Why Do Nails Weaken After Gel Polish Removal?


Gel Polish

If you’re a frequent user of gel manicures, you may have noticed your nails seem to become thinner and more brittle over time. This weakening of the nails is a common side effect of getting regular gel manicures and removing the polish. But why does this happen? Here’s a closer look at the effects of gel polish on natural nails.

Read: How to create stylish nail art designs with simple tools?

What Is Gel Polish?

Gel polish is a long-lasting variety of nail polish made with different formulas than regular nail lacquers. Gel polishes make use of polymer resins to create a super shiny and durable manicure. The application process also differs from regular polish; gel polish is "cured" under a UV or LED lamp which sets and hardens the formula on the nails. At-home gel manicure kits provide salon-like results by including a mini curing device for setting the polish.  

One major appeal of gel polish is it doesn’t chip or smudge for up to three weeks, making reapplication less frequent. However, removal must be done carefully to avoid damage to the natural nails underneath. Harshly scraping or picking off hardened gel can lead to peeling and breakage. 

How Does Gel Polish Removal Damage Nails?

Gel manicures require a lengthy removal process because of how stubborn and adhered to the nail they become. Usually gel polish is soaked off with pure acetone, which breaks down the polymers in the formula. The acetone soak allows the gel to be more easily scraped or buffed off. However, there are consequences to subjecting your nails to repeated acetone exposures and scraping.

Acetone is an extremely drying solvent. Soaking nails in straight acetone for 10-15 minutes sucks up moisture and oils, causing dryness, brittleness, and thinning over time with continued use. The inner layers of the nail plate become dehydrated and weak. Even the healthiest, strongest nails will show negative effects after months and years of monthly gel manicure removal.

The manual removal via scraping and filing also inflicts physical stress on the nail plates. Buffing too rigorously can actually thin out nails and damage the keratin structures within. This compounds the drying effect of the acetone, creating a one-two punch of moisture-stripping and wearing down the nail bed. Thin, brittle nails are the result.

Additionally, trauma to the nail bed affects nail growth. Growth starts from the base where the living cuticle meets the nail plate. Harsh removal routines can injure the cuticle, stunt healthy nail production, and impede proper attachment of layers - leading to peeling and shedding. 

How To Prevent Nail Damage From Gel Polish Removal?

If you love the durability and longevity of gel manicures, you don’t have to give them up entirely to preserve your natural nails.

There are steps you can take to mitigate the weakening effects of repeated gel application and removal:

  • Look for gel formulas labeled as less damaging, flexible, or nourishing to nails
  • Apply high-quality base and top coat underneath gel polish 
  • Use foil method instead of scraping tools to gently lift polish 
  • Thoroughly hydrate nails and cuticles with oil after removal
  • Take occasional breaks between gel manicures (every 2-3 instead of monthly)
  • Remove polish gently when grows out significantly vs. at first sight of regrowth
  • Get professional removal done instead of doing it yourself
  • Strengthen bare nails between gels by taking biotin supplements  

The Right Aftercare Is Key  

While gel polish is damaging on its own, poor aftercare also exacerbates the problems. Many people get gel removed then don’t nurture their nails afterward, allowing them to remain dry, thin, and fragile between appointments. Proper conditioning post-removal can make a significant difference.

Apply a hydrating nail oil containing jojoba, vitamin E, avocado, etc multiple times per day after taking gels off. The oil delivers moisture into thinning nail plates and helps temporarily reinforce them. Additionally, regular use of a high-quality strengthening base coat underneath gels boosts resilience and resistance to breakage. 

If your nails feel particularly thin and weak, give them a break from gel altogether until healthier. Use regular polish or go bare while focusing on nail nutrition, moisturizing often and taking a supplement like biotin or Viviscal. Within several weeks off gel duty, you should see improved thickness and hardness.


Gel polish offers weeks of perfect, chip-free wear - but at what cost? Repeated exposure to acetone, scraping, and drying leads to thinning, peeling nails over time. Luckily, you can maintain both durable gel nails by following nourishing practices in-between polishes. With the right removal and care regimen, your mani can outlast a tropical vacation without your nails taking a hit!  

To enhance your nail care routine and protect your nails from the damaging effects of gel polish, consider investing in high-quality nail accessories from Nail Capital USA. From nourishing cuticle oils to strengthening base coats, their products are designed to support healthy nail growth and resilience. Don't let gel polish compromise the health of your nails - shop at Nail Capital USA and give your nails the care they deserve!

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