A Guide To Polygel Nails, The Non-Damaging Gel-Acrylic Hybrid Of Your Dreams

From the luxurious manicures you get at a chic salon to the increasingly intricate DIY sets created at home, it’s clear that the world of nail art is ever-evolving. And as the years go by, countless innovations within the manicure space have expanded the possibilities even further.

While acrylic nails are worn by countless A-listers and mani lovers alike, they can actually make your natural nails beneath them brittle and weak. Dip powder, easy-to-use press-on nails, and “BIAB” (which stands for “builder in a bottle”) are widely considered healthier options for your tips, depending on your preference.

As for another product loved by professional nail techs, beginners, and everyone in-between? Polygel, a gel-acrylic hybrid that has some serious artistic versatility and extra benefits for those who love to switch up their manicure on the regular.

What Are Polygel Nails?

Also known as “acrygel,” polygel entered the manicure industry in 1999. Since then, the product has been a must-have in many professionals’ kits.

“Polygel is an innovative nail enhancement product that combines the best qualities of both gel and acrylic systems,” says Charisma Sterling, a Manhattan-based nail professional who specializes in polygel application. “It’s a versatile substance used in the nail industry to extend, strengthen, and shape natural nails.”

One major difference from acrylic nail application? “Unlike traditional acrylics, polygel comes in a tube and doesn’t require a separate monomer, offering nail technicians a convenient and customizable solution,” Sterling says.

For those who may be unfamiliar, a monomer refers to the chemical-ridden liquid component used in tandem with acrylic powder when creating acrylic nails. Polygel essentially provides a healthier version of formula that is already combined for easier use.

How To Do Polygel Nails

Polygel is not just a tool for the pros. “Polygel is suitable for both pros and DIY enthusiasts,” Sterling says. “Polygel offers versatility in application, whether over nail tips for extensions, with dual forms, or using sculpting forms. It’s also fantastic as an overlay on natural nails.”

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Nail file
  • Base and top coats
  • Preferred polygel color
  • UV lamp
  • Alcohol-based slip solution
  • Small nail brush
  • Optional: Extension tips, dual forms, or sculpting forms

How To Do Polygel Nails At-Home

  1. Clean up your nails with a nail file in order to create a smooth surface for the polygel application.
  2. Apply a clear protective base coat and cure it under a UV lamp.
  3. Whether working on faux tips, nail extenders, or your natural nails, apply a small dollop of polygel onto the nail using a tiny bristle nail brush coated in an alcohol-based slip solution (an essential that prevents the polygel from sticking to the brush) to begin shaping the nail.
  4. Once you are happy with the way the polygel looks, cure under a UV lamp. If you used a dual or sculpting form, remove them from each nail to reveal an extended look.
  5. Use a file to shape each nail to your liking.
  6. Clean each nail’s surface with the slip solution.
  7. Either experiment with different nail art designs or simply apply a high-shine top coat before curing the look one final time.

For a step-by-step visual, Sterling has a detailed YouTube video demonstrating a perfect application.

How To Remove Polygel

While polygel nails can typically last anywhere from three to four weeks depending on the application, knowing how to properly remove polygel is important for maintaining your nails’ health.

Since it isn’t removed by soaking in acetone, the removal process is done manually.

  1. Using a nail file or e-file drill, gently begin to thin out the polygel. Be careful not to file down to your natural nail just yet, especially if using a drill.
  2. Once you’ve reached the base coat layer, gently complete the removal process with a less gritty file until you reach your natural nail.

When in doubt, it’s always a safe bet to allow a professional to handle the removal process — even if you created the look at home.

Keep in mind that e-file drills can be difficult to maneuver (especially with your less dominant hand).

When in doubt, it’s always a safe bet to allow a professional to handle the removal process — even if you created the look at home. Many at-home manicurists prefer to head to their salon before painting on a fresh set themselves.

The Benefits Of Polygel Nails

Aside from being an alternative that can help keep your natural nails strong and healthy, polygel has a number of other benefits, too.

“One of its significant benefits is that it’s odorless, eliminating the strong chemical scent associated with traditional acrylics,” says Sterling.

Polygel doesn’t completely dry until it’s cured under a UV lamp, making it versatile and beginner-friendly, according to Sterling. “It’s highly versatile, allowing for a wide range of design possibilities including extensions, overlays, and sculpting.”

It also feels less “heavy” on top of natural nails. “It’s notably lighter than acrylics, providing a more comfortable and natural feel for clients,” she says.

Pro Tips For Using Polygel

Sterling says that proper nail prep lends itself to longevity for all manis, including those created with polygel.

As for some pro tips from her experience, she says: “Polygel, with its gel-like consistency, can become notably sticky and runny. To address this, using a slip solution or rubbing alcohol helps prevent it from sticking to brushes and surfaces.”

Another best practice to eliminate runniness? “I like to place my polygel into a mini fridge 10 to 15 minutes before application, avoiding leaving it in for too long,” says Sterling. “When too cold, it can become harder to work with and also can affect curing.”

3 Polygel Nail Products To Try

A mid-tone neutral that looks gorgeous solo or beneath maximalist nail art designs, the Makartt Nail Extension Gel in A Siesta is a personal favorite in Sterling’s kit.

The perfect starter kit for those who want to play with polygel products, the GAOY Poly Gel Nail Kit with U V Light Starter Kit is equipped with a curing lamp, faux tips, six polygel nail colors, and more.

An elegant and simple polygel that’s perfect alone or for a traditional French manicure base, the Gelish PolyGel Nail Enhancement in Light Pink Sheer is a gorgeous option for those who want to experiment with the trending product.

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