Why Do My Gel Nails Peel Off After A Week?

You likely get gel nails for their incredible staying power. A gel mani is supposed to last at least 2 weeks, so it’s a letdown if your gel nails peel off in half this time or quicker.

I’ll share why gel nails don’t last so that you never again have a mani that peels off after a week.

Why Do My Gel Nails Peel Off After A Week?

The most common reasons for gel nails peeling off after a week are under-curing and lacking aftercare, including frequent contact with water. Inadequate nail preparation and poor application technique can also result in gel nails peeling off within days of being applied.

Lots can go wrong before, during, and after gel nails are applied to trigger peeling. Let’s look at the major mistakes to avoid to get long-lasting flawless results.

gel polish is peeling

9 Reasons Gel Nails Peel Off after a Week

Here are common reasons gel nails break their promise of being peel-proof.  

#1: Under-Cured Polish

Gel nails stand out because of their unbeatable strength and potential to look amazing for weeks. But they need UV or LED light to give them these qualities. Unlike regular polish, which airdries, gel nails harden as they cure under light.

3 Factors can stop gel nails from curing properly:

  • Thick coats of gel polish resist curing.
  • Gel nails that don’t stay under the light long enough won’t fully cure.
  • Old bulbs don’t have the power to properly cure gel nails.LED bulbs tend to last as long as nail lamps, but UV bulbs must be replaced regularly for successful curing. Bulbs have reached the end of their life when they give gel nails cloudiness or air pockets as they cure.

#2: Lacking Aftercare

Gel nails are much tougher than regular polish, so you don’t need to shake up your routine to protect them. Still, you must treat your nails kindly to keep them looking good as new for longer.

The big no-nos that make gel nails peel off too soon are frequently exposing them to water (especially very hot water), clipping, filing, or biting them, using them to open boxes and cans, and letting them become dry (not moisturizing with hand cream and cuticle oil massages).

#3: Inadequate Preparation

Ignoring prep steps like roughening the nail texture, gently pushing back cuticles, and removing debris, oil, and moisture before applying gel nails will result in the gel peeling off.

Thorough preparation is a must, as the nail surface needs to be free from oil, debris, cuticle covering, smoothness, and shine for gel nails to stick properly.

#4: Aggressive Preparation

a nail technician filing nails to prep for a gel manicure

Taking preparation to the other extreme can also make gel nails peel off.

While you must file or buff natural nails to create the right texture for gel nails to stick to, using too much pressure while filing or buffing can damage and thin out natural nails. The result is gel nails that don’t stick well to natural nails and end up peeling off.

Another risk of over-filing is separating the natural nail plate from the nail bed – making natural nails come loose in addition to gel nails peeling off! This condition makes nails vulnerable to infections.

Going crazy while neatening cuticles can also cause problems with gel nail retention. Suppose you nip off cuticle tissue that’s not loose. The tissue will return thicker and more likely to get in the way of lasting gel nails. Only trim what’s not attached, and apply a softening oil before gently pushing cuticles back.

You should also learn how to prep for gel polish properly if you want to make a perfect gel manicure set.

#5: An Oily Or Moist Nail Surface

Traces of oil, moisture, or debris on natural nails can cause gel nails to lift and peel off.

So, leaving cuticle oil on your natural nails or washing it off with soap and water just before applying gel nails increases the risk that they won’t last.

Another mistake many people make is wiping away filed nail debris with their fingers. It might be a reflex to dust away debris with your hands, but even clean fingers are covered in natural oil, which gets onto nails when you touch them.

#6: Polish On The Skin

nail technician wiping the skin of a guest to clean wet gel polish on her skin

Painting polish onto the skin around the nails, including the cuticles, increases the chance that gel nails peel off within days of being applied. You need to remove the gel polish from the skin around the nails so that it won’t cause the polish on your nails to lift.

#7: Uncapped Free Edges

Gel polish must go onto the nails’ top edge (called capping) to create a seal that prevents peeling.

Not extending the polish far enough stops the seal from forming, making gel nails less likely to stick around for weeks. However, going too far can also cause peeling. The trick is to paint just along the free edge without getting globs of polish underneath the nail.

#8: No Base Or Top Coat

Diving right into painting the color gel layers before applying a base coat increases your odds of a mani that peels off before a week’s up. The same goes for skipping a top coat layer.

The base coat helps the color gel stick, and the top coat protects the gel mani for weeks.

Forgetting to cap the base and top coats also ups the peeling risk.  

#9: Expired Products

a bottle of expired nail polish

Gel polish that’s gone bad won’t go on smoothly and stay put. You’ll know polish is past its prime if it has thickened or thinned out, become gloppy or unusually sticky, changed color, separated, or developed a new smell.

It’s not only the polish’s expiry date you must keep an eye on but also how it is stored. Keeping polish in hot or humid environments, exposing it to direct sunlight or UV or LED light, and not tightly closing the lid cuts down its shelf life.


Many factors can stop a gel mani from living up to its reputation of being long-lasting and peel-proof. The most likely reasons gel nails peel off after a week are under-cured polish, lacking aftercare, inadequate or aggressive preparation, an oily or moist nail surface, no base or top coat, polish on the skin, uncapped free edges, and expired polish.