Seven reasons gel polish will not last on nails.

Why does gel polish chip, peel or last after a few days?

Gel polish does not last on the nails because either it is one or the combination of the following six reasons:

  1. Poor nail preparation
  2. Gel polish too thick
  3. Old or bad gel polish
  4. Old or bad UV light source
  5. Nails are too long or inappropriate shape
  6. Hand on the wrong spot under UV lamp
  7. Over-worked or improper uses

Whether it is your first time doing gel polish or do not know what they all mean, the following sections will tell you what they are so you have a complete understanding of these pitfalls and how you can avoid them in your next gel polish application.

Let’s look into what they mean and what you can do to make gel polish last longer.

Poor nail preparation will cause gel polish to peel, lift or come off prematurely

Nail surfaces should be cleaned according to the gel polish manufacturer’s recommendations. If this step is not followed properly, the nail surface will not be free of nail dust, cuticle or is still oily in order to ensure a great bond between nail surface and base coat. Generally, it consists of:

  1. Remove old polish completely if any.
  2. Cut/trim nails to the desired length.
  3. Remove or trim excessive cuticles. This can be done by nipping cuticles dry or after soaking.
  4. Gently buff the entire nail surface. Three or four back and forth light strokes are sufficient. Overdoing this will thin out the nail needlessly.
  5. Do buff the tip or free edge of the nail to remove any burs.
  6. Clean the nail surfaces with alcohol and apply dehydrator or bonder. Wait one minute or until nail surface is dry
  7. Apply primer if required by gel polish manufacturer.
  8. Use a small fan to dry the nail surface for 1 minute or air dry for 3 minutes before applying a gel polish base coat.

Another reason might be too obvious to mention here but if you skip or forget to apply the gel base coat, the gel polish as a whole will not last. The gel base coat is necessary because it create a strong bond between nail the plate and the gel color.

All of the steps above will ensure the nail surface free from oil, lotion, or moisture and create a clean nail surface for polishing.

Applying too much gel base coat, gel polish or gel topcoat

Gel polish when applied too thick will not cure thoroughly. Basecoat, color gel polish, and topcoat should be checked to make sure they are in good condition before applying on nails.

Furthermore, gel polishes are usually thicker or higher in viscosity than regular nail polish so the phrase “less is more” should be observed.

  • Practice technique of removing extra polish on nail brush by scraping top and/or bottom of the brush against the inside rim of the polish bottle.
  • Press nail brush firmly on the nail to ensure a thin coat is applied.
  • Remove excess on the brush by first scraping it against the rim of the polish bottle with side to side strokes then brush the nail surface again to ensure an even thinner coat.
  • Gel base coat, gel color, and gel topcoat all need to be cured under UV light separately so make sure each coat is properly cured.

If gel polish is too thick, a normal UV light source can not penetrate or cure a thick layer of gel polish thoroughly. The UV light will cause the surface of the gel polish to be cured first and this cured top layer will prevent light from going further inside and therefore gel inside will not cure completely. As a result, wrinkles or bubbles will form.

Old or bad gel polish will not cure completely under UV light causing it to peel off sooner

Gel polish products will start to thicken over time due to evaporation of liquid chemical ingredients in a gel polish bottle. When this happens, gel base, gel color or gel topcoat will get thicker and it will be difficult to apply a thin coat on nail surfaces.

  • If a gel polish thinner is available, put a few drops of this solution to the gel bottle and vigorously shake for 1 or 2 minutes.
  • Inspect the gel consistency on the brush. It should be thick but readily dripping off the brush. Use more gel polish thinner if necessary.
  • If the gel inside the bottle is so thick that it deforms the brush bristles, discard it. It already solidifies and can not be brought back to liquid form.

Old or bad UV gel lamps will under cure gel polish and causes it to come off the nails prematurely

All UV lamps whether using fluorescent bulbs or LED (light emitted diodes) will diminish or get weaker over time and the bulb type lamps do so quicker. When this happens the amount of UV light generated will be reduced compared to the new one and so its energy to cure gel polish will also be reduced. This will cause the gel polish to be under cured, meaning the surface will cure first and prevent light from going deeper to cure lower gel layer.

Similarly, inadequate or insufficient power UV light sources will cause the same effect.

  • In order to determine if a UV lamp is in good condition or not, polish 3 nail tips with black, white, and one dark gel color then curing them with recommended time under the UV lamp in question. Polish all 3 nails one more time and cure again. If after the second time, any of the three polish colors wrinkles, bubbles or still feeling sticky when touched, the UV lamp does not produce enough light.
  • To correct this situation, the old bulbs in a UV lamp must be replaced with new ones and the above test should be repeated to ensure improvement. If this happens to an LED type UV lamp, this lamp is at the end of its working cycle and should be properly discarded.
  • Since most of the home use type of UV lamps are small compared to those full-sized, professional ones used in nail salons. Any reduction in UV light of these home-use types will dramatically affect the gel polish curing than full-sized, professional ones.
  • Also, some small personal use UV lamps do not come with a bottom reflective plate. With this plate being used, all the UV light shine down will reflect back to the top side and will partially reflect back on the nails so the light intensity will be enhanced. If your UV lamp does not have a bottom plate, then put the lamp on a reflective metal tray, or a light color table surface before curing gel polish. Remember this feature the next time you are in the market for a UV lamp.

Long nails or inappropriate shape puts gel polish under excessive bending or stress

If the nails are too long, they will be subject to excessive bending by daily activities and this will cause the gel polish on top of the nail will come loose quicker. Also if you do a lot typing on a keyboard, square-shaped nails are not suitable for it because the gel polish at the corners of the nails will hit the keyboard and cause it to bend and wear out sooner.

Use common sense when you decide what shape is best for your daily hand and finger activities.

Hand in the wrong spot under UV lamp will not cure gel polish properly

Lastly, even though you do not encounter any of the 4 problems mentioned above and still have gel polish peel, chip off. This may be that the nails are not placed where it should be for optimal light intensity and energy. White, black or dark color gel polish requires adequate light intensity they need in order to cure completely.

If nails are not placed at the right location, UV light that shines on the nail surface will be at an angle and some will be reflected away instead of being absorbed in the polish, causing gel polish to be cured on top and under cured inside.

Make sure that all nails are facing the light when you put them inside the lamp. Thumbs and pinkies are the ones that usually have this problem.

Over-worked or improper uses

If you let your gel polish go through too much repetitive stress, it will not last. Heavy or hard-handed typing with your gel nail tips will make them go under unnecessary repetitive bending and impact. these forces will cause the gel polish to detach from the nail plates sooner. Another habit to avoid is do not use your fingernails as tools because they are not designed for this kind of activities.

The main reason for any polish on the nails is to beautify them and if you take care of your hands, your gel polish will stay with your nails.


Gel polish is the latest major innovation in the nail industry. It has been around since late 2000s. Given this amount of time, major gel polish manufacturers have eliminated all major issues and perfected them. It is then fair to say that gel polish is a mature product. So any problem encountered by either user at home or professionals can be traced back to one or more of the above six causes.

Have fun gelling!

Related questions:

The best nails drill to remove gel polish? I used this new nail drill to test it out on removing gel polish. This new nail drill is great in removing the gel top coat. It is as big as the highlight pen and weighs under 2 oz. It is a lithium battery powered drill so there is no cord attached to the hand piece when you are using it. Its light weight and small size make it an ideal nail drill for gel polish removal. Best of all, it costs under $25 and it will last for years if you only use it twice a month. Check out the latest price on amazon.

How to remove gel polish quickly? The most useful, time-saving way of removing gel polish is using finger cots. If you do not have them, there are also other different ways you can use to remove the gel polish depending on where you are and what you have available. Learn about this method and its alternatives in this article.

Gel polish is not shiny? Gel polish looks dull is the result of under cured gel topcoat. This maybe either the LED is old or faulty, wrong placement of the hand under the lamp or the gel topcoat needs to be cleaned with alcohol-based cleanser. More one this subject in this article.

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