Get the Dish on Gelish! A Step-by-Step Guide to Applying Gel Polish


My fingernails are naturally pretty strong and grow long, so I like to keep them polished and looking nice. Gel nail polish is one of the greatest inventions ever… no more chipping and peeling after just a couple of days.  Gel polish typically lasts about 2 weeks, and it stays super shiny like it was just applied.  It protects your nails and makes them stronger, preventing them from breaking or ripping.  And one of the best advantages is that it dries instantly after curing in an LED or UV lamp, so you can immediately get back to work without having to worry about messing up your polish.

I was getting gel manicures at my local salon every couple of weeks, but it was an expensive habit to maintain.  After watching the professionals at the salon do my nails so many times, I thought I would try to do it myself from home.  I did some research on the different brands of gel polish and decided that Gelish was the best option for me.  It was easily accessible on and cheaper than most of the alternatives.  Gelish also has a pretty big selection of colors to choose from.  I purchased all of the equipment that I needed to get started for about $150, which is the equivalent of about 4 manicures at the salon.  Now I do my own gel manicures from home, as well as for a few family members and friends.

People always ask me;

  1. Are your nails real? – Yes
  2. Do you do them yourself? – Yes
  3. Is it hard to do? – No! It’s actually pretty easy.

Below is a step-by-step guide to applying Gelish nail polish.

  1. Trim and file the nails to the desired length and shape.
  2. Push the cuticles back with an orange stick or cuticle pusher.
  3. Lightly buff the surface of each nail with a block buffer.
  4. Cleanse the nails with Gelish Nail Cleanser and a lint-free wipe OR using sterile alcohol wipes.  It’s important to ensure your nails are completely oil-free!
  5. Apply Gelish PH bond to your nails.
  6. Apply a coat of Gelish Foundation to each of your nails.
  7. Cure the Foundation gel in your LED or UV lamp (read more about lamps here).
  8. Optional:  Apply Gelish Structure Gel and cure.  (read more about Gelish Structure gel here)
  9. Apply the first coat of the Gelish color polish of your choice.
  10. Cure the polish in your LED or UV lamp (read more about lamps here).
  11. Apply a second coat of Gelish color polish.
  12. Cure the polish in your LED or UV lamp (read more about lamps here).
  13. Apply a thin coat of Gelish Top It Off to your nails.
  14. Cure the top coat in your LED or UV lamp (read more about lamps here).
  15. Wipe your nails off with the Gelish Nail Cleanser or sterile alcohol wipes.  (This removes the tackiness).

A few tips:

  1. If you get polish on your cuticle or skin, remove it with a brush dipped in alcohol or nail cleanser BEFORE curing your nails under the light.  If you allow the polish on your cuticles to harden it will likely cause the polish to peel or chip.  Try to keep the polish on the surface of the nail only.
  2. If you mess up it’s super easy to fix as long as you do it before curing.  Just wipe the layer of polish off with your nail cleanser or alcohol (use a lint-free pad or paper towel), then just re-apply the layer.
  3. Cure time:  Typically gel polish cures with an LED lamp in just 30 seconds, or 2 minutes with a UV lamp.  Read the label on your polish for curing times.
  4. You can repeat steps 11 and 12 to add additional layers of color if you prefer.  To spice things up, try adding a glitter topper like Vegas Nights.

» Learn how to remove Gelish polish from home.

» View Our Gelish Swatch Gallery!

Watch my video tutorial: DIY gel nail polish

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146 Responses

  1. Lauren says:

    Wow. I love your mani. Thanks for your great tutorial too. How do you keep your polish so flawless? I’ve just done my first self Gelish and I did try and clean up the edges but it still looks messy and in my opinion wrecks the entire look! *sad face*

    • Andrea says:

      Thanks, Lauren. I am very careful when applying polish and keep both hands steadied on a table or surface while polishing to keep the lines as clean as possible. If I get any polish on the skin or cuticle area I clean it off with a brush and acetone before curing.

    • Ana Montes Horan says:

      Yup. I just did mine and looks terrible. Dripped onto sides and couldn’t get it off

  2. Marijke says:

    I just bought my starter kit on the weekend and did my first mani. I love the shellac I was getting at the salon, but as you said, the money starts to add up. I chose a lighter brown color to start so my messy application wouldn’t be as obvious. I need more practice, but I’m pleased with the results so far.

    Great blog and great tips. I’m 51 years old and never had the time, patience or money to take care of my nails, but I love nice nails. Now I have them. ;-)

  3. chris says:

    how many volts is your uv light? mine is 9 and it doesnt seem to cure right

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Chris, the light that I use is 45 watts. I’m not sure how that converts to volts.

    • Lisa says:

      Hi, my understanding is that the ‘standard’ required lamp for curing gel nails is 36w, mine has 4 x 9w bulbs. I’m no expert, but I assume the lower wattage means you will need longer curing time.

      • Andrea says:

        Hi Lisa. I’m not an expert either, but I would also assume you would need a longer curing time :)

      • Lily-Rose says:

        Thats right :-) it needs to cure for 2 minutes with a uv light. 4 lots of 9w bulbs adds up to 36 so yours is 36 watts :-)

  4. Sophie says:

    Thank you for the clear tutorial! I actually got some questions; what is a pH bond? and is there a alternative? Tutorials on youtube show me that people apply the uv gel on the tops of their nails as wel. Is that necessary? Because its hard to do so and very messy. My last question is: when I allow my polish to dry under the uv light my polish tend to drip to the sides of my nail. What to do?
    Sorry for all the questions and thanks!

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Sophie. PH bond is a product that Harmony Gelish sells and it’s used when prepping the nail. It basically dehydrates the nail so that the gel polish will stick better. It’s made mostly of alcohol, so you could alternatively wipe your nails with alcohol (I usually do both). You should cap the tips when you polish your nails with any polish to ensure that it will last longer. Usually pooling happens during application. I recommend using a small angled brush dipped in a little alcohol or acetone to clean around the edges before curing.

  5. Tania says:

    Thank you for this post! I recently bought all I needed to apply gelish polish at home and was shocked that even after curing the polish was tacky. So good to hear and read that this is normal. Have you ever tried using the French tip guide stickers with gelish? Would you recommend removing the tackiness after the base coat when using the guide stickers? Thanks. I’m definitely a new fan of your site.

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Tania! You can use stickers and tape as guides when using gel polish, but you must first wipe off the tacky layer before applying the sticker/tape or it won’t adhere to the nail and polish will seep underneath. :)

      • Brandi says:

        So, if I understand correctly, you would put down a base coat layer, then wipe off the tacky layer with alcohol, then put on the sticker and paint the tip?

          • Kathy says:

            After base coat do you wipe the tacky with alcohol instead of just a lint free wipe? I do base, color (pale pink), white tips and then top coat….will the color and top coat stick?

          • Andrea says:

            I don’t wipe the base coat at all. Your color and top coat will stick.

          • Kathy says:

            What if you want to put the white adhesive French nail tip GUIDES on? Can this be done? And if can how? What are the steps? base, cure, wipe, color pale pink, wipe? add guides and put white one, cure, take guides off and put top coat and cure?

          • Andrea says:

            Ah, if you want to use any kind of adhesive guide you do have to wipe the tacky layer just before applying them. So you would only wipe after your pale pink color.

          • Kathy says:

            Andrea If you don’t wipe the base coat, won’t the French guides not stick? And if you wipe the base coat with alcohol, and apply the French sticky guides, will the pale pink color cure since it won’t be tacky?

  6. Jane sanders says:

    Thanks for your nice tutorial on gel nail polish.There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. :)

    Jane Sanders

  7. I am just beginning and right away , the brush I purchased from Sally;s did not work well and by the second time it was of no use whatever, where can I buy a reliable brush? As an artist I have plenty of good bristle brushes but fear they would not react well to the polish.
    Thanks very much,
    Brooks Powell

  8. Tracey says:

    Andrea, thank you so much for your entire site! Your Gelish tutorials and swatches are extremely helpful for those of us wanting to save a little money and do SOGs at home. I appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into this.

  9. Sharna says:

    Have you tried using tips under the gelish?
    I’m curious to see if its strong enough to hold tips on?

  10. Brianna Eyster says:

    So I bought the gelish starter kit about a month ago along with the sleek white color. I’ve been doing French manicures by only painting the tips white and cleaning them up with an angle brush, curing it and then topping it off. I never put any sheer colors on it. It turned out fantastic every single time.

    Last night I went out and got Red Roses from Sally’s to change things up a bit and it all went horribly wrong. After applying the foundation, curing it, wiping off the tacky layer with an alcohol wipe, I applied a very thin first layer. I cured it for four minutes to be sure (I have a 36 watt UV lamp)…and then I went to wipe off the tacky layer with an alcohol wipe but half the polish came off with it! Am I not supposed wipe with alcohol between color coats? I mean, I know you say you can wipe with alcohol if you need to redo a coat, but I didn’t think it would take off the cured coat too!

    Other weird thing: once I applied the top coat and cured it, a teeny, little bit of red still came off. Is that normal? It didn’t ruin the manicure like the alcohol did between the coats of color, but still. What am I doing wrong?
    P.S. I loved your OSU nails. I’m an OSU alum

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Brianna – you shouldn’t wipe with alcohol or cleanser after every coat, only after the top coat. If you wipe a cured layer of color some of the color will come off, but it shouldn’t be excessive. It sounds like you may not be getting a proper cure. Also, after top coating and curing you may have a little color show up on your wipe – this is normally from exposed polish that didn’t get covered by your top coat or that may have gotten onto your skin.

      • Christina Borutski says:

        Hi Andrea,

        I had the same problem with the same red. I didn’t clean between coats, only to put a glitter on. The color was running into the glitter brush so I cleaned and a lot of the color came off. This also happened using a different color. What am I doing wrong?

  11. Jabulile Nkosi says:

    Hi Andrea i’m doing all the steps accordingly but i was not sealing them and its peeling in 2 days

    • Andrea says:

      Hello – what do you mean by not sealing them? Not capping the tips? That’s an important step. Usually if you’re getting lifting or peeling within a couple of days it’s because the nail bed is too oily, or your nails are damaged and peeling.

  12. starlight says:

    If my hands have been immersed in water, how long should I wait before applying a Gelish manicure?

    • Andrea says:

      I’m not sure exactly how long you should wait, and I’m sure it depends on how long your hands were in water and how damp/soft the nails are. I would probably wait at least an hour.

  13. Carla says:

    Hi there, I am getting into the gel polish and I have been reading some reviews. Do you know if you can use the Gellish LED lamp with any polish?? I have some gellish, OPI and Creative.



    • Andrea says:

      You can only use it with polishes that are formulated for LED – some require UV instead. You will have to check with the brand/manufacturer. All gel polishes will cure in a UV light though.

  14. Kelly says:

    Great video tutorial, I have my Gelish starter set coming in the mail today! Just a quick question, when you use the alcohol wipes to clean the natural nail and also to remove stickiness from top coat, would it be okay to just use a cotton pad with acetone? My manicurist used to do that with OPI Gel polish but I really don’t want to balls this up at all, what’s your two cents worth on the subject?

  15. Lauren says:

    Having so much trouble with my free edge chipping in small hairline chips. I wonder if it’s damage from over buffing. Great tutorial! I do mine thinner, might be the problem. Thanks for amazing swatches!!

  16. Darn, a key point when shipping UV nail lamps from overseas (is that just because you have an adaptor doesn’t mean the wattage is correct, turned ours on, to cure for the first time, and blew all 3 bulbs at once :( – sigh… hard living at the bottom of the world ;) – Kia ora from NZ

  17. Emily says:

    My nails are very short. What is the best way to “cap” the tops of my nails, if they do not extend past my finger tips? Thank you for all of your information; I love gelish and am relieved that I have FINALLY found a way to get my nails longer and stronger!!

    • Viviane says:

      Oh I would love to know, I did my nails for the first time today and my nails are so short that it was impossible to cap the edge without making a mess. Did you find a trick?

      • Andrea says:

        The only thing you can really do is apply polish all the way to the tip and you can even go over the tip a little, which may get some polish on your skin. Just be sure to clean the excess off of your skin before curing. I just did my mom’s nails today and had to do that for her.

  18. emma-louise says:


    Your website os great – thanks for all the info.

    I want to buy an LED lamp and relish polishes – can you tell me whether all gelish polishes can be used with either UV or LED? Some seem to be marketed as UV but it’s not clear from the packaging whether it’s because it’s just UV or whether all polishes can be used with both.


  19. Angela says:

    Hi Andrea :) Thanks for such a helpful tutorial. I have a few questions. This method generally works for all brands of soak off gel polish right? Also, could I mix and match brands? Say the gel polish color I’m using is LeChat, could I use the Gelish top and base coat with it?

  20. Amy says:

    Hi Andrea,
    Thanks so much for your site
    Really helpful!
    One question..I have a lamp and they polishes however don’t have any alcohol wipes. Am dying to try it today, is there anything else I could use instead?

  21. Laura says:

    Hi Andrea,
    Your site is “ABSOLUTRLY AMAZING! The information, tutorials, step-by-step instructions, swatches and most of all “YOU” provide all of us with a one-stop gel nail resource in a well-organized location. Thank you so very, very much.
    Because of much of the information that you have provided I have invested in what I believe is a great array of tools and supplies. (All received in the last 7-10 days) Including – Gelish 18G Led Lamp “Aaaaaamazing quality, speed, features and on’n on’n on,….. primers, bonders, builders, SOG colors, tools (OH SO MANY TOOLS…lol and lotions, potions decorations “Konad Gold Stamping Set” etc., etc., etc.
    Now all I have to do is follow your terrific wisdoms and I’ll be a very happy do your own at home “Gelish Nail Wearer”
    Thank you again
    (Princeton, British Columbia Canada)

    • Andrea says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Laura! I’m so glad you find my information useful! Best of luck with your Gelish manicures! Hopefully you don’t find it as addicting as I do :)

  22. Tina says:

    Hi Andrea. Your site and nails are amazing. I, too recently purchased the starter kit after having had the Gelish polish manicure done 3-4 times in recent months. I am a nurse and normal manicures would only last 2-3 days before chipping and coming off. The kit came with a tutorial DVD but your site and helpful insights are way more informative. My question, does the Gelish remover work better than pure acetone? The act one takes forever to soak off and seems hard on my nails. And us the cleanser for wiping the “tacky” off after the final curing? Thank you in advance. BTW, I love your nails and swatches!

    • Andrea says:

      In my experience pure acetone soaks off the polish faster than the Gelish remover, but the remover does have some moisturizing ingredients so it’s not quite as harsh on your nails and skin. The cleanser can be used for cleaning your bare nails during prep and for wiping off the tacky layer. :)

  23. Melissa West says:

    Thank you so much for all your great advice. Added you to my favorites! !!


  24. Wendy says:

    HI, I”m new to gelish.. Need your advice on some basics here : My nails naturally chip easily. I did a gelish manicure at the spa and to my horror, the gel chipped off after a mere 3 days. I see that I’m gonna be doing this often so I dedcided to buy the gels and equipment to DIY at home. I have read that using structure gel and vitagel recovery can strengthen the natural nail plate to reduce chipping. However, I’m rather confused with the numerous foundations and base gels available. Hence, I need your advice on

    1. If I’m using structure gel, do I have to apply the ph bond first, followed by foundation base gel, followed by structure gel, then colour gel and lastly the top coat?

    2. If I’m using the vitagel Recovery, at which juncture do I apply the gel? Do I have to apply the ph bond followed by foundation base gel? I read that I can use the recovery gel as base coat but I’m not sure when do I apply it. Can it replace the foundation base gel or it has to be applied on top or below the base gel?

    3. Can I use structure gel together with the vitagel recovery gel? How do I use them and in which sequence?

    Would really appreciate if you can please advise.


    • Andrea says:

      Hi Wendy. Re #1) Yes, that is the correct order. You can apply Structure before OR after the color – your preference. I do it before. #2) Vitagel replaces the foundation base gel in the steps from #1. PH bond is always first and then your Vitagel or base. #3) Yes. Same sequence as #1, just replace the foundation with the Vitagel.

  25. Fiona says:

    I recently purchased the honey girl gelish kit .all has been going well until this morning when I went to use the foundation and the top coat and for some strange reason the brushes seemed to have gone very hard .once cured the top coat seemed to bleed outside of the nail bed. What has gone wrong as this is about my 10 th set of nails

    • Andrea says:

      Your brushes must have been exposed to UV light. You can contact Gelish for replacement brushes.

    • bianca says:

      Honey Girl Gelish is not a Harmony Gelish product, although the labelling is quite misleading sand a great deal cheaper! I’ve just come across it online and was tempted after enquiring with the seller…. but it sounds like it’s not as good a product so I shan’t order it now! Thankyou!

  26. Emma says:

    Hi again (I keep bombarding you with questions- sorry!).
    I just received my gelish mini starter kit and a fairly generic 12 watt LED and I’m only doing base and topcoat for now as a means of strengthening and lengthening my nails.
    Anyway, I cured the bottom coat for 1 min and the top coat for 2 minutes- is that too long for a 12 watt LED? Will it damage the manicure &/or my nails?
    I had watched the gelish video where they recommend curing bottom coat for 1 and topcoat for 2 min, but then I realised it’s with their mini handheld 6 watt LED- whoops!- so now I’m wondering if I should cut down on time.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    I must say though, the gel wrap looks and feels amaaazing, so shiny and smooth! I am really keen to get a hold of some actual colours now so I can have a play with nail art and French mani’s.
    Anyway, thanks again- your blog is a fantastic resource :)

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Emma – You probably only need to cure each coat for 30 seconds. Curing longer won’t damage your nails, but isn’t necessary. :)

  27. Emma brown says:

    Hi live your site thank you very much for all the tips, could you Hp me after curing the base coat little hard blobs appear I notice this when putting the coulor on so I have to wipe clean buff the bolo a off and start again?
    Any thoughts ?

    • Andrea says:

      It sounds like there is either left over residue from buffing on your nails or your base coat has some residue in it. You may need a new base coat.

  28. Emma brown says:

    So sorry that’s was awful on phone spell check kicking in, blobs and help and thanks

  29. Corline says:

    Hi Andrea!
    Have you ever worked with different brands?
    I personally think Gelish is quiet expensive, especially where I live..
    So i recently found a brand called Golden Rose. It seemed to me as a good brand.although I couldn’t find a review about it.
    Do you know Golden Rose? Or do you think it’s a great alternative?
    Thanks a lot! Greetings from the netherlands:p

  30. Charné says:

    Hi Andrea!

    I’ve done my nails with Gelish and decided today I don’t like the pattern, if I file off the top coat and paint over it will it set? Or do I need to start again completely?

    Thanks :)

  31. Bonnie says:

    Hi Andrea
    Your tips are great. I think I cured my brush in sunlight (I didn’t realize the polish would be that easy to cure :() is there anyway to fix my brush? What do I do?

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Bonnie. I haven’t been able to fix a cured brush. You may need to reach out to the manufacturer to get a replacement.

  32. breanna says:

    i love gel nail polish but i never had it on my nails before i just wanted to see how to take it off.

  33. Cheri says:

    Hi Andrea. I have a question about the alcohol prep pads. I want to switch to the prep pads instead of using the liquid and lint free wipes. I notice you use pads that are 70% isopropyl. I always thought I had to use 99% isopropyl. Have I been mistaken all this time? Is the 70% effective enough?

  34. mari says:

    Hello, just wondering if its normal to leave a small mark in my gel polish using my nail?? The colour seems to be cure properly am using gelish and a12w led lamp..the colour doesnt rub off.

  35. Jemma Walker says:

    Hello from NZ :) I am looking at purchasing the Gelicious LED Mani-Pedi Lamp – I do have Gelicious colours but also wondering if this lamp will work with Gelish colours? Any help would be greatly appreciated! So confused :/ orrrrrr what is a lamp that is not overly priced that will work with most brands?

  36. Lorrie Wilson says:

    Hello! I have a question I can’t seem to find an answer. I have been doing my nails at home for about 6 months now using the Gelish system. They look pretty good if I do say so myself. However, after I apply the Top it Off top coat and remove the tacky layer with lint free alcohol wipes there seems to be a film on my nails. It’s not noticeable except to me and when the light hits my nails a certain way. It sort of looks like the top cost is not really clear. What would be causing this? PS love your pics on Pintrest

  37. Lian says:

    Hi do u use glitter on top of it colour I can’t seem to get mine to stick to the polish I put it on after I cure then apply clear then cure again but it looks rubbish.

  38. Janeen says:

    Hi, also have a question… I have been using the gelish system for a few months now and am getting low on my cleanser and remover. I know I can substitute the remover with pure acetone, but can I substitute the cleanser with isopropyl alcohol? I have had my nails done by salons that use a generic product in a large plain marked bottle that says “alcohol” with a cotton wipe for the end cleanse to get the tackiness off. Is this the same?

  39. Natasha says:

    Hi Andrea! I love your website and emails. I always look forward to reading your tips, tricks and seeing your beautiful color samples so I can buy my next polishes on Amazon!

    I’ve been using Gelish ph/foundation/top for about 4 months and have been noticing that, although I am paying special attention to cap my nails during foundation/nail color/top coat, my cap is gone within a day or two…. I’ve been trying to be sure to file the cap down and thoroughly clean the cap off before polishing but I’ve had this issue for the past 4 applications or so. Do you have any idea why this might be happening and how I can fix it?

    Background for question:
    Use Gelish ph/foundation/top coat.
    Use ibd (primarily) or Gelish nail color. Didn’t seem to happen as bad with Gelish color (1x application).
    Use Gelish 5-45 for curing (20sec base, 45sec color x 2, 45sec top coat)
    Usually once I’m finished with my top coat, I notice that some of my nail color comes off with the alcohol wipe… I’ve been extending my color and top coat curing to ~60secs and that has helped with color transfer to the alcohol wipe.
    The color doesn’t chip anywhere else on my nail except for the cap… once the cap is gone, it doesn’t chip, even on the tips.

    Thank you so much!

    • Andrea says:

      My nails never stay capped. I use them as tools and therefor the capped tip does come off typically within a few days. I don’t know of any ways to prevent this.

      • Natasha says:

        Oh, ok- I wasn’t sure. It seems like the few times I’ve had gels done in a salon, the cap stays on. That was one of the reasons why I switched to gel since I absolutely hate when the color wears off on the tip (especially for darker colors). Well, thanks for letting me know it’s not just me!

        Can you think of any reason why my color is transferring when I’m wiping off the tackiness? Is 20sec base, 45sec color x 2, 45sec top coat sufficient for Gelish 5-45 or should I be curing longer maybe?

  40. Denise says:

    i did a gelish mani and used a opalesence gelish nail gel.. the mani turned out bumpy where the pieces are and some actually protrude through the topcoat?!?!?! Can I file them off and redo the topcoat?.

  41. Claris says:

    Its so amazing

  42. Sofi says:

    Hi Andrea,
    I was wondering if you could use Gelish foundation as a top coat? My assumption would have been no, but I just watched one of your youtube videos on making Gelish rings in which you mentioned that either foundation or top it off could be used but that you preferred using foundation because you found it a bit more durable… That made me curious – could foundation do double duty, or perhaps even be better top coat than top it off?

    • Sofi says:

      Sorry – Me again – what color polish did you use in the last photo(s) of this post? The beautiful shimmery pink, if I may ask? I can’t figure out whether is Big City Siren, All Tied up With a Bow, High Voltage, or something else…
      Thanks again !

    • Andrea says:

      I’ve never tried, so I’m not sure. I don’t think it would have the same shine as the top coat and it would probably scuff easier.

  43. Tracy says:

    Hi, I have Gelish Hard Gel Nails and I dont know if I can apply the color over the Armor Sealer product without foundation or before the Armor instead of the foundation and use the Armor instead of the Top if Off- Can you help me?

  44. Paula says:

    Hi, I am going in a circle whether to buy the MelodySusie 36w uv lamp or the 12w led lamp. It is just for my personal use. Is one stronger better than the other? I am not sure I understand the difference between all the wattages. Outside of price, why go with a 12w led instead of a 24w led? is the 12w or the 24w more equivalent to the 36w UV. Can you offer any insight to stop my circle. Thanks!!!

    • Andrea says:

      My personal preference of the three is the 24w LED because it has the best curing power in the least amount of time. The 12w LED is cheaper and less powerful than the 24w. They will both cure all LED curable polishes, but some colors may require extra time in the 12 watt lamp. The 36w UV lamp will cure all gel polishes, but you have a 2 minute cure vs 30 seconds. When doing your own nails an LED lamp will save a lot of time.

  45. Shelly says:

    question, if I use the ph bond, do I use the light before I put the foundation base on?
    Also when do I use the nourish (cuticle oil)

    Thank you, Shelly

    • Andrea says:

      You don’t need the light for ph Bond, it just air dries for about 15 seconds. Nourish is used at the very end after you have applied your top coat and removed the tacky residue.

  46. Shelly says:

    Thank you Andrea, I am now ready to start, your website is awesome

  47. Kelli says:

    Hi Andrea, I have been doing my gel polish at home but my foundation coat seems to not set up all the way? It like wrinkles back and then doesn’t take the color completely. It stays blotchy and doesn’t evenly cover my nail. Why is that happening?

  48. nancy says:

    Wow, you are getting a million questions. This gel polish is simply amazing and fast. I never had the patience for polish in my life. I discovered this remover at Sally’s. ASP Conditioning Soak Off Remover. It’s very oily and your nails look great after removal.
    Your information has been very helpful and I’ve tried to read it all in case this problem was answered but I don’t see it. I used the pH stuff first, foundation and color, color and top coat. My 2 layers of color separated, the 2nd coat and top coat just peeled off. All Gelish products.
    The first coat of color stayed on perfectly. I was really careful about alcohol wiping after every coat.

    If I put something between the coats of color what would it be?

    Thank you so much.

    • Andrea says:

      You shouldn’t wipe between coats, only after the top coat. That tacky inhibition layer helps the coats bond. It also sounds as if your second coat may not have cured completely.

  49. Karla says:

    Hello, will you be doing an update on the steps on how to apply gel polish? I see alot of products and was wondering since you wrote the steps, have there been any changes.


  50. Bara says:

    HI Andrea, I have to agree with all ladies here about how useful is your Web site. I have question as well. I started using GDI nail varnish. allways had light colours (no problems, stayed for weeks no chipping ) few weeks ago I bought darker colour. and since I put it under uv lamp with second layer it’s starting be there bubbles and when I am finishing it looks horrible. so I tried few times (maybe I didn’t have properly clean nails, but I had same problem) never had it this problem before.could be just bad luck or I have to do something different with dark colours. Many thanks for patients reading this long article

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Bara. I’m not familiar with GDI. Usually when a gel polish bubbles or wrinkles during curing it has been applied too thick. It could be an issue with the formula of the polish or the application. Dark colors also sometimes require a longer cure, but they shouldn’t bubble. I recommend contacting the manufacturer about the issue.

  51. Brittany says:

    Before I stated using the gel I was a nail art Junkie! In the past, the salon would use acrylic to adhere 3D nail art. I read online that you can use builder gel to apply the 3D nail art. So I bought the Gelish builder gel. I haven’t used it yet but do you have any tips? Second question… Can you used regular nail polish to do nail art on top of gel polish or even if I can? If so, what do you recommend?

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Brittany – I’m a natural nail tech and don’t use builder gel or acrylic. I honestly don’t do much 3D nail art except for applying gemstones, which I use nail glue and my Foundation gel to adhere and then top coat over top. You can do nail art with regular polish (I use it with stamping) or acrylic paints over gel. Just seal it in well with your top coat.

  52. Bobbie says:

    Hi ! Just got my light in the mail so I’m ready to start this weekend…one question – what do you mean by “capping” off the nail?

  53. Nikki says:

    I am capping the edges but it seems I still have some “crawling” of the color from the edges. What could be causing this? I am making sure they are buff, clean, dry etc, ph bond used, etc. any insight would be helpful. Thanks

    • Andrea says:

      It could be the prep or it could be the polish. Make sure your polish is really well shaken/mixed. If it’s separated at all it will shrink.

  54. Laura says:

    I received the Nailuv starter kit last Christmas and have been using only that brand since then. I’ve really been getting into better brand gel polish and recently purchased Gelish. Tonight I used “From Rodeo to Rodeo Drive” and it was looking absolutely gorgeous-until the last and final step, wiping off tacky layer. It completely stripped my color off my nails. I look at the back of my Nailuv lamp and it says 6v 2w. Does this have anything to do with a bad cure? I leave each layer of polish (including foundation and top it off) for at LEAST 2 minutes and I still had this problem. I am going to invest in a 36w LED lamp around Christmas time, but until then I would still like to keep up with my nails. Only I might go crazy if this keeps happening. Any ideas what I could be doing wrong?

  55. marci says:

    Thank you for this great tutorial! I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong but my nails are not completely curing. They seem dry but slightly rubbery and I can easily peel them off. I’ve noticed there is wet gel underneath the surface. What am I doing wrong. I apply IBD bonder, Opi based , opi color & opi top coat then wipe with alcohol. I tried with a 36 watt uv and 48 watt led same results with both. Please help.

  56. Saf says:

    Hi Andrea,

    I have been following the directions for the Gelish. My problem is wiping the tacky off with alcohol. When I’m done they look super dull. Any idea as to what I’m doing wrong?

    • Andrea says:

      You should be able to shine them right back up by rubbing your nails with a dry cloth. If that doesn’t work the top coat may not be fully cured.

  57. Emma R. says:

    Brilliant tips on alcohol wipes and the acetone brush. The pooling ha been my huge down fall!

  58. Rachel says:

    I’ve just done my first gel manicure at home and used the Pink Gellac brand based on all the blog posts I’ve read. However, my problem is that I’ve had a LOT of pooling at the sides and cuticle of my nails. What is causing this? How can I prevent it? Thank you!!

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Rachel – gel polish takes a little practice when you first start using it because it has a different consistency than normal lacquer. Leave a small space around the edge of the nail when you polish. Also a little will go a long way – you need a very small amount to apply a thin coat. If you apply too thick it will pool.

      • Rachel says:

        Thank you so so much for your reply!! I hope you don’t mind if I ask 2 more questions? 1) Normally when I get gel polish done, my nails are super hard (or, the polish is). When I did them, they weren’t/aren’t. Is this because I didn’t do enough coats and do them thin enough or maybe something else? 2) It’s about 24 hours later and they’re already peeling. :-/

        I know it’s me and not the polish and i’m just learning, but would appreciate any tips/advice or even pointing me to a resource for such. Thanks again!!!

        • Andrea says:

          It’s hard to say – it could be that they didn’t cure long enough or the brand that you’re using. There are tons of variables.

  59. Penny says:

    I just purchased my GELISH KIT and I love it. I tried Gelish “top it off” with OPI base/color and it did not work. There is no shine. Can you explain why? Do different brands work together?

    • Andrea says:

      The Gelish top coat will work with OPI color. Did you wipe off the tacky layer with alcohol? If it’s dull after cleansing the top coat may not be fully cured.

  60. Kimberly says:

    I’m new to neon gel polish. Do I still need a white base like I would with regular polish?

    • Andrea says:

      That’s really a personal preference. Some neon gels have great opacity and don’t need a white base – others do pop more with white underneath.

  61. Luke Smith says:

    Thanks for your tip to remove nail polish from your skin before curing it with UV light. I can definitely see how that would make a difference. My wife wants to teach our niece how to do her own nails, so I’m trying to learn about the process as well to help out. I think she said something about getting UV nail builder gel. Would that be different than regular gel polish?

    • Andrea says:

      Yes, builder gel is very thick and is a product that’s used to do overlays or enhancements (creating long nails on short nails). It’s very hard, and often has to be filed off instead of being soaked off. I would only recommend using it if you know what you’re doing.

  62. Kristen says:

    Hi there, I just got my gelish starter kit, and was wondering if it is possible to do all these steps without adding a color layer? I like a natural look for everyday use. :)

  63. BETTY JEAN says:


    • Andrea says:

      The 18G lamp cures very fast so I’m surprised about this. The polish will still feel sticky to the touch until you wipe with alcohol or cleanser.

  64. Libby says:

    Hello! This website is great, thank you so much for such great information!! I hope somebody might be able to help me. I just applied Gelish Rose Garden with some problems.

    On the first hand it was fine until I was applying the top it off I noticed that on the brush there was a little color transfer onto the TIO brush . I eventually managed to clean up the brush (bristles were a little joined together) but for the second hand I was worried I would get more color transfer on the brush so after the 2nd coat of Rose Garden I used an alcohol wipe to remove the tacky layer before applying TIO. Color came off on the wipe. I don’t understand why this happened. On the first hand I cured for 30 secs each coat with Melody Susie 24w LED lamp. On the 2nd hand I decided to cure for 45secs. On the first hand I only had color transfer on the brush a little, when I wiped the tacky layer off TIO absolutely nothing came off. My initial reaction was that it hadn’t cured properly but then I didn’t understand why the first hand (cured for 30secs) had nothing wipe off, yet the 2nd hand cured for longer did. The 2 coats of rose garden that I applied were both thin. This is the first dark gel color I have used. I have also never wiped the tacky layer off before TIO.

    Any comments are greatly appreciated!

  65. Amy Lester says:

    Hello, I have been trying to find somewhere in your comments on what your opinion is the longest lasting Gel brands? I know there are pros and cons on all brands but over all what is the top pick brands for the longest wear? Price doesn’t matter?
    I have bought an OPI lamp and wanted your opinion before I buy top/bottom and colors.
    I would really appreciate a reply ;)