Gel polish is supposed to stay on acrylic nails the longest, but you have the problem of gel polish peeling off your acrylic too soon.

Gel polish peeling off acrylic results from several factors that prevent gel polish from bonding correctly to the acrylic nail surface. Avoiding these factors will help create a clean acrylic nail surface for gel polish to bond well and stay on longer.

The gel polish applied on a clean and oil-free acrylic nail will bond so well that only a nail drill can file it off, not just by peeling.

Why is your gel polish peeling off your acrylic?

To determine why gel polish peeling of an acrylic nail, let us go back and look at the end of your acrylic nail application process.

In the past, at the end of your acrylic nails application, whether it is a full set or a fill-in or balance, nail technicians always did two things:

  1. Buffed the acrylic nail surface to smooth.
  2. Applied cuticle oil on your nails and rubbed it in. After it was done, your nail technician asked you to wash your hands before putting regular polish on your nails.

Almost every nail technician did the same thing because they were standard procedures in doing a manicure.

If you do your acrylic nails at home, you are more likely to do the same thing.

Why regular nail polish can stay on but gel polish can not? You ask.

Regular nail polish can tolerate some oily nail surfaces because it needs heat to dry. The heat from the room temperature and your own body heat will eventually dry this oil away. Another thing is regular nail polish can take in some oil without compromising its composition.

Fast forward to the present, the time of gel polish.

Gel polish needs an oil-free nail surface to bond with either natural nails or acrylic nails.

However, many nail technicians or people who do their acrylic nails are still accustomed to doing the two steps above.

They make the acrylic nail surface so smooth and oily that gel polish does not have a clean base to stay on from the start.

As a result, the gel polish will peel off your acrylics.

Now you know what causes gel polish to peel off. The next step is how to stop it from happening again.

How to stop gel polish from peeling of acrylics

You need to change this way of doing acrylic nails if you apply gel polish instead of a regular one.

Do not buff acrylic nails so much:

A very smooth nail surface is not recommended for gel polish. Even the shine on natural nails should be removed before applying a gel base coat.

So you need to stop one step short of your routine buffing, do not buff the nails all the way.

This will leave some roughness for the gel polish to hold on to.

Do not wash hands before applying gel polish:

You can rinse your hands to remove all the nail dust, do not wash your hands with soap. Most hand soaps have some oily skin conditioner to keep the hands soft. This tiny trace of oil will interfere with gel polish bonding.

I prefer to use a lint-free paper towel to wipe the nail dust off the hands, and use a nail brush to brush off the nail dust stuck along the cuticle lines, and finish dusting with an alcohol wipe.

You can rinse your hands without using soap, but you should allow your nails to dry for good 5 minutes. It will be quicker with the help of a small fan.

Do not apply cuticle oil:

As I mentioned before, applying cuticle oil before regular polish does not work for gel polish.

If you happen to forget this, you can clean the oil with alcohol a couple of times and give some time for the water in the alcohol to dry off (No alcohol is 100% pure, it usually is 25% diluted with water). 

Do not use lotion:

Many customers of mind have a habit of reaching for a hand lotion bottle after washing their hands.

If you are one of these people, refrain from using lotion. The oily substance in the hand lotion will reduce the gel polish bond.

Do apply thin coat:

One of the few weaknesses that gel polish has is it is much thicker than a regular one.

If you are so used to working with regular polish, you will need to make some adjustments to applying gel polish so that you can brush on thin coatsOpens in a new tab..

A thick layer of gel polish, especially if it is dark like black or blue, will not cure completely under an LED light.

LED nail lamps are designed to work with thin layers. If the gel polish is too thick, the light will only cure the top layer, and this cured layer will block the light from going deeper to cure the remaining lower layers. What you have here is incomplete curing. You can peel the gel polish off the acrylics because of this incomplete or uncured lower layer.

Do cap the free edge:

Even though it is doubtful that the whole gel polish peels off the acrylic nails because you forget to cap the free edge, it does not hurt to go do this. It will make gel polish stay on without chipping at the free edges or corners.

Another possibility is your LED nail lampOpens in a new tab..

Weak or bad nail lamps can cause gel polish to peel

This last section is about your LED nail lamp.

Your nail lamp is a delicate electronic device. It can break down as quickly or often as any others if it is heavily handled.

If it does not turn on at all, you know that it is bad.

Sometimes the electrical wirings in your nail lamp are acting up, causing the lamp not to produce enough light power. Even though you can see the light is on, but its power might be reduced.

A weak or low-energy emitting nail lamp will not cure gel polish properly. You can use another nail lamp to cure your gel polish so you can tell whether your first one is bad or not.

For a complete diagnosis of your LED working conditions, I have a short checklistOpens in a new tab. that you can use to quickly tell what is wrong with your LED nail lamp.


If you follow the three don’ts and two dos above, you should no longer have any issues with your gel polish peeling off your acrylics.

Good luck and happy gelling.

Recent Posts