WHY IS GEL MANICURE NOT SHINY: CAUSES AND PREVENTION

Your gel manicure is not shiny because:

  • The gel topcoat is not properly cured
  • Oil residue or dust on the nail
  • Wrong kind of cleanser
  • Excessive buffing
  • Faulty or inadequate UV light source.
  • Nails placed on the wrong place under UV lamp

Quick fix: if only the gel nails look dull and everything else is fine, you can make them shine by applying one more layer of gel topcoat and cure them again under the LED lamp for 1 minute.

In the sections below you will find out more why they can cause gel manicure to be dull. You will know how to fix them and will be able to avoid these issues on your next gel manicure.

Gel topcoat is not properly cured

The mirror-like shine that gel polishes are known for comes from the gel topcoat itself. This final gel top coat has to be properly cured to show off this shiny characteristic. Things that cause gel topcoat to be dull can be:

Curing time is too short: gel topcoat needs adequate time under a UV lamp to be completely cured. If curing time is cut short, the uncured topcoat will be tacky, dull-looking and will be wiped off from the nails with cleanser.

To solve: try to cure your gel nails a second time for 45 seconds.

Gel topcoat is too thick: the gel top coat you are using may be either old or thick. Thick gel topcoat will prevent UV light from curing the lower layer. Uncured topcoat will be dull and will be wiped away with cleanser.

To solve: cure your nails one more time for 45 seconds.

If the above step does not solve the issue, lightly buff the nail surface with a fine buffer. Remove dust with a clean, dry, lint-free paper towel or a clean brush and apply one more layer of thin gel top coat and cure the nails for 45 seconds.

If you still have dull nails, consider using a new gel topcoat bottle or replacing your UV lamp.

Oil residue or dust on the nail

Oil residue might be on the nails. Avoid touching your nails before your gel topcoat is applied since your fingers might have some oily substances from hand lotion, cuticle oil, etc. These oily substances will prevent the gel colors and gel topcoat from creating a mirror-like finish. 

Dust that is deposited on the nail surface will cause the gel topcoat to be dull. So try to reduce any activities that can cause dust in the area where you do your gel manicure.

Using the wrong kind of cleanser

There are two kinds of gel topcoats as far as cleaning after curing is concerned:

Gel top coats that do not need cleansing: you should see the mirror-like shine right after the gel nails finish curing.

Gel topcoats that need cleansing: this type of gel top coat will create a dull, thin layer of residue after curing. This layer needs to be removed with a cleanser to expose the cured, shiny gel top coat. Typically, a cleanser for this application has isopropyl alcohol as the main ingredient. You should clean your gel nails with this cleanser to remove the dull layer.

Do not use non-acetone polish remover or pure acetone in place of a cleanser. They will dissolve the gel topcoat and ruin the shine.

If you do not have the specified cleanser, rubbing alcohol that has 70% isopropyl alcohol by volume can be used.

Excessive buffing

One reason that gel polishes are so popular is their mirror-like finish. This quality is created by curing the gel topcoat under a UV light. It does not need any buffing to be shiny. Instead, any buffing will ruin this great characteristic of gel topcoat.

So do not attempt to buff any gel topcoat to shine. It is not necessary.

Faulty or inadequate UV light source

If you have done everything above correctly and still have dull gel nails, the last culprit may be the UV lamps themselves.

Any mechanical or electrical devices will have their finite working lives. Similarly, regular UV lamps or newer led (light-emitting diode) UV lamps that are used to cure gel polishes do get old or break down unexpectedly.

If a regular UV lamp is under question, you should consider changing the bubs. This will restore the emitted UV light source to its original conditions.

If it is a led UV lamp, you can not replace all LEDs because they are part of the lamp’s electrical circuit. Once the led UV lamp is bad, it has to be discarded.

Additional issues that are caused by faulty UV lamps

  • Dull spots on a nail
  • Not all nails are cured to a mirror-like finish
  • Gel topcoat is still tacky

The light source in your UV lamp is either faulty or old. Even though it appears to produce light but the light intensity may be diminished. Therefore, the gel top coat does not receive enough light power to be completely cured.

Get to the bottom of UV lamps

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 so-called 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.

Nails placed on the wrong place under UV lamp

This usually happens to either the thumbs or little fingers. There is a spot inside a UV lamp where optimal light will shine onto all the nails. If the nails are placed too far away from this optimal location, the gel topcoat will not receive enough light to cure properly.

Turn over your UV lamp and take a good look at the light configuration. You will be able to determine where you should place your fingers to avoid this problem.

Two layers of gel top coat can be better than one

If your gel manicure is not shiny, consider applying one more layer of gel topcoat. If everything else is good, the second topcoat should do the job.

Do the second coat after you have your gel manicure for a week or so will bring back the fresh look of a gel manicure. No matter how durable your gel topcoat is, there will be scratches, chips or normal wear and tear associated with your daily manual routines. A quick second application of gel top coat will make your gel manicure look as new and last a little longer.

Happy gelling.

Related articles on gel polish removal:

Knowing how to remove gel polish in different situations is essential to your nails well-being. Taking gel polish off your nails the wrong way will not only damage your nails, it will also prevent you from putting on gel polish. Find out all SIX popular ways to remove gel polish at homeOpens in a new tab. and pick out your best one.

NOTE: when was the last time you gave yourself a gift? If you have some free time at home and like to do nails, you can open an online nail business or a nail blog for under $100. It is a great part-time home business but the financial reward is high because it can make you a full time income so that you might not need a day job anymore.

You should know what a nail blog can do for you and your family financially with as little as $100 investment. Do not let this opportunity slip away: learn why a nail blog is the cheapest online nail salon but can create as much income as a brick-and-mortar one, if not moreOpens in a new tab..

Give yourself a financial gift today. It only takes you 2 minutes to find out.

Recent Posts