Why Is My Gel Polish Not Curing?

So you’ve just applied and cured your favorite shade of gel polish, but it comes out wrinkly or not completely cured, and you wonder, “why is my gel polish not curing?” Gel polish is fast becoming the “holy grail” of the nail and beauty industry because it unifies glamor with durability.

However, it can be complicated to perform at home. So in this article, we will go over everything you need to know about why your gel polish is not curing.

Let’s get started!

why is my gel polish not curing

Why Is My Gel Polish Not Curing?

Nail technicians in most salons know how to handle gel-curing problems, but what happens if you want to do it yourself at home?

The most common reason why your gel polish is not curing is due to not curing long enough. The second reason is having too thick layers. Addtionlly, the UV lamp malfuction or power inefficiency would also cause the issue.

Essentially, every coat of gel polish must come directly under the UV light to cure properly. The gel polish curing process is straightforward, so you shouldn’t experience any challenges. 

However, there are several issues that can negatively impact your gel manicure and leave you with poorly cured gel polish. The following sections will break down these issues in a bit more detail.

1. Gel Polish Quality and Condition

Your gel polish must be in good condition to cure correctly. As a result, old, expired, excessively thick, low-quality brands may spoil your manicure with improper curing. Here is a table to explain how the quality and condition of your gel polish prevent your gel polish from curing.

Gel Polish ConditionPossible CauseCuring ImplicationSolution
Thick gel polish 
They result from poor production materials (solute and solvent) or evaporation of the liquid monomer due to exposure, improper storage, or loose caps.UV and LED nail lamps are designed for a specific range of polish thickness, so thicker polishes will limit the light penetration for curing.Dilute with a gel polish thinner for a few days. 
Old or expired gel polish A disproportionate ratio between the solvent and solute due to evaporation, exposure, and poor storage. 
Storage and usage passed the expiry date.
A dried polish that yields a tacky and sticky top coat due to poor curing.

Endeavor to buy newer ones and discard old or expired gel polishes.
Poor Polish qualityBuying substandard brandsImproper curing since some brands may be fake or not require UV light.Buy from reputable brands and read the manufacturer’s instructions.

Fun fact: Most gel polishes have a validity of 36 months after opening, with an average lifespan of 24 months.

2. Nail Curing Lamp Problems

a UV lamp used to cure gel nail polish

Gel polish is designed to dry easily and quickly because of its dependence on UV light and LED lamps to cure.

A bad curing nail lamp (UV, LED), such as low-quality, old lamps with battery problems or an inferior brand, will not cure your gel polish and even affect your health. Some lights have a validity limit within which they are most effective.

For some lamps, you could measure their lifespan in years, like two to three years (all things being equal), and other lights have their lifespan measured in battery life. 

Additionally, it would be best if you endeavored to use the appropriate curing lamp for your gel nails. 

In other words, you must use the recommended lamp (UV or LED) for the gel polish brand you are using.

Reading the manufacturer’s instructions will guide you on which light to use. Regardless, some gel polishes are universal and cure with any lamp to increase user options. 

Furthermore, it would help if you considered the maintenance of your nail lamps, like changing faulty parts such as bulbs, batteries, etc., to keep them in optimal working condition.

3. Gel Polish Application Issues

The method you use, when applying your gel polish, could result in the gel polish not drying. If you are using a good quality gel polish and curing lamp, yet your manicure doesn’t cure, chances are that you are misapplying it. 

Here are a few examples of what you might be doing wrong:

1. You are using an incomplete set

The absence of a base or top coat, and applying them in the wrong order, can prevent your gel polish from curing. The base and top coats enable the gel polish to adhere properly to your nails.

2. You are applying thicker layers

Even though you cure each layer as you apply them, thicker coatings will not quickly cure as it takes longer for the curing light to penetrate. Thinner layers are better and don’t stop you from layering progressively; provided they are thin, your gel polish will cure properly.

You can read one of my article about how many layers of gel polish you should apply to learn the recommended number of coats.

A trick to applying thinner layers is to wipe the nail polish brush on the bottle’s neck before applying it to your nails.

3. Insufficient curing time

a hand with a timer set prior to curing gel polish

Although gel polishes dry faster than regular ones, they have a specific curing time to maintain. If the curing time is too short, your gel polish will not cure. The reason is that you must give significant time for the curing light to penetrate the application. 

UV light lamps require more curing time than LED lamps. UV lamps require about 90 seconds, while LED lamps require roughly 30 seconds to cure. However, the curing duration differs according to the gel polish brand and curing light. 

We have a full guide about gel polish curing time, broken down to each coat. Make sure you check that out before finishing this article!

If you are unsure of your nail size, a nail shape chart or guide will help you figure out your nail size. You can quickly get a nail shape chart or guide from most nail shops or salons. 

How To Ensure That Your Gel Polish Cures

Getting your gel polish well cured depends on how well you manage or mitigate the reasons your gel polish won’t cure. Here are a few:

1. Fix the Condition of Your Gel Polish 

The first step is to ensure you use high-quality gel polish. It is best to purchase from reputable brands and avoid old or expired nail polishes. As a precaution, always check the consistency of the polish before applying it—this way, you avoid issues around delayed curing or a lumpy uneven finish.

2. Pay Attention to Your Nail Lamps

The first step to using a good quality lamp is to buy one and take good care of it. Taking your light for regular quality checks or servicing will help extend the life of your lamp. However, it would help if you considered changing it after two years or more because it’s no use overusing the light.

3. Be Skillful in Your Application

Skillful application techniques will help you get better results with your gel manicure. For instance, you should prep your nails before applying gel polish and follow a base coat and a topcoat sequence to get better curing. Furthermore, you should cure each layer separately. 

4. Maintain Proper Hand Position Within the Curing Lamp.

Gel polish requires you to place your nails in a way to allow the even distribution and penetration of the UV or LED light within the curing lamp. 

Improperly placing your nails in the curing lamp prevents proper curing. The reason is that when your nails are not correctly positioned, the light may not be evenly distributed, causing you to have poorly cured nails. Some lamps have a nail guide/indentations to help you maintain alignment.

How Can You Tell When Your Gel Polish Is Well Cured

a well cured gel nail set by BeauteeNow

Knowing when your gel polish is well cured will save you from ruining your fresh manicure by engaging your fingers too soon. However, there are no direct or specific signs of well-cured gel nails because they are somewhat subtle.

You can look for signs of perfect curing by examining it for an ideal shine because gel nails don’t look as shiny when inadequately cured. Instead, they appear uneven and dull. 

Alternatively, you can touch it lightly to know if it is well cured. However, you risk ruining your manicure if it is not well-cured. The best way is to adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions, use the appropriate lamp (UV or LED) and allow it to cure within the specified time. 

If all manicure conditions are fulfilled, your nails should be well cured within the designated time without requiring you to touch them and then risk spoiling them.

Final Thoughts 

People gravitate towards gel polish because of their durability, but newbies may struggle with doing it themselves until they grasp the technicalities.

However, it is natural to wonder why your nail polish won’t cure, which isn’t far from the curing problems discussed in this article. To wrap things up, your nail polish may not dry if you don’t cure it under the UV lamp for long enough, or may be you applied too thick layers. If you are sure those are not the reasons, you may want to check your lamp and the polish itself.

Now that you know, you shouldn’t have to worry and can go on to enjoy the glossy nails you desire!