If you’ve gotten gel nails done at the salon, you know how long-lasting and durable they can be compared to regular polish. But no matter how careful you are, sometimes gel nails can start lifting and peeling off the natural nail bed. This can happen for a variety of reasons like improper application, damage to the cuticle area, nail fungus, etc. As soon as you notice any lifting or peeling, it’s important to identify and address it before it gets worse. Ignoring lifted gel can allow air pockets to form leading to more lifting. When gel nails lift, they raise up from the nail bed and you can see shadows, uneven textures, and bubbles under the gel polish. Don’t worry – fixing lifted gel manicures is totally possible to do from home if you follow some simple steps.
Prepare Nails for Gel Reapplication
The first thing I do when I notice gel lifting is to start gently removing any of the gel polish that has already lifted using a cuticle pusher tool. This helps get rid of the easy stuff first. I’m very careful not to pick or peel since that can pull up layers of my natural nail. For gel that is still adhered tightly to the nail, I leave it alone for now. After removing all the lifted gel, I use a fine grit nail file to buff the exposed natural nail until smooth. This creates a clean surface for the new gel polish to bond to.
Next, I apply cuticle oil around the nail edges to nourish and condition the skin and nails. Having healthy nails and cuticles forms a strong foundation that resists lifting. I massage in the oil and use a cuticle pusher to gently push back any overgrown skin without cutting. If your nails are very dry or damaged, you can apply a thicker oil or serum and let it soak in for several minutes before cleaning up any excess.
Avoid Picking at Already Lifted Gel
I know it’s tempting to want to peel and pick at gel nails when they start to lift. I’m guilty of doing this too sometimes! But it’s important to try your hardest to resist this urge because excessively picking at lifted gel just causes more damage and encourages more gel to lift up. Not to mention it never looks neat or clean when you peel off chunks of gel polish.
If you absolutely must remove some loose gel, make sure to use proper tools and methods. Soak cotton pads in pure acetone remover and hold over the lifted gel for 30 seconds before gently sliding away. The combination of acetone and a soaked cotton pad help dissolve the gel polish instead of chipping it off. Be very careful not to file or pick under the nail where new layers are growing in. Nail picking pulls up thin layers of your natural nail leaving them thin and weak.
Apply Gel Top Coat to Seal and Prevent More Lifting
Once my nails are prepped and bare where the gel lifted, I apply a thin layer of gel top coat to the entire nail including the exposed natural nail. This helps seal in moisture so the bare nail doesn’t become brittle. It also helps smooth over any uneven textures between the lifted gel and natural nail. I use a rubberized tool to gently press the topcoat into the nail bed as I apply.
Let each layer of gel top coat cure fully under the LED lamp before adding another layer. I usually do about 2-3 layers to reinforce strength. The multiple sheer layers of topcoat help bond the natural nail to the gel polish still adhered. This helps prevent more lifting or peeling at the edges. As an optional extra step, you can apply a thin layer of builder gel before the top coat to fill in any ridges if necessary.
Prevent Chipping and Lifting with Small Habits
Once I’ve fixed my lifted gel manicure at home, I’m careful to pick up small habits that will help prevent chipping and lifting in the first place. Here are some of my go-to ideas:
- Wear rubber gloves when doing household cleaning or any chores involving chemicals/water. The gloves form a protective barrier.
- Avoid using your nails as tools to open packages, pry things, etc. This puts pressure directly on your nail bonds.
- Stop nail biting habits if applicable. Nail biting introduces excess moisture and opens up nail layers.
- Apply cuticle oil daily to condition the nail bed and enhance adherence.
- Consider taking biotin supplements to strengthen nails from within.
- Be gentle when pushing back or cleaning cuticles. Don’t cut them.
- Use gel base coat and gel top coat to seal in the color polish.
Give Nails a Break Between Gel Manicures
Getting back-to-back gel manicures too frequently can lead to cumulative nail damage over time. That’s why I’ve started to give my nails a little break between salon gel appointments. Going 1-2 weeks bare or using regular nail polish allows my natural nails to recover some of the lost moisture and strength. Then when I do get gel put back on, it seems to last longer without lifting or peeling at the edges. My nails are healthier and less prone to damage after the brief nude period. Even a short nail detox can make a difference!
To quickly summarize the key steps on how to fix gel nail lifting at home:
- Gently remove already lifted gel polish using tools like a cuticle pusher. Avoid excessive picking or peeling.
- Buff natural nails smooth where gel lifted off.
- Apply cuticle oil to nourish the nail beds.
- Resist urge to pick and peel at lifting. Use acetone remover and cotton pads instead.
- Apply multiple layers of gel top coat to seal in moisture and prevent more lifting.
- Follow habits like wearing gloves and oil application to avoid lifting.
- Give nails periodic break between gel manicures when possible.
With the right prep and techniques, you can easily fix minor gel lifting issues from the convenience of home. But if the problem persists repeatedly or involves fungal infections, it may be time to see your nail tech or dermatologist. Don’t try to remove all gel at home if you have extensive lifting or damage. Get professional help to avoid harming your natural nails. They can also recommend products or prescription treatments as needed.
I hope these tips help you salvage lifting gel manicures and keep your nails looking beautiful! Let me know if you have any other DIY nail care tricks. I’m always looking to improve my at-home gel fixing process.
Sophia Rodriguez is the creative force behind IGXO Cosmetics, a popular beauty blog and brand. As a long-time makeup artist and beauty industry insider, Sophia realized there was a lack of authentic, relatable content for the everyday woman. This inspired her to launch IGXO Cosmetics in 2018 as a platform to share her passion for beauty.