How Long Do You Really Need to Cure Gel Polish – Easy Guide

How long to cure gel nails with led light
How Long Do You Really Need to Cure Gel Polish – Easy Guide

Gel Polishes are one of the easiest ways to DIY create amazing manicures at home that are long-lasting and very durable.

But a lot of people avoid trying gel polishes because they don’t understand the curing process – which is where the gel polish is exposed under a nail lamp to harden and dry.

Now in this article we are gonna explain:

  • How long do you need to have your gel polish exposed under a nail lamp for it to cure completely.
  • And give you some tips on how you can tell if your gel polish has completely cured.

Related Article – Benefits & Disadvantages of Gel Nails – Are They Worth it

How Long to Cure Gel Polish

On average Gel Polishes take around 45-60 seconds to cure using a standard LED UV Nail Lamp. And 2-3 minutes with a UV nail lamp.

How long to Cure Gel Base & Top Coat

Gel Base Coats usually cure within 15-25 seconds. Whilst Gel Top Coats takes around 45-60 seconds to cure.

But when you are not sure it is always better to over cure your gel polish than under curing them.

Type of Gel PolishTime to Cure
Colored Gel Polish45-60 seconds
Gel Base Coat15-25 seconds
Gel Top Coat45-60 seconds
How long to cure gel polishes

Now the exact curing time for gel polishes will vary greatly. This depends on:

  1. The formula of your gel polish
  2. The wattage of the nail lamp
  3. The type of nail lamp that you use
  4. How thick you applied the gel polish

Important Tip

Even when gel polish is cured completely it will still have a natural wet sticky layer – this layer is nothing to be worried about, it just helps the next layer to adhere to it.

Now the sticky layer of the gel top coat will need to be wiped away, Click here to read how to wipe it away.

You can click here to learn how to tell if your gel polish is cured.

1- Formula of The Gel Nail Polish

Every gel polish will be different, so it is absolutely necessary that you read and follow the curing directions of each gel polish.

This is because:

  • Each brand of gel nail polish has its own formula with different levels of photoinitiators which will lead to variation in curing rate. Citation.
  • Also, more pigmented colors tend to require longer curing time.

Now if you want to be on the safe side it is recommended that you cure the gel polish for a bit longer than the directions given.

So if the directions tell you that you need to cure for 30 seconds you can let it cure for 40 seconds.

One of the main reasons why this is recommended is because the directions given would vary based on the type and wattage of the lamp that the brand used and this may differ from your nail lamp.

Curing for a bit longer ensures that the gel polish is cured completely, it is always better to over cure your gel rather than under curing it.

Bonus Tip

If you don’t want too much exposure to UV radiation you can apply sunscreen on your fingers and hands or wear manicure gloves. Click here to learn more about manicure gloves.

2- The Wattage of the Lamp

Wattage refers to how powerful your nail lamp is – meaning how bright the lamp is. The higher the wattage the faster your gel polish will cure.

More wattage means that the lamp will be brighter and more intense allowing the gel polish to cure faster.

Wattage of LED LampCuring Time for Gel PolishCuring Time
for Base Coat
Curing time
for Top Coat
24 Watt60 seconds25 seconds60 seconds
48 Watt45 seconds20 seconds45 seconds
54 Watt45 seconds15 seconds45 seconds
table showing how long gel polish curing will take based on difference in wattage

Related Article – How Much Does Gel Nails Cost & How Much to Remove Them

Read more  Why do my nails curl inwards at sides?

Recommended LED UV Nail Lamp

I highly recommend getting a high-wattage gel nail lamp. The one that I use is an Anself 64 Watt Pro Nail Lamp, it is a bit expensive but it’s one of the best on the market.

You can click here to see the price for Anself High-Wattage nail lamp on Amazon.

3- Type of Nail Lamp Used

There are two main types of nail lamps either UV nail lamps or LED Nail lamps. UV nail lamps will take 2-3 minutes to cure whilst the UV Led lamps can cure within 60 seconds.

Most gel polishes today use LED Nail lamps which are the most commonly sold lamps.

Now certain old formulas of gel polishes require a UV nail lamp to cure and won’t work with LED Lamps. But these types of gel polishes are becoming less common.

Related Articles – Best Gel Base & Top Coats For Any Brand of Gel Polish

4- The thickness of your gel polish layers

If you apply your gel polishes in thin layers it will cure better and faster than if applied in a thick layer.

This is why you need to apply your gel polishes in two or three thin layers. Meaning you apply a thin layer of gel polish and then cure it and then apply another and then cure it again.

Bonus Tip

I have an entire article where I share 5 Tips to Help Correctly Cure Gel Nail Polish Faster, click here to read it.

What Happens if you Cure Gel Polish for too Long

Curing your gel polish for too long is usually not an issue and wouldn’t cause any significant effect on your gel polish. It is always better to over cure your gel polish or gel rather than under curing them.

Now in my experience, certain low-quality gel top coats can develop a yellowish tinge if you cure them for too long.

But you should be ok with most brands of gel top coats.

Related Article: 6 Reasons Why Your Gel Polish is not Curing & How to Fix

What Happens When You Under Cure Gel Polish

Not allowing your gel polish or gel to cure completely can lead to wrinkling, and dramatically reduce the durability and lifespan of your manicure.

This is because the polymers in the gel didn’t receive enough exposure to UV radiation to polymerize and harden enough to become totally solid.

And instead, the gel polish will remain in a semi-solid state.

Related Article – Why Does Gel Polish Wrinkle – How to Fix & Prevent

Can You Air Dry Gel Nail Polish

Gel nail polish cannot air dry or cure naturally they require strong UV light to harden. Air and heat will not harden gel polishes.

Citation and Sources

The Science of Gels: How Gel Nail Products Work

Nail Polish

Gel Manicures: A Complete Guide to Gel Nails

— Update: 06-01-2023 — found an additional article DIY GEL NAILS STEPS TO APPLY AND REMOVE GEL NAIL POLISH from the website for the keyword how long to cure gel nails with led light.

Traditional nail polishes are prone to chipping within a few days, quite often due to more oil production on the nail bed which prevents the polish from adhering for a prolong duration. Gel polish is the latest trend for those struggling with long-wearing nail polish. Unlike regular nail polish, gel polish is a thinner formula and more flexible than standard acrylic enhancements so it will not chip easily from your nails.
Applying the color requires a specification technique using UV or LED lamp to help it remain on the nail bed. The method for applying gel polish can be done at home easily for a long lasting manicure. With a thin formula, the gel polish will not come off easily with a single swipe of nail polish remover. Correct removal of the gel polish will assure the health of your nails remain intact.

How long to cure gel nails with led light



1. Begin with clean nails. Use a cuticle oil to remove any excess skin laying on the nail plate, you can also push the skin back with a orangewood stick for a smooth surface. A nail file will shape the nails to your desired length to get your nails ready for the gel polish. Excess oil and residue should be removed with a cotton ball dampened with acetone.

Read more  21 Foods For Stronger Hair and Nails

2. Base coat is important to protect your natural nails from damage. Apply a very thin coat of the base gel to the nails, avoid applying the base gel polish close to your cuticle. Place your nails under a UV or LED lamp. LED lamp will cure the gel polish in just 30 seconds, or 2 minutes with a UV lamp.

3. Apply a very thin coat of gel polish color. Remember to use the thinnest layers step by step to prevent the gel polish from lifting off the nail. Cure the nail under the UV or LED lamp.

How long to cure gel nails with led light

4. For full color application, use a second coat of color and cure it under the UV or LED lamp. Make sure to coat the color onto the nail completely, as well as the edge.

5. Finish with a thin layer of top coat for a glossy look and cure it under the UV or LED lamp.

How long to cure gel nails with led light



  1. File and gently buff the top coat off your nails until the glossy finish is removed.
  2. Use 100 percent acetone and soak a small piece of cotton ball.
  3. Cut small square pieces of tin foil for each nail to wrap around your finger.  Wrap the cotton ball on your nail and place a small piece of tin foil on top, wrapping it tightly.
  4. Allow the nails to soak in the acetone for 15 minutes, making sure the cotton is placed directly on your nail.
  5. Remove each wrapper one nail at a time, the gel polish should be softened and released from the nail. Use a orangewood stick to gently push the gel off your nail. If any small piece of polish is remaining, use a nail file to buff it off or repeat the removal process.
  6. If the polish is still hard, reapply the cotton soaked acetone with the tin foil and leave it on for a longer duration. Continue until all of the color is removed from your nails.
  7. Finish with UKA Nail Oils, massage it all over your nails and cuticles to treat any dryness and replenish moisture leaving them looking silky and radiant.

How long to cure gel nails with led light

— Update: 06-01-2023 — found an additional article HOW LONG SHOULD GEL POLISH CURE: THE CORRECT ANSWER from the website for the keyword how long to cure gel nails with led light.

How long to cure gel nails with led light

One of the most common questions that people ask is how long it takes for gel polish to cure under a UV LED nail lamp. Most people read the instructions but do not believe that gel polish is done in such a short time, and they tend to cure them a little longer.

Gel polish should be cured according to its manufacturer’s recommendation. The curing time for the gel polish base coat is 5 to 30 seconds, gel polish color should cure for 30 to 45 seconds for each layer, and gel polish top coat should cure no longer than 60 seconds. Curing gel polish longer than recommended time turns it into a solid, and it will be difficult to remove later.

How long should a gel polish base coat be cured?

The characteristic makes it adhere well to the nail plate underneath and help the color gel polish stay on it for up to two weeks. If a gel base coat is overcured, it losses its adhesive strength and its flexibility. Worse yet, it becomes a hard solid layer that will not interact with acetone during the removal process.

Do not over cure gel base coat longer than 45 seconds even if you think the time is too short. Gel base coat will go under an LED lamp and exposed to more UV light as gel polish color and top coat need to be cured additionally. In the end, over cured gel base coat will go under curing for at least 3 more minutes.

Therefore, even if you do not over cure gel base coat, it will be over cured because of the additional curing steps anyway.

How long should gel polish color be cured?

The main quality of gel polish is flexibility. That is why it should be cured properly to retain this quality.

When gel polish color is over cured, it loses this unique flexible quality. Even though it is not easy to tell the difference then, but later during removal, you will see that the gel polish color will stick directly to the nail plate and the gel base coat seems to disappear or evaporate as if it was not there in the first place.


When this happens, you will have a hard time trying to remove the over cured gel polish off your nails because it will not be affected by acetone. You have to file it off with a nail file or an electric file. Using either one will thin out your natural nails that you want to protect.

Sometimes, a customer came into my salon for gel polish removal who had this problem. At first, I thought that she used some unknown brands that she bought on the internet. After I tested my products by trying to over cure them, the results were the same. Any over-cured gel polish will become hard solid and lost all of its flexibility. Acetone was not able to soften it.

The only way that I could do was slowly and gently file it off with a nail file so I would not thin out her nails.

How long should gel polish top coat be cured?

Gel polish top coat should be cured for no longer than 90 seconds if you are not convinced that 60 seconds are enough.

Gel polish topcoat is a sealer. It protects the color and adds mirror-shine quality to the gel polish color.

Over curing the gel polish top coat will alter this quality and turn it into a hard solid. What this does is the over-cured gel top coat will not interact with acetone any more, and removing it will require manual filling.

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Gel base coat and top coat you should buy

How long to cure gel nails with led light

The Fantastic Four gel base and top coat kitHow long to cure gel nails with led light from Gelish is a great one to do your gel nails at home. Not only it is a high quality product, it works well with many other gel polish brands so you can be sure that your gel manicures will not give you any issues. It is available on AmazonHow long to cure gel nails with led light.

WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT FOR GOOD? Easy! You can even DO ITHow long to cure gel nails with led light in your sleep.

Could you cure gel polish longer?

No. Over-cured gel polish will not interact with acetone which is the strongest removal solution on the market for the time being. You will have to file the hardened gel polish off your nails one by one. This could take up to two hours of your precious time.

As for me, it took me a good hour to remove over-cured gel polish on my customer’s nails.

Also, because I was careful, not to file too deep or buffing too much, there was some old gel polish still left on her nails, making the nail plates uneven. This caused the new color that went on them was not nice and smooth-looking at all.

No matter which brand is your gel polish, it should be cured according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. Also, keep in mind that no two gel polish brands are the same. Take time to read the instructions carefully when you purchase a new brand.

And remember, gel polish is at its best when it becomes plasticized after being properly cured. Over-cured gel polish will become hardened. This makes it easier to chip or crack.

Worst of all, you will have to file it off, one nail at a time.

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If you happened to over cure your gel polish, this is the correct way to remove over-cured gel polish so you will not damage your nails.

How to apply thin gel polish. The first thing you can do to avoid over-cured gel polish is knowing how to apply thin gel polish. Gel polish has to be applied thinly so it will cure properly, and you will not run into bubbling or wrinkling problems.

Lastly, make sure your gel polish is thin enough so you can apply it on your nail with ease. Thick gel polish will create a thick layer on the nail plate, no matter how good your polishing skill is. You will know how to make thick gel polish thin in this article.


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About the Author: Tung Chi