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The Reason Why Your Gel Nails Are Sticky – Even After Curing

Written by: Merilin Notton



Time to read 6 min

You've just spent the past hour or so carefully applying your gel polish, following each step to a T, patiently curing each layer under your nail lamp. But then you notice something...your nails are still a little sticky to the touch. Where did you go wrong?

Well, chances are you haven't done anything wrong, and it's totally normal for gel nails to feel slightly tacky after curing.

The tacky or sticky layer you can feel is the top coat (sometimes known as the inhibition layer if you want to get technical), and it's ordinary for that tackiness to be present on gel nails –you just haven't removed it yet.

Why is Your Gel Polish Sticky?

The number 1 reason why your gel polish sticky, even after you've cured them for the recommended amount of time, is because you haven't removed the tacky layer from the top coat.

Applying a top coat is the final step in any gel mani, acting as a top sandwiching layer that protects and seals in your colour, helping it last the distance.

But all gel polish – including top coats – will still be sticky after curing, as this is what helps the polish layers adhere to each other. So it's very normal for your gel polish to be sticky, it just means you need to remove that tackiness.

Have I Under-Cured My Polish?

There could also be the possibility that you under-cured your gel polish, which is why it's still sticky.

Gel polish needs to be cured under a UV or LED lamp, as you very well know. Otherwise, it just won't harden. Curing for the full length of time is very important, as it ensures that your gel polish is fully 'set' and won't budge.

If you don't cure for the recommended amount of time, the polish will still be slightly tacky and prone to smudging or peeling off.

It's also worth noting that the thicker the layer of polish, the longer the curing time needs to be (because it takes longer for the light to penetrate through the layers and fully cure the polish).

The recommended amount of time for curing gel polish is...

  • LED lamp – 60 seconds

  • UV lamp – 120 seconds

However, if you've cured for the full length of time (or longer), the chances are that you just need to remove that sticky top coat layer.

How Do You Remove the Sticky Residue from Gel Polish?

To remove the stickiness from your top coat, you'll need to use an acetone-based product to wipe it off.

Our Prep & Wipe is the perfect solution for this, and it's a brilliant multitasker. As well as removing the tacky layer, you can use it to fully remove polish and cleanse your nails before application.

To use, simply saturate a lint-free wipe with Prep & Wipe and gently swipe it over the cured polish. Make sure to get all areas of the nail, including the edges and cuticles.

Our Prep & Shine Wipes are also a convenient option, as they come pre-moistened with our Prep & Wipe solution and are ready for you to use. Just wipe them over the cured polish layer to remove any stickiness and leave a high-shine finish.

For best results, make sure to follow up with a nourishing cuticle oil, which will hydrate your nails and help keep the polish looking fresh and glossy.

Do You Have to Remove the Sticky Layer from Each Gel Polish Coat?

While you'll want to get rid of the sticky top coat layer, that doesn't mean you have to remove the sticky layer from each coat of gel polish.

Gel polish formula is supposed to be sticky, as it helps the layers bond together and creates a longer-lasting mani. If you remove it, the layers won't stick together or will peel off sooner than they should.

Do You Have to Use a Top Coat Gel Polish?

If you're tempted to skip applying a top coat to avoid extra steps, think again. A top coat is essential for achieving a long-lasting and flawless gel mani.

Without it, your gel colour will be laid bare to the bumps of everyday life and may even chip or peel off within a few days.

A top coat acts as a protective layer, shielding the polish from damage and extending its wear (up to 3 weeks when you use Mylee gel polish!).

Switch to a No Wipe Top Coat

What you can do, though, is switch your regular top coat for our No Wipe Top Coat, which doesn't leave the sticky residue that needs to be wiped away.

It can be applied in exactly the same way as a regular top coat and should be cured for 60 seconds under an LED lamp or 120 seconds under a UV lamp, but it'll save you the extra step of having to wipe off the sticky layer.

Our No Wipe Top Coats come in lots of different finishes, so you can choose the one that best suits your mani. From iridescent finishes to pretty glitter flakes, there's a top coat for every nail look.

@myleebeautyofficial Strawberry glazed donut - Mylee edition 🍓 🍩 Hailey Bieber inspired ofc 🎀 here’s how to recreate your own version 👇 @nails_byanniebey using Candy Girl & Iridescent Top Coat #Mylee #nails #gelnails #nailtrends #naillooks #nailfinds #nailideas #frenchmanicure #nudenails #freshnails #barenails #cleangirlnails #glazednails #haileybeibernails #naileditmyself #myleemanicure #myleenails ♬ original sound - Myleebeauty

How Many Top Coat Layers Should You Apply?

You only really need to apply 1 layer of top coat, but applying 2 or even 3 can provide extra protection and shine for your mani.

If you do apply more than one coat, make sure not to apply too thick of a layer, as it can cause bubbling or peeling.

Also, be sure to cure each layer separately for the recommended time to ensure proper curing and prevent any potential mishaps.

Summary: Troubleshooting Sticky Gel Nails

Provided you've followed all the right application steps, the chances are that your gel nails are sticky because you haven't removed the tacky layer from the top coat.

You can do so by using an acetone-based polish remover or cleanser, like our Prep & Wipe or Prep & Shine Wipes. With a simple swipe over your nails, the tacky layer will be removed and your gel nails will be left shiny and smooth.

You can shop our gel nail essentials below, including our top coats and Prep & Wipe solution to help you achieve the perfect, non-sticky gel nails. Plus, we'll give you free UK delivery when you spend over £25!


How do you fix sticky gel nails?

To remove the sticky layer from your gel nails, wipe them with an acetone-based polish remover or cleanser, like our Prep & Wipe or Prep & Shine Wipes.

Why are my gel nails not drying?

You may have applied the gel polish too thickly, therefore they'll need longer to cure under your lamp. You should apply polish in thin and even layers, curing for 60 seconds under an LED lamp and 120 seconds under a UV lamp - but they will need a little longer per coat if the layer is thick.

Should gel nails be completely dry after curing?

Yes, gel polish should be fully set after curing. If you find that your gel nails are still tacky or sticky after curing, it could be due to not curing for the recommended amount of time or needing to cure for longer if you've applied a thick layer of polish.

Is a gel base coat supposed to be sticky?

All gel polish, including base coats, will be sticky after curing because it's what helps the polish adhere to the layer above (so it's actually a good sign that your base coat is sticky!).

Merilin Notton

Merilin Notton

As the Head of Brand at Mylee, Merilin is a seasoned beauty industry professional with a strong passion for nail art. 

With a background as a licensed beautician and a track record of shaping and elevating beauty brands, Merilin is dedicated to empowering individuals to express themselves through nail art, making them a driving force behind Mylee's success in the beauty industry.


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