What Is Gel Nail Polish? Types, Ingredients & Uses Explained

Gel nail polish has gained significant popularity in recent years, becoming the go-to choice for women and men alike who desire long-lasting, chip-resistant manicures. 

Renowned for its high shine finish and durability, this innovative polish formula cures under UV or LED light, resulting in a hard, protective layer that can withstand the rigours of daily life without fading or peeling.

In this guide, we will explore everything you need to know about gel nail polish. From the ingredients used to make them to the different types available and their various uses.

So, let’s dive in and learn more about this popular type of nail polish.

What is Gel Polish?

Gel polish is not just your ordinary nail polish. It’s cured under an LED or UV lamp to create a hard, glossy finish, so unlike traditional nail polishes that air-dry, gel nail polish requires special equipment to cure and set the polish on your nails.

The benefit is that it’s versatile, can last as long as three weeks and is highly durable, even for everyday wear. It also looks better and offers a finish that’s hard to achieve with regular nail varnish. 

Because of this, gel nails are an absolute game-changer! 

Is Gel Polish Expensive?

The answer to this question is not a straightforward one. While gel nail polish does tend to be more expensive than traditional nail polish, the cost varies depending on various factors such as brand, quality, and where you purchase it from. 

However, one thing is for sure – investing in good quality gel nail polish is worth it in the long run. The durability and longevity of gel polish mean you will save money in the long run as you won’t have to reapply your manicure as frequently.

Exploring the Different Types of Gel Polish

Soft Gel Polish

A soft gel, often referred to as a “soak-off” gel, is flexible and closely mimics the natural nail in terms of rigidity and appearance. This type of gel polish is applied in thin layers, each of which must be cured under an LED or UV lamp before the next one can be applied. 

The result is a chip-resistant, mirror-like finish that can last for up to two weeks. As the name suggests, soak-off gels can be easily removed by soaking your nails in an acetone solution. 

Due to their versatility and ease of use, soft gels are a popular choice for at-home manicures and professional salons alike.

Hard Gel Polish

Hard gel polish, in contrast, is much stronger and more rigid than soft gel. This makes it an excellent choice for nail extensions or sculpting, where durability and structure are key. 

Hard gels are also cured under a UV or LED lamp, but they can’t be removed by simply soaking in acetone. Instead, they need to be filed off, which can make the removal process a bit more time-consuming and meticulous.

 Despite this, the superior strength and longevity of hard gel polish make it a favoured option for those seeking a long-lasting manicure with added length or shape.

When selecting a gel polish type, your personal preference, lifestyle, and specific nail goals should guide your decision. Both types offer a stunning, long-lasting, glossy finish that far surpasses a traditional polish manicure. 

Ingredients in Gel Nail Polish

Gel nail polish is made up of a combination of ingredients that give it its unique properties. These include:

  • Acrylate Copolymer: This is the main ingredient that gives gel nail polish its hard and durable finish
  • Photoinitiators: These are chemicals that help the polish cure and harden under a UV or LED lamp
  • Acrylates: These are monomers that help create the gel texture of the polish. Ethyl methacrylate is the most common monomer
  • Pigments: These give the polish its colour and come in a wide range of shades
  • Solvents: These keep the ingredients mixed together and allow for smooth application. They also evaporate when the polish is cured, leaving behind a hard finish. Common examples are Butyl acetate and Ethyl acetate
  • Additives: These can include ingredients like glitter or shimmer to create special effects

It’s important to note that gel nail polish also contains chemicals and preservatives that can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some people. It’s always recommended to check the ingredient list and do a patch test before.

Uses of Gel Nail Polish

Aside from creating beautiful and long-lasting manicures, gel nail polish has several other uses. These include:

  • Strengthening nails: The thick and durable formula of gel nail polish can help strengthen weak or brittle nails
  • Protecting natural nails: Gel nail polish acts as a barrier against daily wear and tear, protecting your natural nails from damage and promoting nail growth
  • Creating nail art: The wide range of nail colours, finishes and special effects make gel nail polish a popular choice for creating intricate and unique nail designs
  • Fixing broken nails: Gel nail polish can be used to patch up a broken or cracked natural nail, giving it strength until it grows out
  • Saving time: With gel nail polish, you can say goodbye to waiting for your nails to dry. The curing process takes only a few minutes, making it a time-saving option for those with busy lifestyles
  • Nail extensions: Hard gel can be used to create extensions or sculpt nails, making it a popular choice for those who want longer nails without the need for an acrylic manicure.

How to Apply Gel Nail Polish

To achieve flawless gel nail polish application, you will need:

  • Gel nail polish, any colour or type you like!
  • Base and top coat
  • UV or LED lamp
  • Cuticle pusher
  • Nail file and buffer
  • Nail polish remover for clean-up

Steps For Applying Gel Polish

  1. Prepare your nails by ensuring they are clean, dry and free of any oils or lotions
  2. Gently push back your cuticles and lightly buff the surface of your nails to eliminate any shine
  3. Apply a base coat and cure it under an LED or UV lamp for the recommended time, typically between 60 seconds and 2 minutes
  4. Proceed with 2-3 thin coats of your chosen gel nail polish colour, ensuring to cure each layer under the lamp before adding the next
  5. Clean up with nail polish remover on a cotton bud to avoid flooding the cuticle
  6. Complete the process by applying a top coat and curing it once again
  7. Eliminate any residual sticky layer on the nails by using rubbing alcohol for a glossy finish
  8. Don’t forget to apply cuticle oil for healthy and nourished gel nails

With these simple steps, you’ll achieve salon-quality gel nails with a professional touch!


Is gel polish damaging to natural nails?

When applied and removed correctly, gel nail polish should not damage your natural nails. However, improper removal or application can lead to damaged nails.

How long does gel polish last?

Gel nail polish can last up to three weeks when applied properly and carefully. However, factors such as nail growth and daily activities can affect the lifespan of your manicure.

Can I apply gel polish on my natural nails?

Yes, you can use gel nail polish on your natural nails as long as they are healthy and free of any infections or diseases.

Can I remove gel nail polish at home?

Most gel nail polishes can be removed at home with special solutions like acetone or gel nail soaks. If you’ve had your nails done at a salon, it’s best to check with them if there are any special considerations you need to think about when removing polish at home. 

Is gel polish better than regular nail polish?

It ultimately depends on your preferences and needs. Gel nail polish offers a longer-lasting and more durable manicure, while traditional nail polish allows for easier removal and application. It’s always best to choose the type that suits your lifestyle and preferences.