Katie Barnes
Katie Barnes

Why gel polish shrinks & how to prevent it

By Katie Barnes | 07 April 2024 | Expert Advice, Feature, Technique


Gel polish is a popular choice for many due to its long-lasting finish and resistance to chipping and fading, compared to traditional nail polish. However, one of the most common and tedious problems encountered when working with gel polish is the issue of shrinkage.

Gel polish shrinking during application can be frustrating and negatively impact the quality and professional finish of a set. But why does it happen, and how can you prevent it?

The main reason gel polish shrinks is that it contracts during the curing process. Because of this, it is essential to seal the free edge by applying the gel horizontally at the very edge. Capping the free edge should be the last step before curing, and this can prevent the product from contracting and shrinking during the curing process.

If the product contracts and shrinks before you can work, it may help to cure a few nails at a time. This will prevent the product from shrinking before you finish the application process.

Katie Barnes Gel Polish Shrinkage 1

One other factor that can contribute to gel polish shrinkage is the use of primer. While some people prefer to use primer before applying gel polish to promote better adhesion, this can lead to an increased soak off time. Additionally, primer can cause the gel polish colour to bleed into the base coat, leading to an uneven application. To avoid this issue, try to avoid using primer before applying gel polish, except for washing the free edge if the client is prone to lifting or chipping.

Another way to prevent the base coat from bleeding into the colour is to remove the tacky layer of the base coat (the dispersion layer) for a more even colour application. This can ensure that the colour adheres properly to the nail surface and prevent shrinkage during the curing process.

Katie Barnes Gel Polish Shrinkage 2

Perfect your gel polish application with my top tips, here. Gel polish shrinkage can be a frustrating issue for many people. However, by following these tips and techniques during application, you can prevent the product from contracting and ensure a smooth and even finish. Remember to cap the free edge, cure a few nails at a time and avoid using primer before applying gel polish. With a little practice and attention to detail, you can achieve beautiful, long-lasting gel polish manicures every time.

Love Katie B x