How to Prep Nails for Gel Polish in 10 Minutes?

Prepping your nails is crucial for the perfect results, but it’s often an overlooked step by at-home nail enthusiasts!

In this article, I’ll show you step-by-step how to prep nails for gel polish. It’s simple but requires time and material you may or may not have on hand. Before you start, be sure you have the following:

  • Antibacterial Soap
  • Cuticle Pusher
  • Nail File and Buffing Block
  • Dehydrator (cleansing wipe/alcohol/nail dehydrator)
  • Nail Primer

Why is Nail Prep Important?

Have you noticed that your DIY gel manicures peel and chip faster than the professional manicures you get at a salon?

Oftentimes peeling, chipping, dullness, and fragility are consequences of poor nail prep. Especially when your gel nails peels off after a week.

Following the correct procedure is your best line of defense against these afflictions. Think about it; if you build a house on a weak foundation, it will collapse.

The preparation process in any manicure is your foundation and to achieve flawless results, you must first build a strong base!

What you need to do a Gel Manicure Prep

Before you begin preparing your nails for your gel manicure, you want to prepare your materials and your workstation.

Below, I will walk you through a step-by-step guide on how to prepare your station and give you a complete list of all the materials you’ll need to begin:

1. Ensure the work area and materials are clean

  • Before beginning to prep your station, wash your hands.
  • Disinfect your work area using alcohol or disinfecting wipes.
  • Replace towels with fresh ones.
  • Soak the cuticle pusher, nail trimmers, and nail file in 70-90% isopropyl alcohol for 5 minutes. Air dry on a towel or paper towel.

2. Gather materials for the manicure and set them up

How you choose to set up/organize your workstation is up to you, however, make sure that all the materials you’ll need are on hand.

This is not only a more efficient practice but it will also prevent any cross-contamination that may occur from having to leave the sanitary environment to grab something you forgot.

Below I’ve prepared a checklist of all the materials you’ll need!

Materials needed for nail prep

  • Cuticle pusher
  • Nail file and buffing block
  • Nail cleaning brush (or a clean, unused toothbrush)
  • Nail dehydrator
  • Nail primer (optional but recommended)

Materials needed for a gel manicure

  • Gel base coat
  • Gel colored polish
  • Gel top coat
  • UV lamp
  • Cleansing wipes
  • Nail removal products (in case you need to re-do any steps)

If you are sure that you have got the necessary equipment, let’s dive into how to perform a gel manicure prep.

How to Prep Nails for Gel Polish?

Now that your workstation is sufficiently prepped, you can start preparing your or your client’s nails!

Step 1: Wash your hands

Thoroughly wash hands using a gentle antibacterial soap. Be sure to scrub under the free edge of your nail. Preventing the spread of bacteria should absolutely be a priority!

Step 2: Push back and trim your cuticles

a nail technician using a cuticle pusher to push back the cuticles

First, soak your/your clients’ hands in lukewarm water until the cuticle is softened.

Next, push the cuticle back and trim the excess. Be sure not to trim them too short to avoid injury.

Dry hands and nails thoroughly.

Step 3: Trim/file your nails

a person trimming her nails with a nail clipper

Create your desired length and shape using a nail file and clippers. This would require a bit of practice to make it look perfect.

*If you need some inspiration, I recommend trying the oval, coffin, or stiletto nail. These are my personal favorites, as they’re simple to do yet so chic!*

Step 4: Buff the surface of the nail

a nail technician filing nails to prep for a gel manicure

Using a buffing block, gently but firmly buff the surface of the nail.

Be sure that the entire surface texture is rough, as a smooth nail will greatly affect the adherence of the gel polish.

Step 5: Remove excess dust and debris

With a nail brush (or clean, unused toothbrush) brush away the remaining dust and debris from the buffing process.

After removing as much excess as possible, use a nail dehydrator to thoroughly rid the nails of any oils or stubborn nail dust.

This is an important step, as the polish will better adhere to a dehydrated nail plate, extending the longevity and quality of your manicure.

Tips For Flawless Results

Sometimes, an extra step here or there can completely transform your manicure experiences/results. 

I’ve decided to compile some additional (yet optional) tips and tricks to help you efficiently and effectively achieve the manicure you want!

1. Stick to what you know

If you’re an amateur nail tech or enthusiast, my greatest piece of advice is to stick to what you know.

I love trying out new trends, tricks and hacks, but if you’re new to the art form, I would suggest starting with something comfortable and simple to start. 

The more confident you are in the basics, the more freedom you will have to explore other, more expressive nail shapes and designs!

2. Make sure you’re comfortable

If you’ve ever had a manicure before, you’ll know just how long and tedious the process can be!

Before you even begin prepping your workstation and nails, you must make sure you (and if applicable, your client) are comfortable.

Invest in cozy seating, proper lighting to avoid eye strain and a functional desk/table. I would suggest getting a chair or table that can be adjusted as needed!

3. Don’t touch anything

If you’re doing the manicure on yourself, then this goes without saying, however, it’s also important to keep in mind when doing a manicure on someone else.

Dirt, dust, and oil residue are found on every surface. Touching your face, hair, clothes, or anything that hasn’t been properly sanitized will contaminate the nail surface, causing buildup.

Buildup prevents effective adhesion and will result in flaky, peeling, or chipping nails.

You need to remove all sticky residues on your gel polish to keep it lasting longer, and shinier.

4. Take your time

Rushing through a manicure is a surefire way to make mistakes and/or skip steps.

The best prep is time management. Don’t overbook, give yourself a flexible work schedule and treat each nail with the same attention to detail.

You’ll find that taking your time will save you time in the long run, as you’ll avoid mistakes that require you to start over entirely!

5. Follow this guide closely

Above all else, the best tip for flawless nails is to follow this guide!

Preparing your nails for gel polish is simple, but, by using this thorough, straightforward guide, you can be absolutely confident that your gel nails will come out flawless and durable.

Final Thoughts

Today’s article covered how to prep your nails for gel polish. I took you through the entire preparation process step-by-step and offered a complete breakdown of materials you’ll need for the best results.

Using this guide, you can be sure that you have all the information necessary to achieve the gel manicure of your dreams!