20 Tips for Achieving Flawless Gel Manicures

Seasoned pros and top educators share their favorite tricks for creating unforgettable gel services.

With all of the new innovations in the nail world, we don’t seem to talk about gel polish as much as we used to—but that doesn’t mean the service doesn’t deserve some love! After all, gel polish brought women back to the salon and remains one of the most-requested services out there. So we’ve tapped a slew of gel polishing pros for their best, most used and, in some cases, secret tips to ensure long-lasting results and damage-free removal. Plus, check out the hottest colors of the season that your clients are going to want now!

009_IBD_PINKIES AND CREAMibd Pinkies n Cream 013_ORLY_AFTER GLOWOrly GelFX After Glow CND_GYPSYCND Shellac Gypsy


1.Stick to a System: Make sure that you use the same manufacturer’s primer, base, color and top coat. If you mix and match products, you can face a number of issues, including product breakdown, premature lifting and difficult removal, which can cause damage to the nail. —Genesis Ward, educator, EzFlow

2. Know Your Client: The ideal client for gel polish is one who has nice natural nails and wants the color to stay on for two weeks. However, gel polish isn’t suited for everyone; some clients are too hard on their nails and others will pick it off. For those clients, I recommend a soft or hard gel service. —Vicki Ornellas, global educator, ibd

3. Don’t Rush: Take your time with each step, from cuticle care to nail prep to application. This will save time overall because you won’t have to fix mistakes later. —Mary O’Brien, nail enhancement specialist, Studio Twenty Nail Stylists, Broomfield, CO

4. First Hand First: Perform your prep and primer on one hand at a time. Instead of dehydrating and priming both hands at once, dehydrate, prime and gel base on one hand, then repeat on the other hand while the first is curing. This ensures maximum adhesion, as you don’t run the risk of oils resurfacing in the nail or your clients touching something. —Ashley Thornton, instructor/educator, Cuccio Pro

5.Go Waterless: Dry manicures (i.e., avoiding water, oils or lotion prior to the gel application) are the best way to prep the nails for a long-lasting gel manicure. —Elaine Jones, educator, Orly

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6. Pro Primer: I always use a bonder on my gel manicures before applying base coat in order to make sure that the gel will last on my toughest clients. —Reina Santos, owner, Luxe Nailscape, Fairfield, CA

7. Turn, Roll, Twirl!: I start my gel manicure by prepping the color: First, I turn the bottle upside down and roll it between my hands for about 30 seconds. Then, I turn it back over, open the cap and twirl the brush in the bottle for more pigment mixing. —Kelly Bannon, educator, Orly

8. Thin Is In: It shouldn’t look like the client is wearing a coating on her nails! Don’t attempt full coverage application on the first layer; this can lead to thick-looking polish that may not fully cure, only to peel off in sheets a few days later. —Roxanne Valinoti, education manager, CND

9. Load, Wiggle and Pull: I like to load up my brush, then wiggle it up to the cuticle area. I let it rest there for a couple of seconds to let the gel flow down. Once I’m happy with the cuticle area shape, I wipe off the excess gel from my brush and pull any remaining gel down toward the free edge. —Leah Palhegyi, founder, Luxapolish

10. More Is More: When using light or sheer colors, I find that applying three thin coats of gel is better than fixing two thick coats that can run into the sidewalls. —Terry Nguyen, global educator, Kiara Sky

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11. Shortened Return: If you find your gel polish shrinking, try applying color to two fingers at a time, and then flash-cure it to set the gel polish in place. —Michelle Dao, educator, Gel II and La Palm

12. Brush Up: When layering colors, use a gel brush to apply the second color. You’ll get more even coverage, a thinner application and a perfect finish. —Heather Reynosa, education ambassador, CND

13. Artist at Work: Using gel polish as an art element is very forgiving. When adding details to a design, remember that any mistakes can be wiped away and given a second chance until the nail is cured. This is very helpful, as things don’t always go as planned! —Kesha Scales, owner, Spoil Me … Nail Bar, Memphis, TN

14. Acrylic Add-On: When applying gel polish to acrylic nails, skip the base coat and only cap the free edge once with the color and top coat. This will keep you from losing your shape and making the nail appear too bulky. —Janelle Akers, owner, Nailed by Nell Salon and Gift Shop, Lake Silkworth, PA

15. Bright Idea: Good workspace lighting is key. Rotate the nail between your fingers under a bright light, side to side and up and down, to see any bubbles, lint or spots you may have missed. This will help you see any imperfections so you can fix them before curing. —Emily Oakley, Fort Lauderdale, FL

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16. Long Wear for Tough Tips: Try sealing the free edge with only base coat and top coat, no color. I find that on some clients, this technique makes gel polish manicures last longer. —Yuliya Normand, lead educator, Entity Beauty

17. Precise Clean-Up: If I get gel polish on the cuticle, I use a walnut picker to clean it out. It’s a metal tool with a perfectly shaped tip for the job! —Danielle Candido, master educator, Gelish

18. Choose Your Potion: I prefer using gel polish remover over acetone. It breaks down the gel faster and doesn’t evaporate like acetone. —Vicki Ornellas, global educator, ibd

19. The Heat Is On: Removal goes faster when heat is applied. After wrapping nails in removal solution foils, wrap each hand in a warm, wet washcloth and then cover both hands with a dry towel. The gel polish will start flaking off in no time! —Alisha Rimando, executive vice president and creative director, Artistic Nail Design

20. Double Down: Instead of having my clients soak off their gel polish in acetone, I apply two coats of base gel with every service. By doing this, I can file off the gel polish without damaging the natural nail. I leave a thin coat of the base gel on the nail and do all of the prep work and filing, then go in with a new coat of base and gel color. I’ve found that my clients’ nails stay healthy and strong without the constant use of acetone. —Lisa Silveous, Lisa’s Nail Nook, Centerburg, OH

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[This article was originally posted in the July 2018 issue of NAILPRO]


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