Why Does My Gel Polish Peel Off In One Piece?

You decided to do your own gel nails at home. It takes much longer than the salon, but you are proud of your hard work and dedicated time. To your horror, some nails start to peel. Now you wonder: Why does my gel polish peel off in one piece?

Why Does My Gel Polish Peel Off In One piece?

Gel polish peel in one piece because the buffing during the nail prep was done wrong. The gel cannot adhere to the nail and will lift at the spot where buffing was unsuccessful. The entire surface should be buffed slightly to ensure the nail has a foggy look and rough feel.

There are many reasons why gel polish starts to peel. It can be confusing to figure out why the gel peels and what you did wrong. Luckily, when it peels in the same place, we have the cause and solution, so it doesn’t happen again!

one-piece chipped gel nails

The Importance Of Buffing The Nails

Gel polish lifts in random spots, some of which might not make sense. But, if it lifts around the cuticle, next to the skin, or at a specific place on the nail (it might differ from each hand), we know the cause.

You did not prepare the nail correctly before applying the gel polish. I know it too well – you try your first DIY gel nails at home and follow all the tutorials, but the gel lifts. Buffing might look quick and easy and fast when you watch tutorials, but you would want to spend time at this step because it is the most important thing to keep your gel polish from peeling.

When you neglect the buffing, you will either not get to all the parts of the nail or not buff enough. The surface of the nail should be rough and dry. This helps with the bond the gel polish forms with the nail and the set’s longevity.

If you don’t buff enough, some of the nail oils might cause the gel to lift in that specific spot, or the surface is too smooth for the gel to adhere to the nail. There are different ways of filing, and one is definitely better than the other.

Nail File Buffing

a nail technician buffing nail polish using a manual nail buffer

The nail file buff is the buffing method we all know and have a love-hate relationship with. It can take up much time, especially when you do your own nails, and you might do it wrong. It is a strenuous activity to buff nails, especially if it isn’t your day job. This step is crucial in a gel polish manicure and can ruin your results. Here are the steps to buff correctly using a nail file buffer:

Step 1: Choose your weapon. The file you use makes a huge difference regarding the amount of elbow grease you have to put in and the time it will take. The best buff files you get comes in a block form. They also have different mediums of coarseness on the sides to give you options and see which side will work best on your nails. A 220-grit file will also work for buffing.

Step 2: Start from one side and move to the other. Start with an up-and-down movement, and cover the entire nail area. Begin with the furthest edge, as close to the skins as possible. Slight circular motions on the nail itself, and do not press too hard. We only want to rough up the surface, not make it unlevelled.

Step 3: Focus on the cuticle area. Press the buff against the cuticle, and move fast and short strokes up and down.

Step 4: Remove the dust with a brush and inspect the nail. Suppose the entire surface looks the same, with a blurry look and a rough feel, then you can continue to the next nail.

Nail Drill Buffing

a nail technician using a drill to fix thick acrylic nails

The more convenient option for buffing is a nail drill. Although it is much pricier than a hand buff, the precision and quality of buffing are worth it. There is, however, a specific way to use a nail drill to buff the nails. The speed of the drill can easily lead to over-buffing and damaging the nail. Thus, following the correct steps is vital.

Step 1: Start at the cuticles. Add the thin cuticle bit to your nail drill. Start at a low-speed setting and go along the cuticle curve, buffing the nail as close to the cuticle as possible. Take it slow and steady, and be gentle with the pressure you use.

Step 2: Go down the side walls of the nail with the same bit, and use one direction motion. For example, move from the top down, lift the drill, and start from the top again. You can also use this bit to remove excess dead skin on the nails around the sides.

Step 3: Add the sanding grit to the drill. Ensure the sanding band is 240 grit. You will turn the nail sideways and start in short strokes from top to bottom. No pressure is necessary. Start the speed low and increase as you reach a level where you get the desired result of buffing.

Step 4: Use a cuticle pusher to check that there is no dust under the skin. Clean the nail with a lint-free wipe, and your nails are ready for a gel overlay.

Take note: keeping the drill too long on one spot or pressing too hard will cause a “ring of fire” effect, causing pain and discomfort to the nail. Be gentle. Use quick strokes with little contact time with the nail.

Which Is Better: A Nail File Or A Nail Drill?

The nail drill will give better results when preparing a nail for gel polish. This is because you can use different sizes of drill bits and ensure you get into all the nicks and bends of the nail.

The speed also leads to a better buff, meaning a better surface for the gel to adhere to. However, it is still good to remember that you should use the drill more carefully, as it can easily lead to damage if you get carried away.

Other Reasons For Gel Manicures Peeling Off in One Piece?

The most probable reason for gel peeling in the same place is inappropriate buffing during nail preparation. There are other reasons why your gel overlay would start to peel. If it is not in the same place, it might be one of these reasons:

  • Unknown and cheap brand gel polish
  • Too thick gel layers
  • Wrong or faulty UV lamp
  • Filing the nails with gel on


Unfortunately, if your gel polish lifts at the same spot each time, it results from poor or wrong buffing. You won’t be able to do something to fix it; however, you will know how to better the set next time.