Peeling isn’t supposed to happen after getting a gel manicure, so if this is happening to you, there’s likely an underlying cause. And it probably has to do with the application technique. Once you get to the root of the problem, you’ll be able to say so long to peeling nails and prevent them in the future.
Table of Contents
Why are my nails peeling?
A gel manicure should last roughly between two and three weeks. A few weeks after getting gel, you’ll see new growth emerging at the base of the nail. It looks like it is pushing your gel set down your nail plate. While this is normal, you still shouldn’t be experiencing peeling.
Improper nails and cuticle prep
Why do my gel nails peel off? Chances are that your nails and cuticles weren’t prepped correctly. Getting a manicure isn’t just about picking a polish color. All the steps done beforehand are just as important. Proper nail prep can extend the life of your manicure and prevent peeling or splitting polish. One crucial step to preparing your nails for a gel manicure is pushing back your cuticles. The cuticle is found at the base of the nail. This delicate layer of skin should be pushed back to avoid peeling polish. But buffing the nails is also essential for gel prep. Gently filing the nail’s surface to roughen the nail plate will prevent the polish from lifting. Use a 180 to 220-grit nail file and buff your nails in one direction. Be sure to get into the areas prone to lifting, like the tips of the nails or the sides.
Not getting rid of moisture and oil
Hydration is a fundamental part of nail care. But too much moisture pre-polish can ruin a perfectly good gel manicure. So, why does my gel nail polish peel off? It could be that you’re not sufficiently dehydrating your nails before painting them. Dehydration goes hand in hand with nail prep. Moisture causes the nails to expand, leading to peeling and chipping. It also prevents the polish from bonding to the nails by acting as a barrier. After you’ve pushed your cuticles back and buffed your nails out, swipe them with alcohol or acetone. These products will dry the nail plate, removing oil, moisture, and debris.
Get your nails looking flawless with just a few taps. Book your next nail appointment effortlessly
Omitting a base and top coat
Don’t skip any steps in your DIY gel manicure! If you want a long-lasting gel manicure, avoid taking any shortcuts. The answer to “why do my gel nails peel off after one day?” could be that you’ve skipped over a top or base coat. Not using a top or base coat can cause a gel manicure to lift lightning fast, even over the course of a day. A base coat helps the gel polish bond efficiently to the nail plate. At the same time, a top coat will seal everything in and protect your polish. Both are necessary components to preventing peeled-off gel nails.
Applying the polish in thick layers
When gel polish peels off, it could signify that your application technique needs a little work. Gel nail polish should always be applied in thin layers and cured between coats. Applying gel polish in coats that are too thick can cause peeling. Thick layers can impact the curing process, making it hard for UV or LED light to harden the polish completely. This can lead to pitfalls like lifting, peeling, and an uneven look. Painting on multiple thin layers of polish is a much better technique than doing one or two thicker coats—and it’ll help you avoid peel-off gel nail polish.
Forgetting to seal off the free edges
The next time you wonder, “why is my gel nail polish peeling off?” take a look at your free edges. You may be forgetting to seal your tips! Sealing, or ‘capping,’ the edges is critical for securing your gel polish and lifting prevention. To seal your nails, paint the polish along the very edge of the nails. Essentially, you want to seal off the area between the polish and the nails to give them maximum protection. Capping the free edges ensures longevity and will minimize the chance of peeling gel nails.
Rushing the curing process
Unlike traditional nail polish, gel polish requires curing under ultraviolet or LED light. It usually takes under a minute to cure a layer of gel, so don’t rush this already short timeframe. Not fully curing your gel polish is one gateway to peeling. To the naked eye, gel polish that hasn’t fully hardened may appear cured. But what’s really happening is the bottom layer remains soft. If you’re struggling to find an answer to “why is the top layer of my nails peeling off?” and nothing else makes sense, it could be the lamp itself! A faulty nail lamp or a burnt-out bulb can also cause curing problems. Check that your lamp is working properly and that you’re curing your nails for the correct amount of time.
Neglecting post-manicure hydration
The last thing you want is your gel nails peeling off after a day. Aftercare is equally as important as manicure preparation; one vital aspect is keeping your nails moisturized. Before applying the gel, dehydration is a necessary step. But after getting a gel mani, do the reverse! Provide your nails with moisture to prevent peeling. Hydration is critical for healthy nails and cuticles. And neglecting post-manicure moisturization can give insight into why your gel polish is peeling. Experts recommend applying cuticle oil to your nails twice daily to keep your gel nail polish intact.
Picking at the polish
Why do my gel nails peel off after a week? Bad habits like picking or biting your nails can be the culprit in a peeling situation. Not only can picking at your nail polish destroy a gel manicure’s appearance, but it can also damage your nails. Picking, biting, or peeling gel nail polish can remove the upper layers of your natural nail. This weakens the structure of your nails and can cause brittleness or an uneven texture.
Overlooking chip maintenance
If gel is made to withstand chips and cracking, then why are my gel nails peeling? While gel is much stronger and more durable than classic nail polish, it isn’t invincible. Though rare, chipping and cracking can still happen with gel—especially if you accidentally break a nail! A chipped nail can cause gel nail polish to peel if you don’t patch it up. There’s no need to redo your manicure from scratch to save a nail with chipped polish. A quick swipe of the top coat will do! File the edge of the chipped nail first, then seal it off with a top coat to keep your nail polish from peeling.
Exposing the nails to harsh conditions
I’m doing everything right, so what gives? Why did my gel polish peel off? If you’ve closely examined your manicure and nail care tactics and can’t seem to get to the bottom of it, it might come down to external factors. Nails that are routinely exposed to harsh chemicals or conditions can cause the effect of peeling off nail polish. Damaging beauty products, cleaning chemicals, and extreme temperatures can all impact gel peeling. Keep your nails covered when handling chemical solutions and limit your exposure to damaging factors.
How to stop gel nails from peeling
Knowing how to prevent nails from peeling can go a long way and leave you with a flawless manicure long-term. But if your nail polish has already started lifting, grab your top coat and go in for a rescue mission. Adding an extra layer of top coat is the best solution for how to stop nails from peeling. The new topcoat layer will help seal down the peeling-off gel base coat and top coat from before. Afterwards, go heavy on the moisturizer. For gel that is already peeling, hydrating them often with cuticle oil can help extend their lifespan. This way, you’ll be able to slow down the peeling effect and rock your manicure for a few more days.