15 Nov.,2022


what causes bubbles in gel nail polish

Gel polish wrinkles, chipped or bubbles up when applied on nail surfaces are caused by a few technical reasons. After you know and can identify all these simple facts and incorporate in your gel polish application, you should have great result every time.

Five reasons that cause gel polish to wrinkle or bubble up:

  1. Poor or inadequate nail surface preparation.
  2. Too much gel polish on the nail.
  3. Old polish.
  4. Old UV lamp or inadequate UV light source.
  5. Nails placed on the wrong spot under a light source for optimal curing and this is the most common.

Many people who do gel polish at home occasionally so they do not have a lot of practice or experience in applying gel polish. Since gel polish is usually thicker than regular polish, knowing how to apply it properly will save you time and aggravation from running into this issue again.

To learn how to effectively apply gel polish, read the article about Two tips to apply thin layers of gel polish on nails

Fast and clean way to remove gel polish on one finger.

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Whether it is your first time doing gel polish or do not know what they all mean, read the following sections to learn what they are and have a complete understanding of these pitfalls so you can avoid them in your next gel polish application.





Five reasons that cause gel polish to wrinkle or bubble up on nails

1. Poor or inadequate nail surface preparation

Before applying gel polish on nails, proper nail surface preparation has to be done as follows:

  1. Remove old polish if any.
  2. Cut/trim nails to the desired length.
  3. Remove or trim excessive cuticles. This can be done by nipping cuticles dry or after soaking. Gently buff the entire nail surface. Three or four back and forth gentle strokes are sufficient. Overdoing this will thin out the nail needlessly.
  4. Do buff the tip or free edge of the nails to remove any burs.
  5. Clean the nail surface with alcohol and apply bonder/dehydrator.
  6. Apply primer if required by gel polish manufacturer. Use a small fan to dry nail surface 1 minute or air dry for 3 minutes before applying gel polish base coat.

All of the steps above will ensure the nail surface free from oil, lotion, or moisture and create a clean nail surface for polishing.

2. Applying too much gel base, gel polish or gel topcoat

Secondly, thick gel polish will not cure thoroughly. Base coat, color gel polishes, and topcoat should be checked to make sure they are in good condition before applying on nails. Gel polishes are usually thicker or higher in viscosity than regular nail polish so the phrase “less is more” should be exercised.

Practice technique of removing extra polish on nail brush by scraping top and/or bottom of the brush against the inside rim of the polish bottle. Press nail brush firmly on the nail to ensure a thin coat is applied.

Remove excess on the brush by first scraping it against the rim of the polish bottle with up and down strokes then brush the nail surface again to ensure an even thinner coat.

Gel base coat, gel color, and gel top coat all need to be cured under UV light separately so make sure each coat is properly cured. Keep in mind that gel base coat, gel color, and gel top coat have different curing times. Even gel base coat and top coat look the same but they are functionally different.

If gel polish is too thick, a normal UV light source can not penetrate or cure a thick layer of gel polish thoroughly. The UV light will cause the surface of the gel polish to be cured first and this cured top layer will prevent light from going further inside and therefore gel inside will not cure completely. As a result, wrinkles or bubbles will form.

3. Thick Old gel polish

Thirdly, gel polish products will start to thicken over time due to evaporation of liquid chemical ingredients in a gel polish bottle. When this happens, the gel base, gel color or gel topcoat will get thicker and it will be difficult to apply a thin coat on nail surfaces.

If a gel polish thinner is available, put a few drops of this solution to the gel bottle and vigorously shake for 1 or 2 minutes. Inspect the gel consistency on the brush. It should be thick but readily dripping off the brush. Use more gel polish thinner if necessary. It is a good practice to know how to fix thick gel polish with thinner.

If the gel inside the bottle is so thick that it deforms the brush bristles, discard it. It already solidifies and can not be brought back to liquid form.

4. Old or inadequate UV lamp will not cure gel polish properly

Next, all UV lamps whether it is a lamp using fluorescent bulbs or LED (light emittd diodes) will diminish or get weaker over time with the bulb type lamps do so quicker.

When this happens the amount of UV light generated will be reduced compared to the new one and so its energy to cure gel polish will also be reduced, This will cause the gel polish to be under cured, meaning the surface will cure first and prevent light from going deeper to cure lower gel layer.

Inadequate or insufficient power UV light sources will cause the same effect and might not cure gel polish completely.

To determine if a UV lamp is in good condition or not, polish 3 nail tips with black, white, and one dark gel color then curing them with recommended time under the UV lamp in question. Repeat polish the three nail tips one more time. If after the second time, any of the three polish colors wrinkles or bubbles or still feeling sticky when touched, the UV lamp does not produce enough light.

To correct this situation, the old bulbs in a UV lamp must be replaced with new ones and the above test should be repeated to ensure improvement. If this happens to an LED type UV lamp, this lamp is defective or at the end of its working life and should be properly discarded.

Many of the smaller home use type of UV lamps generate about 6 watts of UV light energy as compared to those larger sized, professional ones which generate more than 30 watts in UV light energy.

Any reduction in UV light of these smaller, home use types will dramatically affects their gel polish curing ability than that of full-sized, professional ones.

Also, some smaller, home use UV lamps do not come with a bottom reflective plate. With this plate being used, the UV light shines down will reflect back to the top side and will partially reflect back on the nails so the light intensity will be enhanced.

If your UV lamp does not have a bottom plate, put it on a reflective metal tray, or a smooth, light color table surface before curing gel polish. Remember this feature the next time you are in the market for a UV lamp.

5. Nails placed on the wrong location under a UV light source

Lastly, even though you do all four things mentioned above and gel polish still have wrinkled or bubbled, it may be that the nails are not placed where it should be for optimal light intensity and energy.

White, black or dark color gel polish requires adequate light intensity they need in order to cure completely. If nails are not placed at the right location, UV light that shines on the nail surface will be at an angle and some will be reflected away instead of being absorbed in the polish, causing gel polish to be cured on top and under-cured inside.

Make sure that all nails are facing the light. Thumbs and pinky ones are the ones that usually have this problem.

Fun fact: this is the pitfall beginners encounter the most.

White and black gel polishes tend to wrinkle or bubble more than any other shades

Most lights will reflect away from the white color so if white gel polish is too thick, as the top layer cures, this cured layer will prevent light from coming through and there will not be enough light energy to go cure lower layer.

On the contrary, lights will be absorbed by the black gel polish and after the top layer cures, it will also prevent sufficient light to go deeper to cure the lower layer.

Make sure you only apply thin coats when using white or black gel polish. You can always add one more layer if the shade is not what you like yet. The time it takes to apply one more coat is much less than the time it takes to remove the polish and it back again.

Wrinkling problem can be avoid by using quality gel polish brands.

In my years of applying gel polish on thousand of customers’ nails, I have used several commercial brands that are popular among nail salons across the country.

I like the base coat and top coat from Gelish for the fact that the brush of the base coat bottle is much shorter than that of a typical brush. This makes the brush stiffer and because of this, you can apply thinner coat and therefore using less material each time so the bottle will go a long way.

The second thing I like about this brand is the base coat and top coat are chemically and structurally stable in both hot and cold seasons so you do not have to adjust your applying gel polish technique as the weather or temperature change. Check out the latest price on amazon.

The picture above is the bottles in a Fantastic Four Gel Base & Top Coat set.

I always use Gelish base coat and top coat even though I have gel polish colors from different brands such as Lechat, OPI, DND, or any non-brands that my customers brought in for me to use on their nails just because they like its shade.

If you are shopping for a set of gel base coat or top coat, I suggest your next pair would be Gelish. Not only you have the top quality brand, you will be proud to include four very artistic gel polish bottles to your gel polish collection and also own a little piece of gel polish history.

They will last you a good year or two at home. You can buy Gelish’s Fantastic Four Base Coat & Top Coat on Amazon.

You can use these base coat and top coat with any other brands of gel polish color. Keep in mind though that this top coat needs to be wiped off with alcohol-based cleanser to remove the residue.

What causes fat feet: how to make your chubby feet thinner.

The quickest way to solve wrinkled or bubbled gel polish

If the wrinkles or bubbles on the nails are not excessive, putting one more gel topcoat layer over them might smooth out the defects that you can not tell by looking at arm’s length. You can learn how you can quickly fix it here in this short article. If you succeed, you are in luck but keep in mind that these gel nails will not last as long as the others.

If wrinkles or bubbles are still visible, learn how to quickly remove gel polish here.

You can learn about other gel polish tips and tricks in this FAQ page so you can improve on you gel polish skills.


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Disclosure: is supported by readers like you. When you purchase through links in our posts, we may earn an affiliate commission, and we only recommend products or services that we like, and all opinions expressed here are our own. Thank you. Read the full privacy policy here.


To sum up, gel polish is the latest major innovation in the nail industry. It has been around since the early 2000s. Given this amount of time, major gel polish manufacturers have eliminated all major issues and perfected them. It is then safe to say that gel polish is a mature product. So any problem that arises during application by either user at home or professionals can be traced back to one or more of the above five causes.

The future of gel polish:

Gel polish is a great product and until the next innovation arrives, it will be the product of choice for both do-it-yourselves and nail professionals because of its relatively safe, long-lasting and simple application.

Be an informed consumer:

Since it might be the polish of choice for many young females for many years to come and due to the fact that gel polish needs to be changed in two or three weeks, it is a good idea to be educated about this gel polish at the beginning so less time is needed for polishing and more time for enjoyment.

Use this as a quick reference:

This article is written with the intention of giving its readers a comprehensive understanding of gel polish, both on the product and its proper application. It is by no mean an exhaustive one. For young starters and do-it-yourselves at home, it covers all the basic information on gel polish applications so any common mistake will be easily avoided. Hopefully, it also is a good reference for gel polish problems for both beginners and novices to come back to it from time to time.

If you find this article helpful and it might help someone you know, please share or pin it to spread the words.

Happy gelling.

Love doing gel nails? Need a side job? You can make a full time income from writing about them in your free time. Find out more here.

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