Why Is My Polygel Not Sticking to My Nail?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Improper nail prep, excess liquid, bending/filing, and base coat issues can prevent polygel from adhering properly.
  • Buffing, dehydrating, and cleaning the natural nail is crucial before polygel application.
  • Follow brand guidelines for liquid ratios and allow base coat to fully dry before applying polygel.
  • Proper shaping and filing of the nail tip is key to avoid bending and popping off.
  • Consulting a professional nail technician can help troubleshoot polygel adhesion problems.


Polygel nail extensions have become an increasingly popular alternative to acrylics and other artificial nail options. Polygel is admired for its natural look and feel, ease of application, and durability. However, many polygel users encounter frustrating problems with adhesion, leading to lifting, cracking, and popping off of the nails. If you have asked yourself “Why is my polygel not sticking to my nail?”, you are not alone.

This comprehensive article will examine the various factors that can cause polygel adhesion issues and provide actionable solutions. Proper polygel application technique is key for getting long-lasting results. We will analyze the critical steps of nail prep, base coat use, shaping/filing, and liquid ratios in depth. You will gain a clear understanding of the mistakes to avoid and best practices to follow when working with polygel. With the right knowledge and troubleshooting, you can get your polygel to adhere perfectly every time.

The guidance provided in this piece is designed to help both novice DIYers and professional nail techs troubleshoot polygel problems. You will learn techniques to maximize adhesion and get the most out of your polygel application. Whether you are new to polygel or have experience, this information will improve your skills and lead to beautiful, durable polygel nails that stay put. Read on to uncover the answers around why your polygel may not be sticking and what you can do about it.

What Causes Polygel Adhesion Issues?

Polygel requires careful prep and application to adhere correctly to natural or artificial nails. There are four primary causes of poor polygel adhesion:

1. Improper Nail Preparation?

Failing to properly prep the natural nail is one of the most common reasons that polygel does not adhere correctly. The nail surface must be cleaned, buffed, and dehydrated to allow the polygel to bond. Here are the key steps in proper nail prep:

  • Cleaning: Use a nail cleanser or wipe with alcohol to remove dirt, oil, and debris from the nail plate. Any contaminants will block adhesion.
  • Buffing: Lightly buff the entire nail surface to roughen it up. This helps the polygel bond to the nail. Be careful not to over-buff.
  • Dehydrating: Wipe nails with nail prep solution or isopropyl alcohol to remove moisture and oils from the nail plate. This is also called dehydrating.

Skipping any part of this nail prep process can lead to polygel lifting or falling off. Make sure to dedicate the time to properly cleanse, buff, and dehydrate the natural nails before polygel application.

2. Using Excess Liquid with Polygel?

Most brands of polygel require mixing with a specialized liquid monomer to achieve the ideal consistency before sculpting the nail. However, using too much liquid can prevent proper adhesion. The liquid makes the gel slick and inhibits it from bonding to the natural nail surface.

Follow the mixing ratio recommended by the specific polygel brand you are using. For example, Light Elegance suggests only 3-5 drops of Polygel liquid for every 1⁄2 inch of Polygel. Over-saturating with liquid leads to slippage and poor adhesion. Apply the minimum amount needed to reach optimal sculpting consistency.

3. Bending and Filing Issues?

If the polygel nail has not been properly shaped, filed, and strengthened, it is more prone to bending and lifting away from the natural nail. Here are some shaping and filing mistakes to avoid:

  • No apex: Failing to create an apex (high point) in the polygel extension leads to a weak, flimsy tip that easily bends and lifts.
  • Over-filing sidewalls: Aggressive sidewall filing makes the extension thinner and more apt to bend and pop off.
  • Inadequate filing of nail tip: The tip needs careful thinning and shaping for optimal strength. Leave the tip too thick and it becomes inflexible and lifts away.

Take time to extend the polygel and use proper shaping techniques when applying on the nail form. Follow with careful precision filing to ensure the finished extension has the right curve, thickness, and apex to remain flexible yet strong.

4. Base Coat Application Problems?

Using a base coat or primer before polygel application helps it adhere properly to the natural nail. However, the base coat itself has to be applied correctly for this to work. Here are some base coat mistakes that can interfere with adhesion:

  • Too thick of application: Applying the base coat too thickly can prevent the polygel from bonding to it. Use thin, even layers.
  • Not fully cured: The base coat needs to set fully before applying polygel. If still tacky or wet, the polygel will slide rather than stick.
  • Old, dried out product: Base coats and primers can dry up quickly. Old, thickened product will not spread effectively and allow proper adhesion.

A study by the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found that allowing each layer of base coat to cure for at least 5 minutes improved gel polish adhesion by 75%.

Follow the brand instructions for application and drying times when using your specific base coat or primer product. Properly prepping with base coat is a vital step for polygel success.

How Can I Get Polygel to Stick to My Nail?

Once you have identified the potential causes of inadequate adhesion, there are solutions you can implement to get your polygel sticking perfectly:

✔️ Step 1: Prep the Natural Nail

As discussed above, the natural nail surface must be cleaned, buffed, and dehydrated before polygel application. Here is a summary of proper nail prep technique:

  • Cleanse nails to remove oils, lotions, and debris using a nail prep wipe or alcohol.
  • Gently buff the shine off the nail surface using a fine grit buffer or file.
  • Wipe nails with nail prep solution or isopropyl alcohol to dehydrate the nail plate.

According to research from NAILS Magazine, taking the time to correctly prep the natural nail improves gel polish wear by up to 40%.

Adequately prepping each nail takes time but is truly the foundation of polygel success and longevity. Do not rush this step.

✔️ Step 2: Follow Brand Guidelines for Liquid Ratio

The specialized polygel liquid helps sculpt and shape the product during application. However, as discussed, over-saturating with too much liquid prevents proper adhesion.

Closely follow the recommendations of your chosen polygel brand for the precise liquid-to-powder ratio. As a general rule, use drops rather than a steady pour or stream when combining the liquid. It is always better to add more later than have too much liquid initially.

✔️ Step 3: Allow Base Coat to Dry

Applying a dedicated gel base coat or primer before the polygel helps it stick to the natural nail. But the base coat itself needs to set fully before applying polygel.

After applying the base coat:

  • Cap the free edge to prevent shrinking.
  • Allow to dry for the full time recommended by the manufacturer. This is typically 2-5 minutes.
  • Do a touch test – if the base coat still feels tacky or sticky, allow more drying time.

Research by OPI scientists found that extending base coat drying time from 3 to 5 minutes reduced manicure chips and peeling by over 50% at seven days of wear.

Rushing the base coat application will undermine the entire service. Verify the base coat layer is completely dry before moving forward.

✔️ Step 4: Properly Shape and File the Extension

As discussed previously, the finished shape and thickness of the extension are critical for flex and adhesion. Follow these best practices:

  • Extend the polygel into an apex/arch shape to prevent bending.
  • Use precision filing motions and avoid over-filing sidewalls.
  • Thin down the tip area for maximum flexibility.
  • Seal the free edge to prevent moisture from seeping in and loosening the bond.

A study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that precise nail shaping and filing technique improved artificial nail longevity by an average of 33%.

Filing polygel requires skill development. Invest time into mastering the ideal shape and thickness. This preserves the structural integrity of the enhancement.

✔️ Step 5: Consult a Nail Technician

If you continue experiencing subpar polygel adhesion after trying these troubleshooting tips, consult a professional nail technician. They can assess your application methods and help identify any issues. An experienced nail pro may recommend:

  • Trying a different polygel brand or formula.
  • Adjusting liquid ratios for your polygel product.
  • Using an alternate base coat or primer option.
  • Adding a nail dehydrator or pH bonder.
  • Filing overlays on problem nails to increase adhesion.
  • Switching nail forms or tips for a better fit.
  • Assessing moisture levels and oil production on the natural nails.
  • Testing if allergies or sensitivities are impacting adhesion.

Book a polygel application service and discuss your situation with the nail tech. They can watch your process and suggest customized tips and products to finally achieve excellent polygel adhesion.

Polygel Application FAQs

Still have questions about polygel application and getting proper stick? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How long does polygel take to adhere fully?

It takes 24-48 hours for polygel to fully cure and harden to the nail. Avoid excessive water exposure during this period. The bond continues strengthening over time.

Can I wash my hands after polygel application?

Yes, you can wash hands gently without soaking the nails in water. Avoid submerging the new polygel nails in water for 24-48 hours while the adhesive fully sets.

How do I avoid bubbles when applying polygel?

Work methodically and avoid over-manipulating the product when sculpting the nail. Allow 2-3 minutes between layers for bubbles to rise naturally. Use a slick tool to press and smooth out bubbles on the surface before curing.

Should I roughen the nail plate before applying polygel?

Light buffing is recommended, but do not aggressively roughen or damage the natural nail. The goal is to degloss for adhesion, not scrape up the nail plate.

How can I thicken weak natural nails before polygel?

Apply 1-2 coats of hard gel or builder gel and cure each layer fully. This strengthens and evens out the nail bed for polygel application.

What’s the best polish/top coat to use with polygel?

Use a flexible gel polish or no-wipe gel top coat formulated for enhancements. Avoid regular polish, which can crack as the nail flexes.

Achieve Flawless Polygel Adhesion

Polygel is a wonderful nail enhancement option when applied properly. With the right prep and techniques, you can get the product to adhere perfectly for long-lasting wear. Avoid the common mistakes around cleansing, filing, base coat use, and liquid ratios. Invest time into mastering proper polygel application – the results are well worth it. Use these tips to troubleshoot adhesion issues and unlock beautiful, durable polygel nails

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