Gel polish and regular nail polish, when stacked up against each other in durability, gel wins effortlessly.
Gel polish lasts 2-3 weeks at the minimum, while it’s such a blessing for regular to go beyond a week without chipping. Plus, who doesn’t adore the glossy look of a gel manicure?
Yet, gel polish comes in quite a limited range of colors, and this is exactly where regular polish shines through. Gel polish is also expensive (another minus!). So, what if you’re the person who loves to have the best of both worlds?
You’re not alone, as we see people combine these two types of polishes in various fashions to serve their purposes. Painting a gel top coat over classic polish is among those attempts. But have you ever thought about what it would be like if you painted your nails with regular nail polish and applied a gel top coat on top? Scroll down and we’ll tell you the answer to your question.
Can You Use Regular Nail Polish With Gel Top Coat?
It is possible to use regular nail polish with a gel top coat. The gel top coat can add to the longevity of your manicure. Your nails look glossier, and you can still enjoy the vast selection of hues from regular nail polish.
However, there are a few things you should know before committing. While regular nail polish appears dry to touch within 20-30 minutes, 24 hours should be allowed for the polish solvents to dry before further treatments are applied completely.
If you cut down on this drying time, the liquid solvents cannot evaporate from the nails. This means that you’re applying the gel top coat just to lock in the wet polish and the moisture makes it harder for the gel top coat to adhere to.
This also traps the moisture in the nail bed, which creates a favorable environment for the fungus to thrive.
In addition, there is a high chance of the polish sliding off the nails or peeling easily because these solvents do not provide a solid base for the gel top coat to hang on to.
In addition, you can notice the cracks and wrinkles in the polish underneath once the gel is cured.
In other words, if you rush through the process, the only thing you’re left with is a way more short-lived manicure than you would with a regular top coat.
There is another problem you’ll encounter when removing the polish. The gel top coat painted over normal nail polish should only be removed by warm water, not acetone.
If you soak the gel top coat over regular polish in the acetone for 15 minutes or longer, the acetone will not only stain your nails but also the cuticles and the skin areas surrounding the nails.
The staining is deeper and harder to remove if you painted darker regular nail polish on your nails.
All in all, you can use regular nail polish with a gel top coat if you follow our detailed guidelines in the sections below.
While you’re at it, the general tip is: to paint the regular polish and let it dry for 24 hours, ideally. Try to keep your nails intact in the meantime and go back to apply the gel top coat afterward.
How To Apply Regular Nail Polish With Gel Top Coat?
Knowing how long it takes for the regular polish to actually dry is just half the battle. Follow these steps to achieve a perfect manicure with regular polish and gel top coat:
- Regular nail polish
- Gel top coat
- Nail bonder (optional)
- UV/LED lamp
- Cuticle oil (optional)
- Lint-free wipe
- 91% isopropyl alcohol
- Nail prepping tools (180/240 grit nail file, nail buffer block, metal cuticle pusher/orangewood stick, nail cleanser)
Step 1: Prep Your Nails
You need to prep your nails properly to create a good foundation for the polish to stick to, and here’s how to do it:
Start with filing your nails to your desired shape.
Use an orangewood stick or metal cuticle pusher to push back your cuticles gently.
Over time, cuticles have grown up and made it to your nail beds. If you don’t handle these cuticles, you’re more likely to paint over them, and the painted-over polish is also more prone to lift.
Trim away all the dead skin surrounding the cuticles with a cuticle nipper. This also prevents premature lifting of the polish. Always nip away those skin in white color (a.k.a dead skin).
Take a fine grit buffer (or buffing block) and buff your nails. This creates grit and texture for the polish to hang on.
Soak a lint-free wipe in a nail cleanser. Then, wipe over your nails to cleanse the nail plate and remove all the oil, dirt, and residue.
Try to go over all the crooks and crannies and the free edge to make sure your nails are squeaky clean for the application.
You may want to apply a thin coat of bonder to your nail and then let it dry under a UV lamp for 1 minute.
Nail bonder increases the adhesion between the natural nails and the polish, which adds to the longevity of your manicure.
You can also apply a regular (non-gel) base coat to your nail and cure it under the UV lights.
Step 2: Apply Regular Polish
Paint your chosen polish. If the nail polish is too thick, you’ll need to take an extra to return it back to its normal state by diluting it with a nail thinner.
If you persist in painting the thick nail polish on your nails, you’ll need to wait for days for it to dry completely, even when you force dry it.
Add 3-4 drops of nail polish thinner into the bottle. Next, put on the cap, and let the bottle sit for one hour before rolling the bottle between your palms so the thinner can mix better with the nail polish.
It’s best to apply with 3 to 4 strokes. First, load up just enough nail polish and begin with the middle spot close to the cuticle.
Then, stripe three times: one to the left, one to the side, and one in the middle. If there are still some spots you’ve missed, re-apply and swipe the brush down one more time to fully cover them.
Most importantly, only apply to the end of the nails and do not use the polish to cap the free edge.
Allow 5 minutes or longer for the first coat to dry before applying the second coat if you wish. The longer you wait between coats, the better it keeps the color locked in.
There’s no need to go beyond two coats of polish. Too many coats result in too-thick nail polish and the gel top coat cannot hold it well.
If you want the regular polish to dry quickly, here are two options:
Use A Heater:
Set the heater at a low heat and speed, and put your freshly-polished nails in front of it. Maintain a safe distance between your nails and the device as too much heat will cause the nail polish to bubble up or wrinkle.
The first coat will need 3 minutes to dry decently. If you feel the nail is dry to touch, then proceed to the second coat. The second coat should be left in front of the heater for longer, 10 minutes, to be exact.
Use A Hairdryer:
If you don’t have a heater, a hair dryer can be a nice substitute. The amount that the first and second coats take to dry properly is the same as they would with the heater.
Step 3: Let It Fully Dry
Here’s the best part (and the most important one): drying time. As mentioned, wait between 4-6 hours or 24 hours, ideally, for the solvents to completely dry before applying the gel top coat.
If you’re using a quick-dry formula, you can head straight to the gel top coat after 30 minutes.
Step 4: Time To Gel!
Once the polish has completely dried, add the top coat. Apply a thin, even coat all the way to the edges of your nail.
Make sure you cover the entire nail with gel and also be mindful not to get to the cuticles. This time, you’ll need to cap the edges to seal the regular polish and prevent chipping.
If the gel stains your skin or cuticles, it’s important to wipe it off right away. Never let the stains hang on and proceed to cure your nails with the thought that you’ll remove them later. These stains, after curing, are incredibly tricky to remove.
Step 5: Cure Under UV/LED Light
Next, cure your nails under a UV/LED lamp for the recommended time specified on the label.
The curing time is normally around 30-60 seconds in an LED lamp and 2 minutes in a UV lamp for the gel to be perfectly dried and sealed.
Nevertheless, this is only a general timeframe, so it’s best to check the product label to know the exact curing time for your top coat.
Pro tip: Exposing your nails and fingers to the UV/LED lights for an extended period is quite harmful to your skin. You’ll risk your skin being damaged by UV radiation.
So, you’d better err on the cautious side by either applying sunscreen or putting on anti-UV gloves specially made for manicures.
Step 6: Wipe Away Tacky Residues
Gel typically creates a tacky residue after curing. This residue can be easily wiped off with a disposable alcohol wipe soaked in 91% isopropyl alcohol.
Avoid using cotton balls or you’ll risk ending up with plenty of lint on your nail. Plus, it’s important to use a separate wipe for each individual nail. If you wipe multiple nails with the same piece, it will easily dull the topcoat.
Step 7: Apply Cuticle Oil (Optional)
It is advisable to apply cuticle oil to give a moisture boost to your nails. However, you need to wait about 1 minute after removing the tacky residue to avoid dulling your gel top coat.
Use a few drops of oil on a cotton pad and gently dab it onto the cuticle areas. Then, massage the oil into your cuticle for the best result!
How To Remove Gel Top Coat Over Regular Nail Polish
You SHOULDN’T use acetone to remove the gel top coat over the nail polish!
Instead, you can remove this duo by simply soaking your nails in warm water since heat is another effective way to soften the gel.
- Nail file (or a nail drill)
- Warm water
- A plastic container
- A cuticle pusher or orangewood stick
So, here’s how to remove your gel top coat and regular polish without acetone:
Step 1: File Off The Top Coat
Use a nail file (or nail drill) to sand some of the gel top coat off. File until you successfully remove the lair of the sheen on top.
Step 2: Soak Your Nails In Warm Water
Fill the plastic container with a half-gallon of warm water. Make sure the water is not too hot to avoid scorching your skin. Sit down and soak your nails for around 15 minutes to soften the gel.
In the meantime, if you feel the temp in the bow drops, add some more warm water (or hot water).
Step 3: Peel The Gel Top Coat
Once 15 minutes have passed, the gel top coat should lift off more easily. Peel off the gel just bit by bit – you should never pull it away in one go.
Look for the spots that have loosened and detached and peel them first. While at it, you might want to exert a little pressure (and it’s ok to do so) to remove the gel. In this case, a cuticle pusher can be of great help!
For the gel top coat that still hangs strong on your nails, soak them for a few more minutes and try again!
The Bottom Line
Surely after reading this post you already know that it is possible to complete a regular nail polish with a gel top coat. That can greatly add to your manicure mileage compared with an ordinary top coat.
There is only one thing to keep in mind: you should patiently wait several hours (24 hours, at best) for the regular polish to dry. So, follow the steps correctly, and you’ll reap the benefits!