How to Make Gel Nails Shiny at Home?

Gel nail manicures offer versatility and a beautiful finish, but keeping them looking as shiny as the day you got them can be expensive and time-consuming.

So, how to make gel nails shiny at home?

To make gel nails shiny at home, consider applying a no-wipe top coat. A no-wipe top coat will rejuvenate shine without a tacky finish that grips dirt. Also, cleaning your nails thoroughly will help remove the build-up and make the finish of your gel nail shinier.

Keep reading to learn more about why your gel nails aren’t that shiny and how you can effectively fix that step-by-step!

a set of shinny gel nail polish done by Jane

Why are my Gel Nails not shiny?

So, you’ve just gotten a fresh manicure from your favourite nail tech, and it seems that within a week, your pearlescent Hailey Bieber nails are looking rather drab!

We’ve all been there.

Typically, your lackluster nails can be boiled down to 3 main causes; curing, filing, and build-up.

1. Lack of Curing Time

Gel nails require UV light to properly cure.

Most gel nails need 30-60 seconds under a UV lamp with the correct wattage to cure correctly. If you don’t know how long gel polish takes to dry, make sure to check out my article, in which I discuss in-depth the curing time for each gel polish coat.

If you find that your nails haven’t set well, consider using a different lamp.

2. You Didn’t Wipe Off the Sticky Residue

A common mistake nail enthusiasts make is forgetting to wipe off the tacky finish after curing the nail.

After you finish curing your nails, you must remove the sticky residue using either a gel cleaner or isopropyl alcohol.

Skipping this step results in your nails easily attracting dirt, debris and oils. This build-up will reduce shine.

3. Build-up

Oil and grime are enemy number one when it comes to gloss and shine.

Washing your hands properly, scrubbing the surface and free edge of your nails and applying moisturizer not only improves the appearance and health of your nails, but it protects yourself and others from illness.

That’s a win-win in my books!

4. Scratched Nail Surface

Although the gel formula is durable, it is not invincible.

Bumping your nails off of rough surfaces, or using your nails as tools will create small scratches and imperfections on the surface of your manicure.

A scratched coat will leave your nails looking dull and lackluster.

5. Uneven Top-Coat

If you notice your nails are dull and uneven, it could be that you’ve applied the layers of polish too thick.

Applying thick layers prevents the UV light from penetrating the chemical bonds of the polish. In turn, the gel hardens unevenly, leaving you with a lumpy, dull finish.

To combat this, apply thin layers and cure before applying the next.

washing gel nails with water to keep them shinny

How to Make Gel Polish Shiny at Home? 2 Methods

Now that we have an understanding of what causes gel dullness, let’s cover how you can achieve a dazzling look at home!

Using just minimal tools, material and time, I’m here to offer you a step-by-step guide on how to maintain that healthy shine.

Method 1 – Use A No Wipe Top Coat

No wipe top coats don’t cure with a tacky finish, saving you that extra step. They’re an innovative alternative to the traditional gel top coat, but still very similar. This means you won’t have to pick up a new skill or practice using it.

No wipe top coats will rejuvenate your manicure and revive that high-shine finish just by layering it over your existing manicure! This option is both cost-effective and convenient!

With its high-shine finish and beginner-friendly formula, the no-wipe top coat is a fool-proof way to perk up your manicure!

Benefits of a no Wipe Top Coat

  • Saves you time and money
  • Skips the sticky finish
  • Compatible with other gel formulas
  • Longevity of your manicure 
  • Protects vibrancy
  • Prevents dullness 
  • Shiny, high-gloss finish

So, what is a no wipe top coat and how do you use it?

How Do You Use It?

It typically works the same way most gel top coats do; requiring a UV lamp and the same curing process.

However, the no wipe formula differs from the rest as it doesn’t dry down tacky. This avoids the hassle of having to wipe down the nail with a gel cleanser, saving you time and expense.

It’s a quick, easy, and mess-free alternative to the standard formula!

Method 2 – Clean Your Gel Nails

Over time, dirt and debris will start to build up on the surface of your manicure. 

Luckily, you can make your gel nails shiny at home by simply giving them a thorough cleaning.

Below is an in-depth step-by-step guide on how to properly clean your nails, and revive that shine!

Step 1 – Soak Your Nails

In a large bowl, add gentle soap and warm water. Then, submerge your hands and allow them to soak for 10 minutes.

Soaking your nails in warm, soapy water will aid in the removal of build-up.

Step 2 – Wash Your Hands

After letting your hands soak in the soap/water solution, wash your hands and rinse thoroughly to remove softened dirt, debris, and oil.

Step 3 – Scrub Nails Using a Nail Brush

Some build-up may remain on the surface of the nail, in the creases of the cuticles, and under the free edge.

To remove the hard-to-reach grime, use a soft bristle brush (or an unused soft bristle toothbrush) and scrub your nails.

Do not scrub too hard, as you may cause peeling or damage to the finish.

Step 4 – Rinse Hands Thoroughly

Rinse your hands thoroughly to remove build-up and soap.

Step 5 – Dry Your Hands

Dry your hands and nails completely.

Wet nails expand and become weak, leaving them vulnerable to breakage. Before continuing on with your day, ensure your nails and the skin surrounding them are completely dry.

a mixed-colored shinny polish nail set

How To Keep your Gel Nails always Shinny?

The best method to make your gel nails shiny at home is to avoid dullness in the first place!

If you’ve noticed that you frequently have to apply another layer of no wipe top coat, or are often deep cleaning your nails, you might consider avoiding the following:

1. Avoid Harsh Temperatures

I spoke briefly in this article about build-up being a manicure nightmare, but avoiding specific environments and activities will protect the shine!

Exposure to harsh temperatures will cause wear on the surface of your gel nails. 

Wearing gloves during the winter and sunscreen during the summer will prevent your hands from drying out and act as a barrier against dirt and debris.

2. Avoid harsh soap/chemicals and hot water

Water and harsh soap/chemicals can cause dullness and lift.

Consider wearing rubber gloves when doing the dishes, or using cleaning products. After showering, using a hairdryer at low heat will ensure your nails are thoroughly dry. 

There are a plethora of gentle soap options on the market, I suggest swapping your current product for a more mild option.

3. Avoid Biting Your Fingernails

Biting your fingernails not only aids in the transfer of germs and bacteria, but it weakens your nails and scuffs the surface of your gel polish.

Applying bitter nail polish, or keeping your nails trimmed short will help you break this habit!

4. Avoid Using Your Nails As Tools

Using your nails as tools is a surefire way to break your nails or damage the finish of your manicure!

I’ve been there before. Standing in the fridge light at 12 AM struggling to open a jar of pickles I so desperately want – but don’t do it, ladies! 

Instead of clawing at the edges, try running hard-to-open jars under hot water, or consider getting a multi-functional tool keychain for those stubborn bottles, cans or packages.

Prevention is the best solution, so protecting your nails from damage is the best method to keep your gel polish shiny.

2 Shiny Gel Manicure Trends You Can Try

If you find that the at-home hacks I provided you in this article still didn’t satiate your shiny desires, here are a few high-shine techniques to try at home, or during your next appointment with your nail technician.

1. Achieve the Mirror Effect with Chrome Powder

The mirror effect nails are the perfect combination of edgy and blinding!

This style is exactly how it sounds. The finish has a shine significant enough to create the illusion of your nails being mirrors.

For how beautiful and advanced these nails appear, they really are quite simple to achieve!

If you find however that these nails aren’t exactly what you’re looking for, another trendy option is the glazed donut nail design.

2. Hailey Bieber/Glazed Donut Nails

a woman with nails like Hailey Bieber

Hailey Bieber’s Met Gala nails had TikTok going crazy, and rightfully so! This beauty trend is beautiful and elegant. The glossy, glazed finish is unlike anything else out there.

By now, I’m sure every nail technician out there has heard of this style, so I suggest trying them out the next time you book an appointment.

You can ask for Hailey Bieber’s nails via my guide so it won’t go wrong.

The Bottom Line: How to make Gel Nails Shiny at Home?

Today, I answered the most common question I’m asked as a professional: “How can I make my nails shiny at home?”

Whether you’re trying out a new, innovative formula like the No Wipe Top Coat or DIYing the Hailey Bieber Glazed Donut nails, these methods will leave you with the most dazzling, shiny finish achievable.

If you follow my guide, you can acquire the shine you’re looking for all from the comfort of your own home!