10 reasons why gel polish chips
Updated: Mar 14
#1. Improper curing times. Check the instructions on how long each coat needs to be cured. Under-curing might cause peeling (soft, uncured gels). Gels might look hard and shiny when they are cured as little as 50%. They need to be cured to about 90% for optimal durability and to avoid permanent skin allergies (way worse and uglier then chipping!).
#2. Improper lamp used. I’m with Doug Schoon on that. I always recommend curing the gel with lamp that was designed to cure that particular gel. Over-curing the product (curing too fast) might cause chipping (coating is brittle). Gels are one of the most complex products to formulate. Don’t play chemist.
#3. Improper hand positioning. Client is not positioning their fingers properly/directly under the bulbs. This is way more common with LED type bulbs as their “beam” is way more direct (doesn’t “spread”). The traditional bulbs were a little more forgiving. Sometimes clients put their hands all the way in the lamp (with fingers bent… o madre mia!!) that the tips of their nails are right in the corner of the lamp (where it’s DARK).
Why even bother turning on the lamp?
It won’t help much…. It’s like tanning… under a chair or something… or under a tanning bed LOL, what’s the point?! OK, but seriously, the areas in the shadows or in indirect light are NOT curing properly. Instead of chatting and not paying attention while polishing and curing the nails, make sure the client can concentrate on what they are doing making sure their nails are FLAT and positioned properly each time a coating is being cured. Also, it’s easier to polish while the client is not talking 😉
#4. Improper manicure beforehand. Clients should wash their hands before a manicure. Wash them well.
This simple step gets rid of most of the gunk. Make sure you give a client a proper manicure (dry one) before applying gel polish. I have many clients asking for “polish change”. Not a good idea. The nails have to be filed smooth (the free edge, not the surface) and any flakes removed. The surface of the nail needs to be pristine. Have a VERY good look at the free edge. Any nicks, flakes and catches must be corrected. Majority of the gel polishes out there don’t require the surface of the nail to be filed before. A very light buff is more than enough (with a buffer that is not a 80/80 file and not a smoothing buffer either). You just need to remove the shine. Once. With continuous manicures I don’t even do that. Remember, over-filed and damaged nails will peel more. Look #9 for more details. Wipe the nails with prep solution that goes with the line. I used to recommend 99% IPA mixed with acetone but I found that cleansers specifically designed for that step might perform better.
#5. Peeling nails. Gel polishes are designed for reasonably healthy nails. To beautify them. Not to “fix them”. If a client has a problem with major peeling the gel polish might come off with the peeling nail.
#6. Improper dehydration. Look #4 but also make sure you saturate the cotton pad well and hold it in a way that the pad hugs the nail and use your thumb and pointer nails (through the pad obviously) to make sure you apply correct pressure to the sidewalls where oil and moisture might easily hide. Don’t forget about the free edge and under. Wipe that area too.
#7. Base coat not pressed in properly to cover the surface of the nail PERFECTLY. I have seen that too many times with newbies. They think they cover the nail correctly, except that… they don’t.
Turn the nail to the right and up and see if that corner is covered and repeat on other side. Press the area again with the base if you have to. Get a good lighting. I have no idea how people work in some of these fancy, dim spas. Good light is a must.
And glasses if you need them 😉
#8. Coats of color too thick. Refer back to #1. The gel might look cured but it might not actually be. Thinner and most importantly, even coats are key. If you need to, use 3 coats. My personal trick- when applying more difficult colors (pastels or streaky colors) I apply the base as usual and I then apply a thin coat of clear or almost clear color. Cure that a full cure. Any color will go on much better on top of cured coat of clear color vs. cured base (most of them after cured still have that “wet and slippery” feel).
#9. Damaged nails. Just like over-processed hair that doesn’t “hold” color, damaged nails or nails that clients picked or peeled the product off will have hard time bonding with the gel polish (or gel polish bonding with them actually). When these top, most dense layers of the nail are gone (overfilling or picking) the more “spongy” nail layers underneath get exposed. Those layers don’t bond with product well. Keep those nails healthy. Insist that clients keep regular appointments if they decided to have their nails enhanced. That decision comes with some responsibility. Once the nails start peeling or chipping it’s too late to be calling for an appointment. Regular, bi-weekly, in my opinion appointments are a must to prevent damage from happening.
#10. Clients use their nails as tools. Nails that are too long for client’s lifestyle usually break. They don’t usually chip, but that is a possibility too. Sometimes nails that are too square will chip on the corners. I found rounding up these corners solved the issue with some clients.
Don’t forget one last thing. Some people are just not good candidates for a gel polish. Gel polish is not a fool proof product. If something doesn’t work for a client don’t feel bad for suggesting another service or.. in some cases, even refusing the service altogether.