MINIs? Where can I find X product?
I’m also frequently asked where various polishes can be purchased in different countries. I recommend contacting the brands directly for a list of their distributors because I generally do not know that information. The products that I sell can be found at Chickettes Boutique.
What is your favorite brand of gel polish?
This is a very hard question for me to answer because I have many favorites and can’t choose just one. The brands that are currently at the top of my list are (in no particular order): Gelish, LeChat, Pink Gellac, ibd, Ink, Revel, and Madam Glam.
How do you prevent gel polish “shrinkage”?
You may have noticed that some gel polishes tend to shrink-back or pull away from the edges when you apply them. First ensure that your bottle of polish is well shaken/mixed. Sometimes the ingredients can separate and cause shrinking. Another cause of shrinkage can be improper preparation of the nail plate. Cleanse your nails well with a 91% or higher alcohol solution prior to application.
Some polishes will still shrink regardless. My solution to this problem is to apply the color onto one or two nails and then put them in my lamp for just a few seconds to give them a partial cure, also known as flash curing. It makes the polish stay in place while I apply color to the rest of my nails. Once I have all of my nails polished I cure them all for the full length of time.
How do you work with gel polishes that are thick and tend to “wrinkle” when curing?
Some of the highly pigmented gel polishes are thicker and will sometimes wrinkle when you cure them. With these polishes you need to apply very thin coats. Try warming your polish before using it by placing the bottle in warm water before using it. You can also use a gel polish thinner to make the consistency a little thinner and easier to apply. I have done this with a few of the wrinklers and it helped a lot. Here are links to a few gel polish thinners: LaRosa, Gelos (from Lechat), Glam & Glits thinner
Can acetone be used to thin gel polish?
No. Gel polish has has a special formula that allows it to cure with UV light technology. I recommend using a thinner that is made specifically for gel polishes. See the links above.
Can I mix and match gel polish brands (ie, use Gelish foundation and TIO with another brand of color)?
Yes. I often use my Gelish foundation and top coat with other brands.
Can gel polish be used for stamping?
In my experience, no. Gel polishes tend to self-level making it very hard to get crisp lines when stamping. You also don’t usually get full opacity with one coat, so it just doesn’t work well. I normally use regular nail polish to stamp on top of my gel manicures. I apply the top coat, wipe it clean, stamp, and then top coat again. And if you mess up when stamping you can just wipe it off and try again!
I get a lot of questions about stamping, which is why I created a basic intro to stamping video (watch it here).
Can I use regular nail polish with a gel foundation and/or top coat?
I have applied the Gelish foundation and/or Structure gel on my nails and then polished them with a regular polish and regular top coat. When doing this it is possible to remove the regular nail polish with a non-acetone remover and then reapply another color. I don’t recommend using a glitter polish because that requires some soaking and will damage the gel base. Also, the base will start to wear/peel after a couple of applications/removals.
I have also applied regular polish in between the Gelish foundation and top coat (this is called a gelly sandwich). When doing this you have to be sure that the regular nail polish is completely dry before applying the top coat. If it’s not dry you can get some puckering in the polish and you can still mess up your nails if you bump them on something. Allow the regular nail polish to dry for at least 1-2 hours before applying your gel top coat. Read more about the gelly sandwich technique here.
There are also some products on the market that allow you to create gel polish colors using regular nail polish. Read my review of Gelibility here.
As I mentioned above, I also use regular nail polish for stamping. Since stamping generally doesn’t cover the whole nail my stamped manicures usually last just as long as a regular gel manicure.
What type of lamp do you use and can you recommend a good UV or LED lamp? Why isn’t my polish curing with XYZ lamp?
I receive SO many questions about nail lamps, wattage, my opinion on various brands and which polishes cure with which lamps. I can only provide information about the lamps that I’ve used and cannot answer questions about every lamp available.
Can you tell me which gel polish brands are UV and/or LED curable?
I started a spreadsheet with some of the more commonly known brands, and listed whether they require UV or LED lamps for curing. Remember that ALL gel polishes are UV curable, but not all are LED curable. View the list of brands here.
Do you use a matte top coat and/or why does your finish look matte and not glossy?
I do not typically use a matte top coat, but when I do it is clearly stated in the post. I take all of my photos in a homemade lightbox which filters the light, often causing the finish to appear matte. I have very recently adjusted my lighting setup so that the light isn’t as heavily filtered.
What type of camera do you use?
All of my photos and videos are taken with my iPhone 5C… no fancy cameras here. Yes, really. :)
How do you care for your hands and cuticles and keep them looking good with the frequency of your polish changes?
I always moisturize my hands after applying gel polish and any time my hands feel dry in general. My favorite lotions are True Blue paraffin lotion from Bath & Body Works and Aveda Hand Therapy. I apply cuticle oil very frequently, and always have some handy on my desk and in my purse. I also use CND cuticle remover about once a week, and I occasionally use my heated spa mitts or parafin bath when I want to pamper my hands a little. ;)
Do you have a list of gel polishes that fade?
The Gelish colors that I have experienced fading with are mostly lilacs, pinks, and mauves. There is a column on my stash spreadsheet that denotes which colors fade with exposure to natural light. See it here.
What is a swatch?
A swatch is a demonstration of a color or pattern. If you were going to paint a room in your house, you might go to the hardware store and look at swatches of paint colors to help find the perfect shade. On this blog you’ll find swatches/examples of gel nail polish colors. These swatches demonstrate what the color(s) looks like on a live person’s nails because it’s very hard to decide on colors just by looking at pictures of bottles or little color pops when shopping for nail polish online.
What does SOG stand for?
SOG is an abbreviation for “Soak-Off-Gel” polish. I also often refer to it as just “gel polish”. My definition of a SOG is any nail polish that requires UV light technology to cure (aka dry/harden), and soaking for removal.
Here are links to some other articles I have written with gel polish tips & tricks: