Polygel nails 101: What You Need to Know

What are polygel nails? Let’s find out!

Consider this post your crash course on polygel.

If you’re wondering whether polygel nails are the right choice for you, we’ve got you covered.

We’ll explain exactly what polygel nails are, how long they take, how long they last, and how they should be applied.

We’ll also talk about the different techniques, prices, and where to buy the stuff you’ll need if you want to try out polygel at home.

Want to know about the pros and cons of polygel and how it stacks up against acrylic?

We’ll go over that, too.

Got questions about the safety of polygel and/or concerns about damage to your natural nail?

You’ll find the answers right here.

This is the complete guide to polygel for beginners.

Ready to get into it?

Let’s go.

But first, here’s a table of contents for easy navigation:

What are polygel nails?

Let’s start by nailing down (pun absolutely intended!) what polygel actually is.

Polygel is a nail enhancement gel that’s part hard gel and part acrylic.

It’s sometimes also called acrygel.

Acrygel and polygel are pretty much the same product.

However, the quantities of acrylic and hard gel in the mix may vary.

Polygel comes in little tubes (kinda like lotion bottles).

It has a thick, gloopy, sticky consistency like putty.

Why use polygel?

why use polygel https://nailhow.com/what-are-polygel-nails/

Acrylic nails are super strong, but they dry quickly – so you have to work really fast before they set.

Hard gel nails are much easier to apply and shape.

You have more time to perfect gel nails. But gel nails aren’t as strong or durable as acrylics.

Polygel gives you the best of both worlds.

With polygel, you get the durability and strength of acrylic nails.

But you also get the flexibility and ease of application that comes with gels.

How are polygel nails applied?

how are polygel nails applied https://nailhow.com/what-are-polygel-nails/

There are 3 main ways that polygel can be applied:

  • As an overlay (gel is applied on the natural nail only without adding length)
  • To extend the length of the nails (this can be done with forms or dual forms)
  • To fill in the cuticle area (this is done after 3 weeks to cover the regrowth)

What tools do you need to do polygel nails?

The exact tools used and application method can vary a little bit.

But generally, to do polygel nails you will need the following equipment/tools:

  • Nail file or e-file
  • Cuticle pusher
  • Isopropyl alcohol or nail cleaning solution
  • Lint-free wipes
  • Primer or basecoat
  • Slip solution
  • Colored or clear polygel
  • 2-sided spatula/brush tool
  • UV lamp
  • Buffer
  • Topcoat

How are polygel nails applied in a salon?

Want to know what to expect when you go to get your polygels done?

Here are the basic steps your nail technician will need to do for a full set of polygel nail extensions:

  1. Filing and shaping the natural nails.
  2. Pushing cuticles back (or removing them) and lightly buffing the nail plate.
  3. Wiping away nail dust with a lint-free wipe and a cleanser.
  4. Applying a nail dehydrator.
  5. Applying either a primer or gel base coat depending on the polygel product being used.
  6. Curing under an led lamp for 30 to 60 seconds depending on the product.
  7. Applying nail forms for the extensions.
  8. Applying a pea-sized blob of polygel to the nail plate using a metal spatula or a nail brush.
  9. Dipping the nail brush into a slip solution (this helps to mold and shape the polygel).
  10. Sculpting the nail shape (creating a strong apex) using the brush soaked in slip solution.
  11. Curing the nails for 30 to 60 seconds under a nail lamp.
  12. Removing the forms.
  13. Shaping and buffing the polygel to the desired shape.
  14. Wiping down the surface of the nails with rubbing alcohol or a nail cleanser.
  15. Applying a topcoat.
  16. Curing for the final time (30 to 60 seconds).
  17. One last wipe and the nails are done!

If you don’t want extensions, the steps are the same as above but no forms will be applied or removed.

How are polygel nails applied at home?

how are polygel nails applied at home https://nailhow.com/what-are-polygel-nails/

If you want to do your own polygel nails at home, the easiest way to do this is to purchase a polygel nail kit.

See our post on polygel nail kits for more info.

You’ll have everything you need.

The steps for home application of polygel nails are mostly the same as those laid out for a full set of extensions above.

However, there are some key differences.

Home application kits usually include dual forms to make the process a little easier.

Dual forms are basically little plastic pieces that look like false nails.

They come in different sizes so that you can match them up to the size of your own nails.

When doing your own nails at home, instead of applying the polygel directly onto your nail, you apply it onto the nail form.

So what you’re going to do is apply the polygel to the inside of the dual nail form using a spatula tool (you should have this tool in your kit).

Then dip the brush into the slip solution and sculpt your nail inside the plastic form.

This makes the whole sculpting process so much easier!

Once you’re happy with your sculpting, you apply the form to your nail and press down lightly.

Then you cure with the plastic still attached.

Once your nails are cured, you can remove the plastic form and begin filing and shaping.

How to apply polygel as a fill

If you already have polygel and you need a fill, here’s how it will be applied.

This process is done after 3 to 4 weeks.

You don’t need to have the whole nail re-done.

First, the existing polygel on your nails will be filed down a bit.

Then, more polygel will be applied.

Your nail tech will focus on the cuticle area but may also apply a thin layer over the rest of the nail.

Once this is done, normal curing and filing/buffing will be done and a topcoat added.

How long do polygel nails take to do?

This depends on the skill of your nail technician and on the length of extensions you want.

Polygel overlays are much quicker than extensions because there is often less filing and no form application is needed.

45 minutes to an hour is about right.

If a nail tech is used to using polygel, a full set of extensions should take around an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.

If you’re doing your own nails at home, it may take you a while to get used to it.

So allow yourself plenty of time to get the hang of it.

How long do polygel nails last for?

If they are applied well, polygel nails can last for up to 4 weeks.

Of course, the length of time you get from your manicure depends on your lifestyle and the length of your nails.

3-4 weeks is the normal length of time that polygel nails will last before you’ll need a fill-in appointment.

Polygel prices

How much does polygel cost?

If you go to a salon in a major US city, you can expect to pay between $55 and $150 for a full set of polygel nail extensions.

Overlays should be a little less ($45 to $100)

And a fill-in appointment should cost between $35, and no more than $80 at a high-end salon.

Pros and cons of polygel nails

Let’s weigh up the pros and cons.

Here’s a list of the good stuff.

Pros of polygel nails:

  • They don’t have a strong smell.
  • Polygel doesn’t release chemicals into the air when applied.
  • They are thin and strong.
  • Can last for up to 4 weeks with proper care.
  • They are easy to apply.
  • Polygels come in a wide range of colors and even glitters.

Cons of polygel nails:

There aren’t that many bad points for polygel nails really.

Here’s the short list of cons:

  • They can be tough to file down when fill-ins are needed (it’s recommended to use an e-file to make this easier).
  • They can damage your nails if you don’t remove them properly.
  • You have to use a lamp (UV exposure = bad).

Now that we know the pros and cons of polygel nails, let’s compare them to the most popular nail extension system out there, acrylic nails.

Polygel vs acrylic nails

Acrylic nails have been around for decades, and they’re still the most popular nail extension system used today.

Why is this?

Well, they’re strong, durable, and fairly easy to apply.

They also come in a wide range of colors and can be shaped without too much hassle.

They also don’t break easily, which means that you can have longer nails.

The main benefit of polygel nails compared to acrylics is that polygel doesn’t set as quickly.

This means that you or your nail tech are going to have more time to perfect the sculpting of the nail.

This means that polygel is much easier for beginners to use than acrylics.

With polygel nails, you also don’t need to worry about mixing ratios of monomer and powder as you do with acrylics.

Another key difference between acyrlic and polygel is the smell.

The monomer that’s used with acrylic nails smells really bad, which can put a lot of people off.

With polygel, there is no smell at all, because polygels are odorless.

polygel nails are just as strong as acrylic nails, but they are more flexible and lighter, which means that they look more natural.

Remember, polygel ois a mixture of gel and acrylic, so you really do get the best features of both.

Does polygel smell?

No, polygel does not smell.

Most polygels are completely odorless. Some have a faint almost pleasant scent.

This is a major benefit of polygel nails compared with acrylics.

Does polygel damage your nails?

If it’s applied and removed properly, there’s no reason that poygel should cause any damage to your nails.

However, the acetone that’s needed to remove polygel nails can dry out the nails and make them brittle.

Obviously, polygel contains chemicals and these can weaken your natural nails over time.

It’s always a good idea to take a break from false nails of any kind every 3 months or so.

Keep an eye on your natural nails and if you notice a change in color or texture, it’s probably time to give them a break.

Is polygel safe for your nails?

Polygel is much safer and more pleasant to use than acrylics because it doesn’t release chemicals into the air.

There’s no awful fumes or smell with polygel nails.

The UV or LED lamps used with polygel pose the most risk to your health.

If you are concerned about this you can apply an SPF 30 plus sunscreen before your manicure to protect your skin from UV damage.

Are polygel nails strong?

Yes, polygel nails are very strong.

They have some acrylic in them, so they are just as strong as acrylic nails.

But they are more flexible, which means that they are less likely to break.

Where to buy polygel

If you want to do your own polygel nails at home, I’d recommend getting a polygel nail kit.

These kits are perfect for beginners and can often save you money because they contain absolutely everything you’ll need.

You can get a kit on Amazon – this one from Beetles is pretty good and the price is very reasonable.

You can also pick up Gelish polygels at Sally’s and some kits and polygel products are also available at Walmart.

Etsy has some polygel nail stuff too.

Are polygel nails better than gel nails?

Polygel nails can be considered “better” than soak-off gel polishes because they are stronger and longer-lasting.

This type of gel is much sturdier than most other hard gels but polygel nails are more difficult to remove.

Polygel is not self-leveling like some other hard gels, so this could be a downside for some.

I guess it depends on what you value the most, strength or easy removal.

Builder gel is a little bit thinner than polygel and not quite as sturdy.


What is polygel made of?

Polygel is a mixture of clear hard gel and acrylic powder. It is non-toxic and odorless.

Is polygel the same as gel polish?

No, polygel is a type of putty that’s used to make nail extensions or to do an overlay on natural nails.

It does come in a variety of colors and glitters but it is much more hard-wearing than gel polish.

Do polygel nails ruin your nails?

No, if applied and removed properly, there is no reason that polygel nails should ruin your nails.

Can you remove polygel nails at home?

Yes, you can remove polygel nails at home with acetone and a nail file.

You will need to soak a cotton ball in acetone and wrap it around your nail for 10-15 minutes.

Do polygel nails break easily?

No. Despite being lighter than their acrylic counterparts, polygel nails are strong and flexible.

If applied properly, polygel nails are super tough and do not break easily.

Final thoughts and key takeaways:

Congratulations on making it to the end!

You are now a polygel mastermind!

Let’s do a quick recap on what we’ve learned.

Polygel nails are a type of false nail that is made from a mixture of hard gel and acrylic powder.

They are odorless, non-toxic, and come in a variety of colors and glitters.

Polygel nails are strong and flexible, and if applied properly, they will not break easily.

You can remove polygel nails at home with acetone and a nail file.

Polygel nails are safer and more pleasant to use than acrylics, and they are less likely to damage your natural nails.

However, it is always a good idea to take a break from false nails every 3 months or so.

You can buy polygel kits on Amazon, Etsy, Sally’s, or at Walmart.

Polygel nails can be considered “better” than gel nails because they are stronger and longer lasting, although they are more difficult to remove.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what you value most in false nails. Strength or easy removal.

I hope you enjoyed this article and that you learned a lot!

Thanks for reading.

Amazon associate’s disclaimer

As an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases


  • Phoebe Meadows

    Phoebe Meadows is a self-proclaimed nail addict, always on the lookout for the latest trends and techniques. When she's not creating stunning nail designs, you can find her researching the latest nail care products or experimenting with new techniques.