How To Nurse Your Nails Back To Health After You've Peeled Off A Gel Manicure

December 14, 2015 by Lisa Fogarty
shefinds | beauty

I’ll never forget my first gel manicure. I was hooked the second I realized I could leave the nail salon just moments after the glossy coat of red polish had been applied to my nails. No additional wait time after the final top coat had dried under the UV light? No disappointment when, two hours later, I experienced the first of many chips to come? I was delighted.

Unfortunately, most things that seem to good to be true are exactly that. My enthusiasm for chip-free polish took a nosedive the day I tried to remove it. After soaking my hands for thirty minutes in the most potent nail polish remover I could find, while simultaneously peeling off polish and probably taking a big chunk of my nail with it, I was left with weak, brittle, slightly yellow nails and sad, dry cuticles.

If you’re a gel manicure devotee, you can probably relate.  You know you’re not supposed to peel off the gel polish, but you do it anyway. Fortunately, there are ways to nurse your nails and cuticles back to health after a gel peeling fiasco. Just follow these 5 tips.

1. Submerge your hands in a hydrating bath. After the damage has been done and you’ve managed to remove your gel polish, Dr. Debra Jaliman, author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist, recommends soaking your hands in a bowl of Dove Deep Moisture Nourishing Body Wash. “It contains glycerin, sunflower seed oil, and soy bean oil, so it’s incredibly hydrating,” Jaliman says. “I also have my patients put it in small containers and carry it with them to wash their hands so they don’t use the drying soaps in public bathrooms.”

2. Apply cuticle oil or cream. A lot of us make the mistake of applying one coat of cuticle cream or gel after our manicure and never following up again. Instead,  Nancy Reagan, the CEO of Bella Reins Spa, recommends getting in the habit of applying cuticle oil daily in the evening, regardless of whether you’ve just painted your nails or removed gel polish. Amazing nail oils can be found at all price points, but two great ones to try include Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil Treatment and Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream.

3. Take a break from gel polish. Whenever possible, try not to get back-to-back gel manicures, especially if you’ve damaged your nails by peeling off polish. Reagan suggests having a keratin manicure in between gel manicures to put moisture back into the nails.

4. Make keratin treatments part of your beauty regimen. Use keratin gloves weekly to prevent the dryness of gel manicures. A product like Keratin Gloves All-In-One Hand Treatment can be worn while you watch TV or read and can add some much-needed hydration to hands and help extend the life of your manicure.

5. Trade in your gel for a 7-free mani. You don’t have to give up on gel polish completely, but Reagan suggests letting nails rest every 2-3 months. In between gel treatments, she recommends treating yourself to a manicure using a 7-free polish that will allow the nail to rebuild its natural oils.

For more beauty tips, check out how often you should really clean your nail clippers and are gel manicures really that bad for your nails?


Lisa Fogarty is a lifestyle writer and reporter based in New York who covers health, wellness, relationships, sex, beauty, and parenting.

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