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How to Apply and Remove Gel Nail Polish

Updated on October 27, 2014

Gel Nail Polish is Amazing

Learn how to apply and remove gel nail polish right here!

Gel nail polish is nail polish that is "cured" by UV light. You paint your nails as usual, then shine a UV light on them for 30 seconds, and the polish dries completely to a super hard finish that lasts for weeks. No waiting for your nails to dry - you can shower or take a nap or do the laundry immediately after doing your nails, no smudges. No chipping at all, which I did not believe until I wore it for over a week and it still looked shiny and fresh.

Buy it at Sephora
Buy it at Sephora

Gel polish used to be something you could only get in a salon, but now there are many of do-it-yourself kits on the market. This is great if you are sick of paying $50 and up for gel at a salon, or if you want to give gel a try to like doing your own nails. I looked at a lot of systems and chose the Sephora by OPI Gelshine System, and I am extremely happy with it.

Everything you need is included with the kit, full sizes too, not minis, even cuticle oil, a buffing block, nail wipes, and a cuticle stick. Other kits may be cheaper, but the polishes are minis or the brand is something you've never heard of. I trust OPI, their products are always top of the line.

How To Apply Gel Polish - Beauty Tips and Secrets

This is the best way to apply any brand of gel polish.

The Sephora OPI gelshine system has an excellent spiral-bound booklet of directions in the kit, but here are the basics, with my own suggestions and observations. Everything mentioned below is included with the kit, except the cotton swab.

1. Lightly buff the surface of your nails with the buffing block.

2. Clean your nails with the nail cleanser. I wash my hands and nails well before using the cleanser, and push my cuticles back too. The cleanser is just rubbing alcohol, so the bottle is easily refilled, no need to re-purchase the Sephora OPI cleanser.

3. Apply the base coat to your thumbs ONLY, carefully avoiding getting it on your cuticles or skin. Why thumbs only? Because the lamp can't accommodate your whole hand, and if you try you will smudge. If you do get polish on your skin, remove it with the rubber cuticle stick or a cotton swab soaked in the polish remover. Thin coats of polish work best.

4. Cure your thumbnails under the UV lamp (it's a plug-in, so no batteries) for 30 seconds. The lamp turns off automatically.

5. Apply base coat to the fingers of one hand, and cure. Then do the other hand. Remember, thin coats work best for extended wear.

6. Apply color coat. Again, thumbs first, cure, fingers of one hand, cure, then the other hand, cure. Carefully avoid your cuticles, and don't touch your nails between coats.

7. Topcoat! Same steps, paint thumbs, cure, fingers, cure, fingers, cure. Don't skip the topcoat, the shine is wonderfully blinding!

8. Wipe nails with nail cleanser again.Your nails will be perfectly dry after the last cure, but slightly sticky; the nail cleanser takes that away.

9. Now do something crazy, like washing the dishes without gloves or running your fingers through your hair. It's so nice to do your nails and not have to spend the next hour doing nothing for fear of ruining your mainicure!

10. Apply the cuticle oil. I had never used cuticle oil before, I thought it was kinda silly and hand cream was good enough. I was wrong, Cuticle oil is the BOMB, for the first time ever I have perfect cuticles, no dryness or hangnails at all. I ran out of the of the cuticle oil and now I just use a drop or two of olive oil, which works just as well. You can carefully clean an old polish bottle and brush and fill it with the oil of your choice, so it is easy to apply.

You're good to go! The polish is supposed to last two weeks, and I believe it. The longest I went was 12 days and the only reason I took it off was because my nails had grown and too much nail was showing. The polish was still perfect.

Want to put together your own kit? - Customize your gel nail experience.

How To Take Gel Nail Polish Off

This is easy if you bought the Sephora OPI kit. Put a few drops of acetone remover on the polish remover pads, wrap them around your fingers, put on the plastic gloves, wait 15 minutes, peel off polish. In fact, it falls off, and it takes less than 15 minutes; I use the buffer to lightly "rough up" the surface of the polish a little, this seems to speed things up.

Everything you need is in the OPI kit, but you can remove gel nail polish easily with things you probably already have in your house. I use Walgreens brand acetone remover and cotton balls, with a square of tin foil to hold it on my nails. I wrap plastic bags around my hands, and it all works just fine. Not very glamorous, but that's the price we pay for beauty!

How-To Gelshine

Thanks for stopping by!

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    • RedHairedRockHead profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @bunkerful lm: Sure! I hope you get the hang fast!

    • bunkerful lm profile image

      bunkerful lm 

      5 years ago

      I need more practice. Thank you for this lens!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great lens

    • NibsyNell profile image


      5 years ago

      I've never tried this before but it sounds like the perfect solution to chipped nail polish. Definitely plan on giving it a go! :)

    • RedHairedRockHead profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @chattersharon: I highly recommend gel polish, once you get the hang of it it's so nice to have manicures that last.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This sounds awesome! i refuse to pay the salon price but this could work for me.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Beautiful lens.

    • Emma Vine profile image

      Emma Vine 

      6 years ago from Texas, USA

      You have made me want to try gel nail polish!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Oh cool! I am totally going to get this! :D


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