Can’t decide between acrylics and gel nails? Both are beautiful options with distinct application processes and benefits. But if you want to combine their durability, styling options, and versatility, polygel nails have you (and your fingernails) covered.

This new option is changing the game by delivering nail enhancements that are as sturdy as they are lightweight. Plus, they let you ditch monomers, awful-smelling substances, and harmful chemicals. So learn more about the wonders of polygel nails below, and then schedule a mani with your local nail Pro to see the benefits firsthand (no pun intended).

What are polygel nails?

Polygel nails are a hybrid form of nail enhancement that are more flexible than acrylics and more durable than hard gel. With polygel nails, you don’t have to choose between strength and versatility. Created by Gelish from a formulation of acrylic powder and clear gel, these nails are moldable and can be shaped to create the perfect look.

Nail Pros can apply polygel as an overlay and can sculpt them to make a full set of custom nails. Available in a wide range of shades, polygel colors can also be combined or mixed with gel polish to achieve the perfect tone. Once the color(s), design, and shape are in place, your tech will set them with a UV or LED light.

What materials are needed for applying polygel nails?

Polygel is specially formulated and requires no complicated measuring, dangerous chemicals, or hard-to-find materials. Here’s what a nail Pro will use to apply a set of polygel nails:

  • Polygel comes in a range of shades. One tube is more than enough for a set, but they can also be combined for custom designs and hues.
  • A nail file, buffer, and surface cleaner will help prepare the cuticle, smooth and prep the nail, and even shape the polygel after the first curing.
  • Dual forms or nail forms can be used to form the polygel to your desired shape and length.
  • A spatula or nail plate will help distribute the right amount of polygel on each nail.
  • A small brush can be used to smooth the formula and spread it over a form or into the desired shape.
  • A slip solution will make the application process easier by keeping the polygel from sticking to the brush.
  • A base coat or primer and top coat are needed to give a matte or glossy finish while sealing in the formula.
  • LED lights or UV lamps can be used to cure the nails at two different points — before they’re shaped and after they’re finished.

Although we recommend having nail enhancements installed by a Pro, polygel nails can be installed at home as well. If you’ve done at-home manis in the past, then you probably have most of these items already. Once you’ve got everything you need in place, you’ll be ready to install your polygel nails at home.

items needed for applying polygel nails

How do you apply polygel nails?

To apply polygel nails, you’ll need to prep your natural nails, place and shape the polygel, and cure it under an LED or UV light. Though this nail enhancement is easier than other types to DIY at home, we recommend seeing a Pro for a gorgeous custom look. When you get your manicure done by a knowledgeable nail tech, you’re less likely to experience breakage or damage to your natural nails and can even get tips for maintenance and at-home manis.

Whether you decide to apply the polygel yourself or see a nail tech, there are several common application techniques to consider.

Full polygel set

With a full set, the polygel will be overlayed on top of your natural nails. Since polygel doesn’t set until it’s cured, your tech will have plenty of time to sculpt and get the nails just right before curing. No matter what type of manicure you choose, here’s what you can expect from your polygel installation:

  1. Your tech will start by prepping your nails and cuticles. 
  2. Once your nails are ready, they’ll apply a dehydrator or base coat and cure it.
  3. Next, the tech will start applying and shaping the polygel.
  4. Once the polygel has been shaped, it’s cured again for around one minute.
  5. After they’ve been cured, the nails will be more finely shaped and cleaned before the top coat is applied.
  6. With the top coat in place, the polygel nails are cured one more time and then wiped clean.

The process is fairly similar to acrylic and gel nail installation. But with a full polygel set, you can expect an unparallelled balance of customization and durability.

Polygel extensions

Polygel is also a great option for nail extensions. Your tech will use a nail form so they can sculpt it into just the right shape and length prior to curing. The rest of the nail prep and finishing process will be identical to the full set process listed above.

Fills

If you’ve had an acrylic fill, then you have a good idea of what a polygel fill will be like. Your tech will file down the existing polygel nail and then fill in the gap around your cuticles. They’ll then do some final sculpting and curing for a polished finish. You can repeat this process every few weeks as needed until your nail Pro advises a new set.

How much do polygel nails cost?

Polygel nails can cost between $60 and $150 for a full set. Fills tend to run between $45 and $80. The price range will vary depending on the salon’s reputation, the tech’s experience, the complexity of the design, the services you get, and your location.

Polygel vs. acrylic vs. gel nails

Is polygel better than acrylic or gel? If you’re new to nail enhancements, you may not be aware of the differences between these three options. That’s OK! They can all be used similarly for fills, overlays, and extensions. They can also be sculpted and designed for styles ranging from a classic French manicure to a dazzling, one-of-a-kind work of art. Here’s what sets each of them apart:

  • Polygel nails offer the best combination of strength, weight, ease of application, and versatility. They require no monomers or harsh chemicals and are cured by UV or LED lights.
  • Acrylic nails are renowned for their strength, but they’re also the heaviest of the three options. These are made from an acrylic powder called a monomer, which is known to release a “dust” with a strong scent.
  • Gel nails are the thinnest of the three options and aren’t quite as light as polygel nails. They’re more malleable than acrylic nails, but not quite as sturdy.
polygel vs acrylic vs gel nails

How long do polygel nails last?

Polygel nails can last up to four weeks before they need a fill, depending on their length and how well you care for them. When applied properly, polygel nails are exceptionally strong. 

If they do break, you may be able to fix them yourself. However, it’s always safer to return to your nail tech. And here’s a pro tip: By choosing natural colors for your enhancements, your regrowth will look more subtle between fills.

How can I remove polygel nails?

Polygel can be removed by a combination of soaking and filing. To prevent damage to your natural nails, polygel nails should be removed by a Pro by: 

  • Soaking in acetone using cotton and nail clips
  • Filing and buffing down to the natural nail
  • E-filing the length as much as possible

After having your polygel nails removed, remember to apply some cuticle oil, follow care recommendations from a dermatologist, and give your nails a little TLC. Try to give them some time to recover before having a new set installed.

Is polygel bad for your nails?

Polygel shouldn’t damage your nails if it’s applied and removed properly by a Pro. This is especially true if you practice proper upkeep between manis. If you’re sensitive to harsh chemicals, polygel may be even safer than gel and acrylic due to its simple, monomer-free application process. 

Most cases of damage come from people not following necessary precautions during DIY jobs. Since this is a relatively new technique, it may be hard to find nail techs with experience using polygel. Check reviews before you go to a salon to make sure past clients have had good experiences first.

Why do my polygel nails pop off?

person fililng nails

Your polygel nails may have popped off due to bending, insufficient drying, excessive application, or improper installation. Polygel is very strong and should stay in place for weeks, so the problem either stems from application issues, post-install damage, or both.


When you’re ready for a mani, count on polygel nails for a durable, versatile alternative to gel and acrylic nails. For any type of nail enhancement, we always recommend finding an experienced local Pro to ensure safe, long-lasting installation and eye-catching results. They’ll also be able to advise you on proper upkeep so you can keep your nails looking fresh for as long as possible.