How to apply gel polish versus regular nail polish

If you’re thinking of making the switch to gel nail polish, you may be wondering where to start. Our quick guide will tell you everything you need to know about the different application methods.


The main difference between gel polish and normal air-dry nail polish is the length of wear. When applied correctly, gel nail polish can last up to two weeks without chipping. Another big difference is the drying time. Because you use a UV lamp to harden gel nail polish, it dries much more quickly, so you can go about your life straight away, without worrying about smudging. 


Whether you’re applying gel or regular polish, it’s a good idea to prep your nails first. Gel nail polish can be applied either to natural nails or acrylics. If applying to your natural nails, first remove all traces of your old polish and lightly buff your nails to help the polish to stick. 

To avoid applying colour to your cuticles, gently push the cuticle back with an orangewood stick. Wash and thoroughly dry your hands to remove any residues. You might also want to use a nail cleanser and a primer.


Applying a base coat will help create the perfect finish for your gel nail polish. Start applying one-third of the way up the nail, upwards in a single stroke. Repeat at the sides of the nail, then push downwards towards the cuticle, avoiding actual contact with the cuticle itself. You can do this with regular nail polish too, but the main difference is that when using a gel base coat, you’ll need to cure it under the UV lamp for 15 seconds. 


Now to apply your chosen colour. Apply two coats, curing under the UV lamp between each coat. This is where gel nail polish is way easier than traditional nail polish. With regular polish, you have to wait for each coat to air dry, whereas with gel nails, you’ll be all done within a couple of minutes. 

Once the colour is dry, apply a clear top coat and cure again under the lamp. 

It really is that simple. The tricky bit is choosing your colour from our huge range of shades! But if you fancy a change after a few days, check out our guide to removing gel nail polish at home, and start over! If you want a kit to get you started, try our Gel Polish Starter Kit, which comes with a gorgeous coral colour, UV lamp and other essential accessories. 

Air-drying nail polish can still be handy to have, in case you go somewhere without your UV lamp. If you want to explore some fabulous air-drying shades, check out or vegan, cruelty-free Nailtural range, which uses up to 85% naturally-sourced ingredients. 

Image by Kris Atomic.