Why do my gel nails peel off and how to stop it?

Why Is My Gel Polish Peeling Off? Here’s Why & What to Do About It

With gel polish being especially known for its long-lasting effects, you may be pretty surprised if one day it suddenly starts peeling off. Well, unfortunately, things like this do happen. On the bright side, it shouldn’t be too hard to determine the cause and tweak your mani routine accordingly. So if you’re out there wondering, “why does my gel polish peel off?” here’s what you need to know!

What are gel nails?

Gel nails are a type of manicure that uses gel polish and a UV/LED lamp for curing. First, a nail technician preps your nails and cuticles, buffing them before applying the base coat. Once a base coat is applied, the nails go under the UV/LED light. Next, a layer of gel polish is applied and cured, optionally followed by a second layer. Finally, a top coat is applied and cured. Due to this curing process, you end up with chip-free nails lasting between two and three weeks. With this manicure being so durable and long-lasting, it’s no surprise it gained popularity so quickly. But does it always last as long as promised?

Why are my nails peeling?

Although gel nails are supposed to last two or even three weeks, there are cases where premature peeling and lifting happen. In rare instances, the culprit may be the gel polish itself. For example, if it is poor quality, wasn’t stored properly, or was opened several years back and never finally used, it can end up chipping and peeling. Still, most commonly, peeling is caused by a mistake made during the manicure session. Ok, so why are my nails peeling? And how to stop gel nails from peeling? 

  1. Cuticles aren’t prepped properly

Pushing back the cuticles, or in some cases trimming them, is a crucial step when prepping for a gel manicure. You need them out of the way when applying the base, gel polish, and top coat. Why? Well, if a coat of polish leaks onto your cuticles, it will adhere not only to the nail but also to the skin. This will create a ledge of sorts for the polish to lift off, thus leading to peeling.

  1. Nails aren’t prepped properly

Preparing the nailbed is another vital step. Without it, the polish may have difficulty adhering to your nails altogether. That is why you’ll need to buff your nails and then wipe them with rubbing alcohol. Doing this will help remove dirt and eliminate excess moisture and oil, giving the polish a good base to adhere to.

  1. Nails weren’t kept long enough under the lamp

Since curing is so important in giving that long-lasting effect to gel nails, your UV/LED lamp must also be working properly. If you have a new lamp, be sure to go through the user’s manual to check for power information and how long curing should last. If you have an older lamp, remember about proper maintenance and check the condition of the light bulbs. Finally, if in doubt, simply keep your nails under the lamp a little while longer.

  1. Coats of polish are too thick

Although a gel manicure consists of several layers, you need to ensure that none of them are too thick. By applying too much product on a layer, you risk pooling and an uneven surface. What’s more, if there is too much polish, the UV light may not be able to penetrate and cure the layer fully. So if you want a rich, vibrant color, change the gel polish brand or opt for two layers instead of one. 

  1. Lack of base or top coat

Both a base and top coat are essential when doing gel nails. The first bonds with your nail plate, acting as an anchor for gel polish. On the other hand, the top coat seals the gel polish under a hard, protective layer. If you aren’t using one of these, your mani will be prone to peeling. Ensure you apply both during your next gel mani! 

  1. Lack of hand protection while cleaning

Household activities, such as cleaning or cooking, can have a negative impact on a gel manicure. That is why harsh chemicals and strong temperature changes can be another factor causing peeled-off gel nails. To protect your mani, wear rubber gloves while cleaning and special mittens when cooking or baking. And remember to use a moisturizer after such chores. 

  1. Nail or cuticle biting and picking

If you have a habit of biting or picking your nails and cuticles, you can expect that you will end up accidentally peeling or chipping your gel nails. That said, if this happens often and if you start peeling away more and more of your manicure, you will end up damaging your nail plate. In effect, your nails will become brittle and uneven, making it hard for the base coat to adhere properly. So whatever you do, DON’T pick or peel your gel polish!

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