Hey Beautiful! This site is reader-supported and we earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site.

With a global pandemic lasting almost two years now, a lot of us not only missed out on working in the office and going to the gym, but when hair and beauty salons shut down so did life for a lot of us. We watched people across the globe go into a meltdown because they couldn’t have a haircut. We saw bowls being used to create fringes, people waxing their own eyebrows off. But for a lot of us, the breaking point was when our manicured nails started to break as well.

Luckily, a lot of us looked into taking on these skills ourselves. And for myself at least, the need to return to a salon is no longer there. With my own UV light and polish collection I have managed to save myself a lot of appointment costs!

However, this does come with its own costs. I owned a lot of regular nail polishes already, but not those compatible for a gel manicure. So, I started experimenting. To be able to use a gel base and top coat with regular nail polish would be life changing and so the experimenting began!

If you have found yourself in a similar predicament, look no further. Today I am going to tell you how you can use your regular colored nail polish to create the perfect gel manicure without those extra salon prices!

Gel Polish vs Regular Polish

The main difference between a gel manicure and a regular manicure is the durability.

The cured polish used for gel manicures means that they can last for up to 3 to 4 weeks without chipping. In many cases, they never chip, they just simply grow out and need to be replaced.

Gel polish also works as great protection for your nails. If applied and removed correctly, gel polish can help build strength and length for your own nails and can take nail biters to a stage of not needing acrylics.

Finally, gel polish is usually applied using a UV lamp. This helps to cure the polish giving it a hard, glossy finish. Regular nail polish can often chip easily and lose that glossy appearance as soon as it begins to dry.

Gel manicures are achieved by applying a base coat, followed by a color coat, and finished by applying a top coat. The UV lamp helps cure these all together to create a really strong finish.

To be able to combine regular polish and gel polish would not only save a lot of money, but would mean that you still achieve that strong, shiny exterior despite the regular polish being used underneath.

MEMEDA Gel Nail Polish, Neutral Gel Polish, Nude Gel Polish, 0.5 fl oz

Can You Use a Regular Nail Polish with a Gel Top Coat or Gel Polishes?

You can in fact finish off your regular nail polish manicure by using a UV gel top coat. This will add resistance to your original nail color and help it to last a lot longer. So a manicure that may normally last a few days can start to last up to two weeks if done correctly.

How is it done correctly? 

Like any manicure, you should start by preparing the nails. You will need to push back the cuticles, file the nails to the desired length and shape, and then clean them by using a cotton pad soaked in rubbing alcohol. This will help create a clean base that the polish can stick to.

Follow the preparation by adding a couple of layers of your desired regular nail polish. A couple of layers will help create a really strong color. It is important to allow the layers to dry before applying the next layer. If you do not, you may be left with brush strokes and uneven application.

Once the color has completely dried – and I mean completely – you can apply your gel top coat. It is best to leave the color to dry for a few hours. If you apply the gel top coat to a regular polish that is even slightly wet then it will begin to shrink and wrinkle up, meaning you will need to start again.

When your nails are dry, add your UV gel top coat and allow it to cure under your UV lamp for the recommended time – this will depend on the brand of top coat and the LED lamp

Finally, finish by wiping off the sticky top layer using rubbing alcohol. This will create a smooth finish and your nails will be ready to go!

UV LED Nail Lamp, SUNUV Gel Nail Light for Nail Polish 48W UV Dryer with 3 Timers SUNone

Using a Gel Top Coat

Benefits of Using a Gel Top Coat

As mentioned, using a gel top coat improves the resistance of your manicure

It will leave them looking fresh, smooth, and glossy and can last up to a few weeks without chipping.

Regular nail polishes, even when applied with a regular top coat, will begin to chip after a few days and will not provide the extra strength to your own nails either, meaning they are more likely to snap. 

Drawbacks of Using a Gel Top Coat

Gel top coats are more expensive and do require the addition of a UV lamp.

If you are willing to invest in a lamp and top coat, it is great to know that this can be used alongside your regular colors.

You will achieve a better outcome overall if you use gel polishes throughout the entire process. However this can get expensive. I would recommend investing in a couple of your favorite colors that you will use more regularly, and then stick to a top coat and regular polish for those one-off occasions. 

Finally, not only does a gel manicure limit the colors you can use, but it is also slightly more difficult to remove. The cured polish means that to remove the gel polish without damaging your nails, you need to allow some time to let your nails soak in the remover before scraping the rest off.

This means that the application is not only more time consuming than regular polish, but the removal is as well. However, when balanced out with how long it lasts, you will probably find yourself spending less time on your nails overall if you work with gel, as you will not need to do it so often.

Can You Use Regular Nail Polish With a Gel Base Coat?

For those who get their nails done, or use a UV lamp at home, you will notice that a gel base coat is necessary. However, unlike a top coat, combining regular polish with gel base coats can actually do more harm than good. 

The purpose of a base coat is to act as a glue between your nail and the polish. This creates a strong bond to the nail plate and then the color coat will cure to the base coat.

This is the case when using a gel color, however using a regular polish will not have the same effect. Gel polishes and regular polishes have a completely different chemical composition and the regular nail polishes will not anchor onto a gel base coat in the same way.

In fact, the regular nail polish color will attach to the gel base coat even less than it would attach to the regular nail plate, meaning it is likely to flake and chip even more easily than if you weren’t to use a base coat at all.

Because of this, it is best to stick to using a regular color, followed by a top coat, unless you are doing the entire manicure using gel polish.

Can you use a regular nail polish with a gel base and gel top coat?

A lot of people, including myself, assumed that sandwiching a regular polish color between the gel base and gel top coat would work just as well as using a gel color in the middle.

Whilst applying a top coat will still help to protect the color, this will not help the fact that a regular polish will not anchor itself to the gel base coat and at the end of the day, this base coat

Will be a waste of polish, and also a waste of time.

For the best outcome, use gel throughout. If this is not an option, scrap the base coat entirely and simply use a regular color followed by a gel top coat!

I have used a number of gel top coats, and gel polishes in general. When it comes to sealing in your color, the best brand I have used is Gelish Top Coat. This applies to base coats and colors as well if you want to do the full work and use gel for each layer.

Gelish Matte & Gloss Duo Top It Off Soak Off Gel Nail Polish Sealer Clear Coat
Buy on Amazon

Gelish is affordable but durable. It is available on Amazon and so it is easy to get your hands on. If you stick to the same brand for colors and a base coat then you are likely to achieve the strongest results. 

As for regular polishes, there are many available. Almost all make-up brands have their own nail polish available. Like anything, the more expensive ones will probably provide a good outcome, but if you are finishing with a gel top coat anyway then this is not so necessary.

It is important to remember that if you are using gel polish, you will need to purchase a UV lamp. These are also easily available on Amazon and in many shops. Depending on how much you want to spend, and how you want to use it, it is best to read the reviews first and make your decisions based on this.

UV LED Nail Lamp, SUNUV Gel Nail Light for Nail Polish 48W UV Dryer with 3 Timers SUNone
Buy on Amazon

Can You Use Regular Nail Polish with a Gel Top Coat: Final Thoughts

For best results, stick to using gel throughout the entire manicure.

If you are short for color and for money, don’t worry too much! Having a clean nail plate and using a regular color on this followed by a gel top coat will still give long-lasting effects.

Avoid using a base coat if you are combining gel with regular polish, as this will prevent it from sticking and you will not be wasting product, but you will need to re-do your nails a lot more often as it will chip.

Follow these simple steps and you will never need another nail appointment again!


How to remove regular nail polish with gel top coat?

You will need to soak some cotton pads in a remover and apply this to your nails with aluminum foil until the gel polish softens and can be scraped off. Clean after with rubbing alcohol. 

Can you cure regular nail polish

You can protect regular nail polish with a gel top coat but it will not cure the same way gel polish does due to a different chemical composition.
Curious about more? Learn if UV light can or cannot cure regular nail polish on our blog.