What Is a Gel Manicure? | A Basic Guide

What is a gel manicure? You might have asked this question one time when considering gel manicures. It’s not surprising if you did considering the popularity of this nail system today. But whether you’re new to or a devotee of gel manicures, you may not know everything you should know about this nail system.

You may already be knowledgeable about gel manicures being durable and creating a stunning shiny finish. But that’s just what most people know. Other relevant information about the said nail system is not really known by many, and this is why we created this article for you. Allow us to tell you in detail the things you need to learn about gel manicures below!

Gel Manicure Explained

To answer the question ”What is a gel manicure?”, it is a type of manicure that uses gel polish as the base coat, main polish and top coat. The process is just similar to the traditional manicure. The only difference is every layer of gel applied is cured or hardened under UV light. The final result gives you a hard and shiny finish. It also doesn’t crack, peel off or chip as fast as the traditional manicure as it lasts for 2-4 weeks with proper nail care. In terms of residual stickiness, you can quickly remove it with a lint-free wipe dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Other Types of Nail Systems

Gel manicures are not the only popular nail system in the industry. You might have heard of or know acrylic, quick dip and Shellac nails. These are the competition of gel nails on the market, and it’s only a matter of preference that people use them. Here are their differences:


Shellac and gel manicures are the same types of nail beautification. It only differs with the kind of product they are using. A Shellac manicure uses a product called Shellac, which is a combination of traditional and gel polish, while a gel manicure uses purely gel polish. Both manicures require curing under UV light to dry or harden.


Acrylic is a nail extension that requires specific skills to apply. It’s a combination of powder and liquid polymers that stick together to form a paste-like texture. It is applied to the natural nails and formed based on a client’s preference for a nail shape. People who love long and hard nails go for acrylic manicures as this nail system is a great nail extension. Gel polish is painted on the acrylic nails when they are done.

Quick Dip

The quick dip nail system involves a quicker process than Shellac and acrylic. The “quick dip” refers to the finely milled powder that you dip your nails into to get a colour. Typically, the procedure starts with applying a clear coat and then dipping the nail into the powder. You may need to repeat this step twice or thrice depending on the outcome you want.

With each dip, you should brush off the excess powder. Buffing is also needed to achieve your desired finish. To seal everything, you must apply a top coat.

Gel Manicure Application

Again, applying gel polish to your nails is just the same as the application of traditional nail polish. You must prepare your nails first by trimming them, pushing back the cuticles, removing hanging skin on the sides and buffing. Then, you can start applying the base coat. Follow it with the gel nail polish of your choice and then the top coat. The key here is to cure every application of gel on your nails to ensure your polish sticks firmly. For the gel nail polish, you may need to apply a second coating, depending on your desired result.

Gel Manicure Removal

There are several ways you can follow to remove a gel manicure, but the most common is using acetone. You just need to soak a cotton ball with acetone and place it on top of the nail for several minutes. Then, watch how the gel polish melts or loosens after several minutes. You may have to repeat the process to remove most of the polish. There will always be gel polish residue, so you can buff it to completely remove the product from your nails.

Other helpful ways you can try to speed up the loosening of the gel polish are as follows:

  • Cover your hands with a warm towel as you soak the polish with cotton balls dipped in acetone.
  • Soak your hands with warm, soapy water for several minutes before applying acetone to your nails.
  • Buff the top layer of your nails to help the acetone penetrate faster into the bottom layers of the manicure.

Time Interval Between Gel Manicures

It is always advised to take a break between manicures to allow the recovery of your nails. Applying and removing gel polish can cause stress to your nails, which is why breaks are important. If you don’t give time for your nails to recover, they will become thinner and weak. Check out these signs when you need to take a break for gel manicures:

  • Dryness – You notice your nails and the surrounding skin feel very dry. Your nails also seem a little fragile.
  • Colour Changes – Any odd colours on your nails are a bad sign.
  • Easily Broken Nails – Your nails break, peel off or split easily.
  • White Marks – Tiny white lines or spots indicate that your nails are stressed because of the removal process or the gel itself.
  • Weak Nails – Your nails tend to bend easily and are not as strong as they were before.

Professional Service Versus DIY

Getting professional help when applying or removing gel manicures is highly recommended as nail technicians in salons are skilled with different gel procedures. They are able to apply or remove gel smoothly and fix issues quickly that may arise during a procedure. Also, nail salons have the proper tools, products and equipment needed for each procedure.

Despite the advantage of getting your nails done or removed in a salon, you can always DIY gel manicures. If you already have the basic tools for a manicure, all you need to add is a UV lamp and the gel polish. Just make sure to cure each layer properly to achieve a lasting manicure. Also, you can conveniently get creative with your manicure without time pressure.

Gel Manicure Safety

A gel manicure is suitable for most people unless they develop allergic reactions. This is why it’s important to try a small amount of the product first to see if you develop any reaction before going with a complete manicure.

The only controversy associated with gel is the exposure to UV light. A simple gel manicure requires frequent curing under UV light, which increases the risk of damage to the skin and even the nails.

We advise people to wear UV gloves, sunscreen or sunblock when doing gel manicures to protect their skin. You also need to check the condition of your UV lamp if it’s still at its best. Any damage that needs fixing negatively affects the light the lamp produces, which may not cure gel properly. Aside from that, you may need to cure your nails longer with a defective UV lamp.

Choosing the Gel Polish Brand

Aside from the fact that proper application of a gel manicure is key to longevity, using high-quality products is also a major factor in having durable and lasting polish. Here are the things you should consider in choosing the best brand for your gel products:

  • Value – Most expensive brands offer good-quality polish, although not all. If you pick cheaper products, you may have trouble with quality, consistency, durability and ease of removal.
  • Shine – Gel polish products are not created the same. Some may provide a not-so-glossy finish, while others give a luminous and brilliant shine.
  • Consistency – You need to look for brands that provide consistent thickness and have a brush that’s easy to control for smoother application.
  • Quality – Products with intense pigment and that are not diluted have great quality.
  • Ease of Removal – Brands that allow you to remove their products cleanly without needing much effort are ideal. They should be easy to buff or remove when soaked with acetone or nail polish removers.
  • Colour Selection – Brands that offer a wide variety of rich, highly pigmented shades are desirable. You’ll have plenty of options to choose from for your future gel manicures.
  • Durability – Pick gel polish that stays flawless, without wearing down or chipping, for a few weeks.

Gel Manicure Dos and Don’ts

To secure the longevity of your nails, there are dos and don’ts you should take note of.


  • Apply vitamin E oil to your nails the night before your manicure to prevent any damage during the procedure.
  • Keep short nails as much as possible as gel polish can soften your nails, making them vulnerable to snagging and making them thin. Short nails also lower your risk of infection or having broken nails.
  • Hydrate your nails and skin with lotion and cuticle oil every day to keep them healthy and maintain the colour coating flexibility.
  • Be patient with curing every layer of the polish to ensure maximum durability.
  • Always prepare your nails before applying any polish and hydrate them after every manicure with cuticle oil.


  • Don’t get a gel manicure if you have brittle, damaged or weak nails. This negatively affects the durability of your gel manicure.
  • Don’t trim or buff your gel manicure as it leads to peeling and lifting of the polish.
  • Don’t peel off your gel polish as it causes damage to your nail beds.
  • Don’t remove the gel manicure at home without proper knowledge about the removal. When done incorrectly, it can leave scrapes, pits and cracks on your nails.

Wrap Up

With the basic yet crucial information about gel manicures, you already have a better understanding of how this nail system works and can assess if it’s for you. You can do it at home or opt for a professional service to ensure proper application. Regardless, be sure to take care of your gel manicure to prevent chipping or peeling off early and any potential damage to it.