The Gelly Sandwich Technique! Mixing Gel Polish & Regular Nail Lacquer

I’ve been asked many times, “What is a gelly sandwich?”  A gelly sandwich (aka gellie sandwich or gel sandwich) is when you apply regular nail polish (RNP) in between a gel base and top coat.  This technique usually prolongs the wear of regular nail polish by a few days, but it generally doesn’t last as long as a full gel polish manicure.

This is a gelly sandwich that I did this week with a gorgeous polish that I received from Llarowe called Here Come the Brides.  This polish has a light, creamy base and is loaded with purple, black and holographic glitters in different sizes and shapes.  I love it!  I sandwiched this in between my Gelish Foundation and Top It Off. - Llarowe Here Come the Brides - gelly sandwich style!

Here are the steps that I recommend to achieve a successful gelly sandwich:

  1. Prep your nails for a gel manicure (shape, buff, cleanse, etc).
  2. Apply a layer of gel polish foundation, capping the tips.
  3. Cure the foundation gel in your UV or LED lamp for the recommended time.
  4. Wipe off the tacky layer.
  5. Apply your regular nail polish color of choice, waiting several minutes in between each coat, until you get the desired opacity.  Do NOT cap the tips.
  6. WAIT! WAIT! WAIT!  Let the regular nail polish dry.  I mean COMPLETELY dry… like for several hours (4-6 hours).
  7. Apply a layer of gel top coat, capping the tips.
  8. Cure the top coat in your UV or LED lamp for the recommended time.
  9. Optional: repeat steps 7 & 8 for some extra strength.
  10. Wipe the tacky layer with a lint-free pad and alcohol or nail cleanser.

The technique is rather simple, but it does require patience for it to be done right.  And that is probably why I’ve never written about the gelly sandwich before… I lack patience!  I can’t stand waiting for nail polish to dry, which is why I switched to gel in the first place.  I want to be able to get up and go as soon as I’m done and not have to worry about denting a nail.  If you don’t wait for the polish to dry completely, there’s a really good chance of it denting or wrinkling (even under that hard top coat).  I swear every time I try this and I think the polish is dry after an hour or so, I go to wipe the tacky layer and they get messed up.  So that’s why I say to let them dry for a few hours.

I also recommend not capping the tips with the RNP, but do cap with the gel.  This is so the gel top coat bonds with the gel base on the tips.  This should help prevent chipping.

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46 Responses

  1. Lisa says:

    Hi Andrea,
    Would we do the same if using a product like Gelaze? ( Gelish foundation, Gelaze then Gelish top it off) or, do we skip the foundation because Gelaze is not regular nail polish? Thanks!!!

  2. Elina says:

    What did you use to wipe off the tacky layer in the step 4?

  3. Kelly says:

    Can I use seche vite dry fast top coat after the RNP and then gel top coat?

  4. Erika says:

    Is this as difficult to remove as a regular gel mani? I might try it if soak off time is quicker.

  5. Sandie says:

    What happens if you don’t let the RNP dry long enough? My manicure is “gummy” and I feel like it’s because I didn’t let it dry long enough. I used The Painted Nail’s “Nail Gelli”, which is supposedly made for this process.

  6. Caitlin says:

    This is an awesome post! I am wondering if this technique would work if I were to use the gel base, apply a creme base and then a glitter topper like a Lynnderella polish and then the gel top coat. Would the gel sandwich still work?

  7. Maggie says:

    Would it stay up to ten days?

    • Andrea says:

      It could, but I can’t guarantee it. Be sure that the RNP is completely dry before top coating and get a good seal on the edges and tip with the gel top coat.

  8. Amanda says:

    Hiya … Just wondering if you could get the same “look” by a sandwich of say loose glitter between gel colours (so not having to use a RNP)..Or even a gel glitter Polish between ? ….. Does the colour used have to be sheer for the glitter to show through ? Thanks

  9. Terri says:

    I’m completely new to using gel, having only had my UV drier for a couple of weeks. I have a limited range of gel colours, due to them being so expensive. However, my RNP collection numbers over a hundred. I like the idea of putting a gel coat over my regular polish, but hate the long wait for it to dry. Being the old rebel I am, (don’t tell me the artistic rules & I won’t know I’m breaking them) last night I decided to try an experiment. Got out a couple of spare nail tips, painted on 1 coat of RNP & under the UV it went. One cycle of 180 seconds & the RNP has gone from wet to tacky. Two cycles & the first coat is completely dry! The second coat did take 3 cycles to make sure it was totally dry though, so more than 2 coats could take a little longer. Add your gel topcoat & you’re done! Way faster than waiting several hours to make sure your RNP is dry. Tried this with 3 different brands, BYS, OPI & Max Factor. Same result every time. Perfectly dry, 2 coats of RNP + gel topcoat in under 15 minutes. No loss of the shine that you get from RNP either because there’s no tacky layer to wipe off. You can even use your normal base coat & just pop it under the dryer first. I really don’t know why somebody hasn’t done this before, but nobody on any advisory page that I can find has ever suggested it. I’m not a professional nail artist, just a 60 yr old on a low budget, but I do like my nails to look good & love experimenting with various techniques & nail art. This little discovery means I can have the best of both worlds in much less time. Gelly Sandwich, here I come!

    • Prina says:

      Would this process work with an LED light?

    • Gel Girl says:

      The gelly sandwich sounds cool, but honestly, I would much rather just buy different gel colors. I got a really great variety pack of colors from Amazon for around $27 last year. I got 10 colors in the pack. I feel like that’s not too expensive considering I try to do my nails every two weeks, and having so many different colors ensures that my colors will last for quite a while. Just thought I would pipe in since you seemed to be having trouble finding inexpensive colors. I use the brand Sensationail.

  10. Rupali says:

    Hi thr, can you please tell me how to remove gel sandwich …. Pls tell me the easiest process as I am a house wife…

  11. Rupali says:

    And sorry for the pain …. The gel sandwich is really work… Because I m washing my home dishes daily ..

  12. molayo says:

    removing the tacky layer from the foundation coat seems to remove some of the foundation! i used 99% rubbing alcohol.

    • amanda says:

      Aah so did mine. I tried again and put a thicker later and used an led light longer but don’t know if it only looks better because it’s basically two coats now.. did you find a solution?

  13. meg says:

    I tried this last night with esssie bahama mama. When I went to apply it over the gel base coat, it was kinda slipping around. At the end, I just ended up taking everything off.

  14. Mellisa says:

    I used this method and I used Sally Hansen’s insta dry nail polish and the anti-chip top coat, and THEN put the LED top coat after that was dry. Made everything super strong :) Thanks for the post!

  15. cece says:

    How long did this last?

  16. Amanda says:

    Hi will this make your nails hard still like a regular gel set does? one reason I love gel is because I can do it on my own flimsy pathetically thin nails without them flipping back/splitting or tearing like they do with RNP.

  17. Anastasia says:

    What about doing a gel base coat followed by a gel top coat, curing both and then using a RNP on top? Could you take the RNP off with non-acetone remover and leave the gel on for longer?

  18. Shannon says:

    I tried this technique with Dazzle Dry Polish and it worked! I used the Sally Beauty OPI gelshine kit that comes with gel topcoat, basecoat, and the LED lamp.

    I did have to try it twice. The first time, I did not apply Dazzle Dry topcoat, and my mani turned from pink to white within 24 hours. The second time, I applied the Dazzle Dry topcoat before applying and curing the gel topcoat and the color did not change.

    Dazzle Dry is great for this technique because it dries so fast. I was able to apply and cure my gel topcoat less than 5 minutes after doing 3 coats of dazzle dry colors and 1 dazzle dry topcoat. This is great! Now I can do my regular Dazzle Dry manis for my toes and do the gel sandwich for my fingers :)

  19. Marianne says:

    Right now I have on blue RNP with a gel topcoat to make it last longer. I’m already itching to swith it up…can I leave them how they are now, so I don’t have to soak and remove polish, and paint right over them with another RNP/gel combo? Would it be too thick? I’m new to gels so any advice would help, thanks!

  20. Aldora says:

    Hello there.
    Just wondering, did you remember to completely remove the tacky layer prior to applying the regular polish? I made this same mistake when I first discovered this technique.. and yes, it was nothing short of disastrous! The 3 most important things are: Capping the ends. Removing the tacky layer. Allowing enough drying time.

  21. Carmen Jarvenpaa says:

    I did this process on 3 different people and it did not work. It wrinkles every time. I put on the base gel coat, cure wipe sticky off and then it looks blotchy and I clean the nails very well. Do you think I got a bad base coat? It’s the gelish one.

  22. Sandra says:

    I have found that putting regular nail polish on top of the gel polish works really well for me. I use the base coat, clear polish, and then the top coat. Then when I want to add color…I just put the new color on top. I can take it off with acetone easily and change colors as often as I like. The Polish usually last 5 to 7 days. My question is can I skip the clear gel polish? BTW. My reason for this madness is to keep my nails strong. I discovered that putting polish over top wood work when I decided to color them for a special event and didn’t have time to remove the gel polish I had on.

  23. Janice says:

    Hello. After putting foundation is the normal color very thin, should I put it in the uv lamp to dry? Instead to wait in 4-5 hours before putting top it off?

  24. Tracey says:

    I keep an acrylic top coat on my nails, and I do the gellie sandwich often. This is the same technic that I use. The only difference is that I take my gel base coat all the way over the edge onto the underside of the tip. That way, I can cap the end with the rnp and then connect the gel top coat the the base coat on the underside. It works beautifully.
    Also, by pulling the gel base and top coat to the underside, it protects my natural nail and keeps it from turning yellow.
    I try to do the rnp at night, with a quick dry top coat. I do one hand at a time, so as to not be totally helpless. I give an hour dry time between the first and second. Then another hour of being careful before I lay down to sleep. That gives my rnp over 8 hours to dry. In the morning I throw on the gel top coat and go.

  25. Erica says:

    It would seem some RNP’s are better suited for this than others. For instance, I used OPI Liquid sand for my color and it dries SUPER fast. I just waited a few minutes longer than I would have if I were doing a normal manicure and finished off with a no wipe top coat and BAM! This stuff was already mad sparkly with a normal top coat but with the gel its just BEEE-YOOOUUUUtiful! I guess you just have to experiment with what dries quickest or have the patience of a monk.

  26. Niki says:

    I’m also new to gel polish, my first application attempt went really well, had it on almost 2 weeks and only had to take off cos nails were getting too long and needed trimming. I found that once I had removed all the gel polishes (or so I thought!) I still had little bits of base gel left here and there on my nails. My question is, is it possible or do you think it would help if I started my nails off with a RNP top/base/clear and then apply my gels as before? Would the gel still stick to the RNP base? Hope u can help to save me lots of time, mess & poss wasted product. Thanks :-)

  27. Tabitha Baldwin says:

    Hi I used a similar technique and my manicure is soft and gummy… probably because my RNP was not completely dry. Will it still dry and harden under my gel top coat or should I start over now?

  28. Jennifer says:

    Can you use the magnetic gel polish on regular nail polish?