Why Is My Gel Nail Polish Sticky Even After Curing?

One of the primary purposes of curing gel nails is to prevent stickiness. Therefore, you are naturally left confused and frustrated when your gel nail polish is sticky even after curing.

Knowing why your gel nail polish is sticky even after curing helps ensure you know what to do to prevent stickiness so that your nails look and feel pretty so you thoroughly enjoy having your nails done.

Let’s explore potential reasons why your gel nail polish is sticky even after curing!

Why Is My Gel Nail Polish Sticky After Curing

Your gel nail polish is sticky even after curing because you aren’t curing for long enough, your gel polish application is too thick, you’re using ordinary nail polish/poor quality gel nail polish, your gel UV/LED machine is defective, or you haven’t wiped your nail with rubbing alcohol after curing.

Let’s take a deeper dive into a few potential reasons why your gel nail polish is sticky even after curing:

why is my gel polish not curing

1. Not Cured For Long Enough

Ensuring you cure your gel nail polish for a reasonable period is crucial to doing gel nails. Failure to cure your nails long enough is a potential reason why your gel nail polish may be sticky even after you’ve cured it.

There are differing opinions on how long one should cure their nails. Some think that 30 seconds is sufficient if you’re using a LED lamp, and 60+ is preferable when using a UV lamp. On the other hand, others think UV and LED lamps require a minimum of 60 seconds.

While your UV/LED gel machine might have the option of curing for only 30 seconds, consider taking the safe route and do a minimum of 60 seconds when curing your nails, irrespective of the gel machine you’re using.

Some UV/LED gel machines have a low heat 99-second option. If your machine has this option, it may be wise to use it as it indicates that 99 seconds is a suitable period for curing when using that specific machine.

I recommend reading my guide about how long gel polish takes to dry for each coat.

2. The Gel Coats are Too Thick

When doing gel nails, aim to have each layer as thin as possible to create a sleek look. Ideally, you want each gel layer to be thin and smooth, with no bumps or stripes.

Failure to have thin gel layers may result in your nails looking clumpy. More importantly, failure to paint your nails in even, thin layers may lead to your gel nail polish not curing properly because the gel is too thick.

Your gel nail polish may be sticky if it has not cured properly because the layers are too thick. Therefore, it’s best to do thin gel layers with at least 30 seconds of curing between each layer.

As a safety measure, you might want to cure the top layer for a little longer to ensure a strong finish. In this regard, consider curing for 90 – 120 seconds once you’ve applied the top layer. Remember to apply sunscreen to your hands before you start your gel nail process, as the heat from your gel machine can be harsh on your skin, especially if you cure for longer than 30 seconds.

3. Non-UV/LED Lamp Gel Polish

Certain nail brands have become deceptive and have started selling “gel nail polish.” However, these nail polishes give a gel finish but are not genuine gel nail polishes that one should use with UV/LED lamps. Therefore, it’s essential to check that the gel polish you are using is gel nail polish for UV/LED machines.

These claimed to be “gel nail polishes” are normal nail polishes that should air dry and do not require curing with a UV/LED lamp. You may have sticky nails after curing because you’re using just regular nail polish labeled gel polish. In this regard, curing the normal nail polish is causing it to be sticky, given that normal nail polish should not go under a UV/LED lamp.

4. Low Quality Gel

A straightforward reason why your gel nail polish is sticky even after curing might be that you are using low quality gel polish. It’s no secret that gel nail polish can be a bit expensive. However, investing in good quality gel polish might be the trick to prevent stickiness after curing.

5. UV/LED Machine Defect

uv curing gel polish

Investing in a good quality gel machine is worthwhile as it lasts long and works well. If you have a low-cost UV/LED gel machine, there is a chance that it might not have the best strength when it comes to efficient curing. Additionally, the machine might have become defective after a few uses, as cheap machines rarely last long.

However, expensive, high-quality gel machines may also be defective. If your gel machine is defective, it might cause sticky gel nail polish even after curing because it cannot exert the required heat to ensure adequate curing.

If you find that your machine is no longer as hot as it was when curing in the past, that may indicate that your machine has a defect. If you’re uncertain, consider asking a friend to try their machine to see if your machine is the problem.

6. Gel Nail Polish Is Sticky If Rubbing Alcohol Is Not Used 

Why Is My Gel Nail Polish Sticky Even After Curing?

Unless you have non-wipe gel nail polish, an essential step after curing your nails is to use rubbing alcohol to wipe your nails. After curing, failure to wipe your nails with rubbing alcohol can cause your gel nails to feel sticky, chip, and lose their stylish finish.

Using rubbing alcohol is a crucial final step to ensure a shiny finished look without any stickiness after curing. Isopropyl alcohol (also called rubbing alcohol by a lot of people, even though they are not exactly the same), is commonly applied using a cotton pad to quickly wipe any stickiness off the nail after curing.

Alternatively, you can purchase nail wipes containing alcohol designed specifically to use after curing.

The Bottom Line

Every nail fanatic would love their nails to look sleek and shiny. Having sticky gel nails can not only be an inconvenience practically but also ruins the positive emotions of having one’s nails done.

If your gel nail polish is sticky even after curing, consider curing for at least 30 seconds, apply thin layers of gel, cure after each layer, and wipe your nails with rubbing alcohol after curing the top coat.

Additionally, ensure that you are using good-quality gel nail polish suitable for UV/LED machines, as some brands sell misleading normal nail polish labeled gel polish.