What’s Gel Nail Polish? Everything You Need To Know.

3 1 https://nailhow.com/whats-gel-nail-polish/

What’s gel nail polish? It’s a good question.

Here’s the short answer:

Gel nail polish is a longer-lasting and more hard-wearing version of regular nail polish. Don’t confuse gel polish with gel nail extensions. You could have gel nail extensions and then paint them with a gel nail polish for example. You can easily recognise gel nail polish in the shops because it will not be in a clear bottle. Gel nail polish is always kept in a dark bottle. Gel nail polish lasts longer than regular nail polish. It is also more resistant to chipping. The downside is that it is more difficult to remove. To apply gel nail polish you will need an LED or UV lamp.

Is gel nail polish easy to apply?

pexels photo 2600287 https://nailhow.com/whats-gel-nail-polish/

Now you know the basic answer to the question what’s gel nail polish? Let’s see how easy it is to apply.

It depends, if you are used to painting your nails with regular nail polish and your hand is steady then yes, gel nail polish is very easy to apply. There are some key differences between gel nail polish and regular nail polish so you might need to paint your nails a few times before you get the hang of it.

The main thing you need to be mindful of is that you apply the gel polish in thin coats. Usually, four ultra-thin coats will do the trick. If your colour is very light, you may want to add an extra coat or two. If you apply the coats too thickly your nails won’t cure properly and will be fudgy and soft.

The other thing to be careful of is that you don’t get the polish on your cuticles, or if you do, that you wipe it off BEFORE you cure. Once you have cured your nails the polish will be rock-hard and almost impossible to get off your cuticles.

Gel nail polish is great because it is self-levelling, which means that you don’t see the brush strokes when you’re done.

What equipment do I need to get started?

hybrid nail polish 2 https://nailhow.com/whats-gel-nail-polish/

There are many gel nail starter kits available online. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get good results. I used a Groupon to buy a mylee starter kit. The kit cost around $45 and included a prep solution, a gel nail remover solution, a UV lamp (which I have since upgraded to an LED lamp that cures a little more quickly) a gel base coat, a top coat and two gel nail polish colours (BlueSky). I also got lint-free wipes.

I can highly recommend bluesky polishes as they are inexpensive and really good quality. There aren’t many colours to choose from though. I actually tried an Essie gel polish that wasn’t nearly as good as bluesky.

Let’s go through how to apply gel polish step by step :

First, prep your nails. You’ll need to file them, buff out any ridges, and push back your cuticles. If you have hard cuticles that are difficult to push back, get yourself a cuticle softening solution.

Use a nail prep solution to wipe off any bits leftover from filing. This is an important step because if you don’t get rid of the nail debris you will end up with little bumps showing up all over your finished nails.

Apply gel base coat, being careful not to get it on your cuticles.

Cure – curing time can be anywhere between 15 seconds and 2 minutes depending on the lamp you have. I usually cure for 30 seconds using a mylee LED lamp.

Apply your first coat of colour – remember the coats need to be thin!

Cure under the lamp.

Apply your second coat of colour.


Apply your third coat of colour.


Apply the fourth coat of colour.


Apply a gel top coat.

Final cure.

Wipe off the sticky layer with rubbing alcohol and a lint free pad, or use the same nail prep wipe you used at the beginning of your manicure.

Enjoy your shiny new nails!

At this point your nails will be rock-solid so feel free to shower, cook, dance around or do whatever!

Gel nails are more chip resistant than normal nail polish, but they will still chip if you are not careful with them!

Is gel polish bad for my nails?

shocked 2681488 1920 https://nailhow.com/whats-gel-nail-polish/

Obviously, there are chemicals in gel nail polish just like there are in regular nail polish. Using gel nail polish on a regular basis can certainly weaken your nails. If you use gel nail polish all the time, it is advisable to have a break every now and then for a couple of weeks to allow your nails to breathe and strengthen a bit.

A lot of the damage associated with using gel nail polish is because of how difficult it is to remove. You have to be patient when removing gel nail polish if you want to keep your nails in the best possible condition. If you peel it off or scrape it off then you will damage your nails.

How do I remove gel polish?

To remove your gel nail polish you will need a gel nail polish remover, some lint free or cotton wool pads, some tin foil and a scraping tool.

For your scraping tool, I would recommend that you use a wooden orange stick, as this is least likely to damage the surface of your nail.

You can get metal scrapers but I find them a little harsh. If you don’t want to use tin foil, you can get special plastic clips that are designed for removing gel nail polish and they are really cheap.

The first thing you need to do is soak your nails. You do this by saturating a cotton wool pad with the gel remover. Then place the pad over your nail and hold it on with either a tin foil wrap or the plastic clips if you have them.

You should leave your nails alone for around 15 minutes, then check them. At this point, you should be able to scrape a bit of the polish off quite easily. Keep soaking and scraping gently until all the polish is removed. It might be easier for you to do one hand at once.

How long does it take to apply gel polish?

time 3222267 1920 https://nailhow.com/whats-gel-nail-polish/

Practice makes perfect. Like anything, the more you do it the quicker it will be. It’s definitely a lot quicker than applying regular nail polish because you save so much time on the drying times. I’ve done my whole manicure from start to finish in less than an hour. However, you might want to give yourself plenty of time until you get used to it.

How long do gel nails take to dry?

When I first used my new gel nail polish system, I was amazed at how fast my gel polish dried. One of the best things about using gel nail polish is that you don’t have to wait around for your nails to air dry. It really is a case of cure and go.

I can hardly believe that I used to have to wait 20 minutes between each coat using regular nail polish! After your nails are cured, wipe off the final sticky layer and your nails are done!

How much does gel nail polish cost?

white product label 1111319 https://nailhow.com/whats-gel-nail-polish/

For me, using gel nail polish works out a lot cheaper than going to the salon. It costs around $40 to get everything you need. For that price, I got the lamp, gel remover, prep wipe, lint-free wipes, base and top coat and two colour polishes.

If you stick to bluesky nail polish then you’ll be looking at paying approximately $6.50 per polish on Amazon. There aren’t many colours to choose from with bluesky though. I’m a bit of a minimalist, so I just bought 7 or 8 nice colours and I wear them over and over.

You can buy the bluesky base and top coat in a pack together for around $10. I bought my base and top coat 7 months ago and have not yet had to replace them. I’ve had my nails painted for the majority of that 7 months as well.

So now you know everything there is to know about the difference between gel nail polish and regular nail polish, happy painting!

How long do gel nails last?

It depends on how well you look after them. A lot of websites say that they will last you three weeks but in reality, mine have never lasted that long. I think the longest I’ve had is around two weeks. They will last you a week to 10 days as long as you’re careful with them. Check out our guide on how to make your gel polish last longer

Thank you for reading this far and I hope that you now feel much more confident about applying gel nail polish. Try gel nail polish, you will love it! You will get much better results. It lasts longer and even though it’s difficult to remove it’s definitely worth it in the long run.

I hope you enjoyed this “What’s gel nail polish?” post.

Good luck and happy polishing!


  • 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.