How Many Layers Of Gel Polish Should You Apply?

Wearing gel on your nails looks fresh and beautiful, lasts longer than regular polish, and helps the busy everyday woman to flaunt her stuff without a drop of worry about her nails.

But how do you get it to look good and not overdone? How many layers of gel polish should you apply for the perfect manicure?

How Many Layers Of Gel Polish Should You Apply?

There is no golden rule as to how many layers of gel to add to a manicure. There are, however, the recommended number, and you can work around that to fit your personal needs.

However, in most cases, you should apply 3-4 layers of gel polish. These layers are the base coat, colored coat, design (optional, only if you do design), and top coat. Each coat has its own role and you should never skip any of them.

The layers should be thin enough so they can cure properly. Each layer has a different curing time, so ensure you know how long each gel polish layer needs to dry before moving to the next.

how many layers of gel polish should you apply

What to know when applying gel polish layers?

Adding more gel layers to your nail is fine. Still, it can lead to lifting and bubbles forming if each layer isn’t cured thoroughly before you apply the next layer.

On the other hand, some might go for fewer layers, which has a more substantial possibility of bubbling and failing terribly because of the thickness of the layers. The secret lies in how the UV lamp cures the gel polish.

Suppose the layer is too thick; the lamp’s UV light cannot see the gel particles at the bottom, leading to incorrect curing and drying. The result will be a gel application with too much flexibility leading to lifting and bubbles and peeling off and causing a disaster of a manicure.

Some might skip the gel base coat to save time. However, the base coat plays an essential role in your nail’s health and the longevity of your manicure; thus, you should always apply the gel base coat.

The top coat locks in everything and gives you the shine of the final look. Thus, you can leave out the top coat, but this will reduce the life of your gel manicure, and you won’t have that shiny finished look.

You can learn more about why gel polish needs a top coat to make a better decision!

the colored coat above a gel base coat

Factors That Will Lead To An Extra Gel Layer Or Two

In some instances, you might need an extra gel layer or two. Here you will have to use your discretion and decide whether or not to add that extra layer.

  • Lighter colors – Two gel color layers might not be enough when using lighter colors. Using thin layers, as you should, might not cover up the nail as you would want. Then you can add a third, fourth, or even fifth color layer as you see fit.
  • Personal preference – Some like a thicker-looking gel manicure. If this is the case, you should add a few thin layers instead. A thicker layer will influence the curing and risk your manicure altogether.
  • Designs – When adding designs, you might need extra gel layers. Additional color or top coat layers will secure gems, glitter, or stickers. Please remember to keep the layers thin and cure after each layer.
  • Nail problems – Suppose you have markings on your nails or toenails or certain conditions; you might need an extra layer of color to ensure those are covered.

When To Stick To Less Layers

Some of us opt for a gel manicure at home to save time and money. However, time consumption might be your priority, and adding too many layers of gel polish will defeat the purpose of trying to save time.

When saving time, you should opt for a darker or opaque color. With these colors, you will only need one, maybe two, gel color layers to complete your beautiful at-home manicure in no time.

Another way to lessen the number of layers is to go clear. This way, you will only apply two layers – a gel base coat and a top coat.

Maybe you like the see-through look, which will lead to only three gel layers. The base coat, the one layer of color that gives a sheer effect, and the top coat.

The Perfect Method To Add Gel Layers

bio gel nail top coat

The perfect gel application will follow a four-layer method to ensure you have a beautiful manicure that will stay fabulous for longer.

Step 1: The gel base coat is the first layer after the nail preparations. This layer is non-negotiable and will ensure that the nail plate stays healthy, and the color coat sticks better. One thin layer that covers the entire nail from cuticle to tip will be enough. Cure it for 30 to 60 seconds according to the product’s recommendations, and ensure the base coat is dry.

Step 2: The gel color layers. This is the exciting part of the application and where you might need an extra layer. Focus on adding a thin layer over the base coat, covering the entire nail without getting any on the skin. Cure each layer until you reach your desired look. This might take between two and four thin layers.

Step 3: This step is optional and only necessary if you want to add a design. You can use a little clear gel to stick gems on the nail or paint a thin transparent layer to add glitter. Again, cure it before moving on to the final step.

Step 4: The final step is the gel top coat that ends off the manicure and gives it the shine you want. The top coat should also be thin and cured to ensure it dries. Finally, wipe it with a lint-free wipe to complete the look.

A newer trend is a matt-finished look by applying a matt top coat. Ensure you cover the entire nail because if you miss a spot, you will have a shiny and matt spotty end result.


At the end of the day, each nail tech or at-home nail artist has their own way of doing things. There are no rules for how many layers of gel polish you should add, only to stick to thin layers and proper curing.