Can I Paint Over Gel Nail Polish? What You Should Know

What do you do if your gel nails have chipped just before a big night out? Can you paint over gel nail polish to minimize the damage? The answer is yes and this article will show you just how to do it.

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In short, yes you can paint over gel nail polish for any reason with any type of polish. Make sure to follow the instructions for the nail polish you use.

What Is A Gel Manicure?

As the name implies, a gel manicure is a layer of gel that is applied to your nails and then cured. The biggest difference between a gel manicure and other styles is the fact that it uses UV light to harden the polish. 

Another difference is durability. Gel nail polishes are much harder than regular nail polishes.

This allows them to last much longer without chipping though it can happen. It also means that taking them off is a little more complicated. 

Shellac polish also uses UV light to cure. However, it is a gel hybrid with traditional polish. It shares many properties with gel polish but is typically less durable.

What’s The Difference Between A Gel Manicure And An Acrylic Manicure?

Naturally, gel manicures aren’t the only style more durable than traditional polish. 

Acrylic manicures are also rather long-lasting. With that said, there are plenty of differences between a gel and an acrylic manicure. 

Gel ManicureAcrylic Manicure
Uses UV lightX
Air driesX
Used for extensions
Strong chemical smellX

Unlike gel manicures, acrylics can air dry. They do not need UV light to harden. 

This can make drying times longer depending on how thick the coats are. However, it also means that the nails can start drying immediately whereas gel won’t cure until exposed to UV light.

The application process contains another difference in the form of smell. When the ingredients for acrylic polish are mixed together there is a strong chemical smell. 

For many, this smell is the worst part of getting an acrylic manicure. Gel polish does not create this smell.

Once applied, there are further differences. Gel nail polish is more flexible than acrylic. This makes gel nails slightly more forgiving when you catch them on something. 

Where an acrylic manicure might catch and pull up the natural nail, a gel manicure might have just enough give to avoid pulling up the natural nail.

Last are the differences in removal. Acrylic nail polish is more porous and can more easily soak off with acetone. Gel manicures on the other hand tend to be less porous. 

They can still be soaked off with acetone but some filing is required.

Can You Paint Over Gel Nails?

Close up image of a woman's hands with a beige colored manicure.

When you have gel nails you won’t have to worry about chipping as much as if you had regular nail polish on. That said, accidents can happen. 

Not only that, but they often happen at the worst time. When you don’t have time to remove and redo your gel nails, you can paint over them.

What you use depends on what you have at home, but you can use pretty much whatever you want.

You just have to be careful when applying the new layer or spot fix. Alternatively, you can paint over gel nails to do your own nail art. 

Painting over gel nails has a few general drawbacks. Namely that if you do it too much, your nails will look very bulky. 

Not to mention it might feel weird. In addition to appearance, if you use a different polish you will have to use different removal processes.

Can I Paint Over Gel Nail Polish With Another Gel Polish?

If you want to paint over gel nail polish with another gel polish you can certainly do so. 

This will ensure that even if you use two different gel polishes they will still match fairly well. You still need to follow all of the normal instructions when applying the new gel polish.

However, there is one drawback specific to using gel polish on gel nails. If you are only fixing a specific spot you may over-cure the rest of the nail. 

Since gel polish only hardens with exposure to UV light you will have to expose both the old and new polish.

Over-cured gel nail polish can be harder to remove, more brittle, less glossy, discolored, or all of the above. For this reason, it is best to apply a new layer to all of the old polish.

Additionally, you will be exposing your skin to more UV light as well as the gel polish. While the exposure from a UV or LED lamp is relatively small it is always best to minimize it as much as you can.

Wear fingerless gloves or sunscreen when curing gel nail polish.

How To Paint Over Gel Nail Polish With Gel Polish

Whether you need to repair a small area, add your nail art, or repair the entire nail, here is the best way to do so. Let’s go over how to paint over gel nails and what you’ll need.


  • Gel nail polish
  • Gel top coat
  • UV or LED lamp
  • Nail file
  • Buffing tool


  1. Start by buffing off the top coat of the nail(s) that need a refresh. Afterward, the nail should not be shiny.
  2. If your nails have grown enough this is a great time to file down the edge of your nails. Make sure not to file your natural nail.
  3. Paint over the old gel with a fresh coat of color. Make sure to avoid your cuticles.
  4. Cure the new layer according to the time requirements for that gel polish.
  5. Add another layer as needed and repeat. This is only required if the single layer of color is not enough.
  6. Apply a new top coat of gel polish.
  7. Cure the top coat according to the time requirements.
  8. If a tacky layer is left behind, clean it with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.

That’s all there is to it. Since you’re painting over an old gel manicure you’ll need to do your best to cover all of it or it will look messy. If you’re retouching with the same color this is less important.

Can I Paint Over Gel Nail Polish With Regular Nail Polish?

A bird's eye view of a nail artist holding another woman's hand while painting her nails.

If you don’t have gel polish or don’t want to use it, you can use regular nail polish to paint over gel polish. 

Since the polishes are two different types they may look different when finished. 

When spot-fixing, do your best to pick a regular polish that matches the aesthetic of the gel polish. If you are painting over the entire gel manicure you won’t have to worry as much. 

Instead, you’ll have to make sure that you completely cover the gel.

As mentioned above, you will have two different removal processes for the gel and the traditional polish. 

Since most hard gel polishes require filing before soaking in acetone you may have to remove the regular polish before filing the gel. 

Since you won’t need any UV light you won’t have to worry about over-curing. However, you will have to have the time for air-drying. 

You won’t be able to paint over with regular nail polish at the last minute.

How To Paint Over Gel Nail Polish With Regular Polish

Here’s the best way to paint over gel nails when using regular polish. 

What you will need:

  • Regular nail polish
  • Polish top coat
  • Nail file
  • Buffing tool


  1. Use the buffing tool to remove the top coat of the nail(s) that need repainting.
  2. If you need to, file down the raised edge of the gel nails. Make sure not to file your natural nail.
  3. Apply a coat of regular nail polish.
  4. Wait roughly 2 minutes before applying a new layer.
  5. Repeat steps 3 ; 4 as needed.
  6. Apply the new top coat.
  7. Wait for your nails to dry.

The time it takes for your repainted nails to dry depends on how thick the coats are and the nail polish.

How To Remove Nail Polish That Is A Mix Of Gel And Regular

When you paint over gel nails with more gel polish there won’t be an issue getting it off. But what about when you paint over gel nails with regular nail polish? In this case, you have a few options.

You can remove just the regular nail polish if you want. Maybe you only painted over the gel to change the color.

The important part of removing just the regular nail polish is to use non-acetone nail polish remover.

Acetone will begin to break down the gel polish and will ruin it. Luckily there are plenty of non-acetone options.

Check out our list of the 17 Best Nail Polish Removers In 2022.

If you want to remove both the gel and the regular nail polish you should go with acetone. The best method is to focus on removing the regular nail polish and then removing the gel. 

Start by removing the regular polish as described above. 

Then you can follow these steps:

  1. File off the top layer of the gel.
  2. Soak the gel nails in acetone. You can use a bowl or cotton balls secured by foil.
  3. After 10 to 15 minutes you should be able to scrape off the gel nail polish.

After this, it is best to rub some cuticle oil into your cuticles. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Long Does A Gel Manicure Last?

A gel manicure can last as little as 2 weeks to as long as 5 weeks. It all depends on how well you maintain them and whether you accidentally damage them. That said, some beauty experts recommend removing them after 2 weeks.

How To Prep Your Gel Manicure For A Refresh

Before refreshing your gel manicure you need to clean up the area around the nail. You will need to clean and sanitize your hands. Then you need to push back the cuticles to prepare for a fill-in. After this, you can begin refreshing your manicure.

How Do I Remove Gel Polish At Home?

To remove gel polish at home you will need cotton balls, tin foil, acetone, cuticle oil, and a nail file. Start by protecting your cuticles with some cuticle oil. Next, file off the top layer of the gel polish. 

Then wrap your nails in foil with an acetone-soaked cotton ball on the nail. After soaking for 10 to 15 minutes, remove the foil and scrape away the gel with the file. Additional soaks may be necessary.