Why Does My Gel Polish Peel Off? 

Most people choose gel polish over other types of polish because they are more durable and long-lasting. But why is yours not the same?

If you are unsure and frustrated about, “Why does my gel polish peel off?” you are not alone. We have been here before. So, that means we can help you out! In this article, we will explain 9 reasons why your gel polish peels off and guide you on how to fix them! 

Know why your gel polish is peeling off to stop them from doing so
Know why your gel polish is peeling off to stop them from doing so

Before Your Nail Gel Polish Application 

Your cuticles were not prepped properly

Before applying gel polish, you need to prep the cuticles, and you must do it properly. If not, the gel polish will stick to the cuticles instead of the nail plates. Consequenly, that gel polish lifting and peeling is easily understandable. 

Push your cuticles back to make sure the gel polish adheres to the nail plates 
Push your cuticles back to make sure the gel polish adheres to the nail plates

Here are the steps that you should take to properly prep your cuticles: 

  1. Soften your cuticles using a cuticle remover. Apply it and let it sit for 60 seconds. 
  2. Wipe the cuticle remover away with a pad.
  3. Push your now-softened cuticles back with a cuticle pusher. You can use a metal or wooden cuticle pusher. 
  4. Make sure that you have gotten all the skin off the edge of the nail bed.
  5. Get rid of any dead skin around the cuticles using a cuticle nipper. You can note that dead skin are white in color. Do not nip off live skin. 

Your nails were not filed 

Filing your nails before putting on gel polish is another step that you cannot overlook. 

If you do not file the nails beforehand, two things will happen:

One: The oil or dead cuticle tissues that are still on the surface of your nails can prevent the gel polish from adhering to the nail plates. 

Two: The nails’ surface will not be roughened up enough for the gel polish to get a good grip and keep its hold. 

As a result, your gel polish will more likely lift and peel. 

File your nails to make sure that your gel polish will not easily lift and peel 
File your nails to make sure that your gel polish will not easily lift and peel

Here is how you file your nails:

  1. Wash your hands and nails. Then, dry your nails thoroughly with a fresh towel. 
  2. Hold the nail file parallel to the side of your nail to start filing. But make sure you are not filing to far in the nail’s side, as this can make is prone to breaking. 
  3. Move the nail file from the side to the nail centre in a fluid motion. 
  4. Make sure you are filing flat when going against the nail tip. 
  5. Move from the nail tip to the other side of the nail to file in a parallel position.
  6. Repeat the steps for all of your nails. 

Note: Never file your nails in a back and forth “sawing” motion. 

After filing your nails, follow these steps:

  1. Set the tip of the file beneath your nails and flick upwards to get rid of any fillings that remain attached to the nails. 
  2. Buff your nails using a buffer. These can be found at any beauty supply shop. 
    1. Hold it parallel to your nail. 
    2. Buff in strokes with the large grit side. 
    3. Make sure your buffing strokes are going in a single direction. 
    4. Do six to eight strokes gently. Do not overbuff, as it would cause damage. 

Your nail plates were not dehydrated  

If, while prepping your nails, you did not dehydrate them properly to get rid of moisture and oil, they will serve as a barrier between the gel polish you apply and your nail plates. There will not be a proper bond. Hence, your gel polish can lift and peel. 

To dehydrate your nails properly, follow these steps: 

  1. Clean your nails. 
  2. Apply a coat of nail dehydrator. 
  3. Wait for a minute or two for the nail dehydrator coat to evaporate. 

If you do not have a nail dehydrator, you can easily get one at a beauty supply shop. Or, you can alcohol and acetone, as follows:

  1. Get rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol and acetone. 
  2. Apply a coat of alcohol onto your nails. 
  3. Allow time for it to evaporate fully. 
  4. Apply a coat of acetone onto your nails. 
  5. Allow time for it to evaporate fully. 

During your gel polish application 

Your gel polish was applied too much layers and continuously 

When you apply gel polish to your nails continuously but in layers that are too thick, the gel polish is more likely to lift and peel because of two things. 

One: The thick gel polish can prevent the UV light from a UV lamp to fully cure your nail gel polish. 

Two: The thick gel polish can lead to pooling, which makes the polish uneven and hence, more prone to lifts and peels. 

To make sure this does not happen, keep the following in mind:

  • Apply the gel polish thinly, one layer at a time. Do not go over it many times. 
  • Cure after each layer of gel polish.

Your manicure or pedicure was missing a base coat and/or top coat 

When doing a gel manicure or pedicure, your nails will be more apt to lifting and peeling if you do not apply a base coat and/or top coat. 

The base coat helps your gel polish stick to your nail plates better and more easily and it gives the nails an evener texture that ensures lifting and peeling will not as likely occur. 

The top coat forms a hard surface atop your nail plates to protect and seal in your polish and thus, reduces the chances of it lifting or peeling. 

There are two things to note when applying a base coat and top coat is. One: Make sure you get a gel base coat and gel top coat. Two: Wait for the coat to dry completely before you proceed.  

If you do not already have a gel base coat and top coat, consider these two sets: 

Your free edges were not capped 

The uncapped edges of your nails can serve as gaps that cause the gel polish to be more vulnerable and inclined to lifting and peeling. 

Here is how you can cap the edges of your nails:

  1. Apply your base coat, gel polish, or top coat 
  2. Flip your nail brush upside down 
  3. Go along your free edge with a scrubbing motion 
  4. Smooth your whole nail again to ensure an even finish  
  5. Repeat the four steps above for the remaining nails 

If you need visual guidance, check out this video

Your gel polish was not cured properly

Curing is necessary to complete a gel polish manicure or pedicure. If your gel polish was not cured properly, the gel polish will smudge, lift, peel, or chip right away. 

There are three reasons why this may happen. 

One: The UV lamp that you are using to cure is broken/not working right or not strong enough. So, the UV light can only go through and cure the top layer of the gel polish and not the lower layer. You should replace or upgrade it. 

Two: You did not use the UV lamp correctly. 

Read the instructions manual carefully and follow it word by word to ensure you are not using the lamp incorrectly. 

When in doubt, consider contacting the UV lamp manufacturer. 

Three: You did not give the UV lamp enough time to do its job. 

To make sure you allot the right amount of time, check the specifications on your gel polish’s packaging. 

The bottle or box should have information on how you long you need to cure it for. Once you know this, make sure you do not deviate from it. 

After your gel polish application 

Your gel nails are encountering harsh conditions and strong chemicals 

Harsh conditions and strong chemicals can cause your nail gel polish to lift and peel. So, it is essential that you try to stay away them. 

Harsh conditions that you should avoid putting your gel nails through: 

  • Extreme temperatures: For example, while you are cooking or baking. Strong chemicals that you should avoid getting contact with your gel nails: 
  • Detergents and bleach while you are doing cleaning tasks 
  • Chlorine while you are in the swimming pool 
  • Dibutyle adipate and other chemicals while you are applying sunscreen 

When you know that you may expose your gel polish nails to harsh conditions or strong chemicals, gloves can serve as an extra line of defense. 

Your get nails are not moisturized regularly enough 

When your nails are dehydrated, they can dry out and be more prone to peeling. So, you need to ensure that they are regularly moisturized. 

Here are the signs that can tell you when your nails are “thirsty” and need moisturizing: 

  • Your nails may look yellowed and dull 
  • Your nails may have thin, veritcal ridges 
  • Your nails can be brittle, easily splitting, cracking, or breaking 

In this case, you should apply a nail cuticle oil or cuticle cream daily. You can find many options in the market. For example, consider these two:

Alternatively, you can rub your nails with vitamin E or petroleum jelly. You can also soak your nails in a water and natural oil solution, like jojoba, olive, or coconut oil for 20 mins. 


Now that you have finished reading our article featuring nine reasons behind peeling gel polish, you should be able to find your own answer to, “Why does my gel polish peel off?” So, which was the culprit in your case? Let us know in the comments down below!


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