How to Apply Gelish Polish {french manicure}

Gel nail polish is super popular these days and for good reason.  It’s longer lasting than regular nail polish, it’s more durable than regular polish and it’s easier on the nails than acrylic.  Plus, if you have the right supplies and equipment you can apply gel polish at home and save yourself a ton of money at the nail salon.

I first tried gel polish at the nail salon about 6 months ago and fell in love with it.  For the first time I was able to keep polish on my nails without chipping for more than a day (it lasted almost 2 weeks).  The only draw back?  It was $40.

For about $100, my husband bought me a gel system so that I could do my nails at home, and I LOVE it.  I do both my finger nails and toe nails and my investment has totally paid of.  He bought all of my supplies on Amazon (but you can find them many places on-line), including the UV light to cure the polish, the Gelish starter kit, a few Gelish nail colors and a nail brush kit. (Gelish is the brand I have, but you can use any of the shellac/gel/UV curved nail polish brands out there)

When I first got my kit, I wasn’t sure exactly how to apply my polish, so here’s step-by-step instructions on how to apply the polish for a french manicure!

How to apply Gelish Nail Polish

Step 1:  Shape nails with nail file

Step 2:  Clean nails with the Nail Surface Cleanser.  You DO NOT need to buff or “rough up” your nails to get the gel to stick!  Just put the cleanser on a cotton ball and rub on nail.

Step 3:  Apply Ph bond to entire nail.  Don’t worry when this evaporates quickly.  It’s just rubbing alcohol.

Step 4:  Apply Foundation to nail.  This tends to be a little thick, so make sure you apply evenly.

Step 5:  Cure Foundation under UV light for 2 minutes.

Step 6:  Apply white polish to tips of nails.  Dip nail brush in nail polish remover and then swipe along nail line to clean up line from nail bed to nail growth. (If you were not doing a french manicure and just painting a solid color, this is where you’d paint the solid color.  If it’s a dark color, it needs to cure for 3 minutes!)

Step 7:  Cure white tips under UV light for 2 minutes.

Step 8:  Apply light pink polish to entire nail.

Step 9:  Cure light pink polish under UV light for 2 minutes. (you can do two coats of light pink, but I prefer just one as two coats seem a little thick to me.)

Step 10:  Apply top coat to nail.

Step 11:  Cure top coat under UV light for 3 minutes.

Step 12:  Using cotton ball, clean nail with Nail Surface Cleanser.

To Remove Gel Nail Polish

You can remove gel nail polish using artificial nail remover solution, cotton balls and aluminum foil.  Basically, you, saturate a cotton ball with the solution, place it on top of the nail, wrap it in foil and let it sit for 5 minutes.  It dissolves the polish and you can sort of scrap it off.  However, I’ve never removed my polish that way.  I usually peel it off.  Oops.  Did I just say that?  I don’t think you are supposed to peel the polish off.  But I do.

Other How to Beauty Posts:


About Angie

Angie is a CRAFT dabbling, recipe making, WORD loving, sunshine hording, book DEVOURING, Mama to a lot! She's kind of in love with Instagram right now, so if you want her attention, go find here there. {smiling}


  1. I LOVE this Angie.
    I never knew about this.
    This is something I could manage.

    • I love it because it stays on. I do too much with my hands to be able to keep traditional polish on and don’t like acrylic, so this is perfect. The fact that I can do it at home is so nice and pedicures, even better. It lasts like 3 weeks!

      • Jennifer Hoffman says

        Thank you so much for this information. I am a nurse and my hands are always in water. I think this gelish will be perfect. I also prefer French manicure style nails. My patients want a “clean” and demure nurse coming at them instead of fire engine red fingers. My first attempt at this gelish, resulted in a messy white tips. So thank you for the tip about using a brush with remover to straighten up my tips. I appreciate your entire article about gelish.

  2. You are amazing. I just had my nails done recently for a ball we went to and I thought about picking up the supplies for doing this at home. I had them redone yesterday for a wedding I’m going to this weekend and thought to myself, I REALLY need to look into doing this myself….now I know how much it will cost…and WELL worth it. I could have paid for this in these two visits! Done. Doing it. And I’m totally pinning this.

  3. Is this like the Shellac polish or is it regular gel?

    I’ve done both at the salon and love it! I like that hour that I get when I go in every other week or so. It’s me time!

  4. I really would love to invest in this! I LOVE the gel color. My nails sound like yours, one day (two if I don’t take a shower) and my polish chips right off. This even only lasts about a week before it starts on me, but I’ll take it!! LOL
    And for the record, I have peeled mine off every time too (Shhhhh we wo’t tell!) LOL

  5. Please tell me the specifics about the UV light you have to accomodate toes as well as fingers?

  6. When you say pink polish are you actually using regular pink polish or a gel polish…just wondering if I could mix the 2.


  7. betty Lou cox says

    I really lke the way Gelish stays on. I bough abunch so we can do nails at our family rerunion. it will be fun to see designs that the grls can do on each other using their artstic abilites. Trish that did my nails june26th did them a beatiful red putting blue on them and a starwih some stripes. forJuly 4h. loved them. didn’ have them redone utilJuly 30th.they stay nice for so long, Had many compliment on tem

  8. Hi,
    I’m about to go overseas for a year-long deployment and will need to get an at-home system set up so I can do gel French manicures myself.
    I was wondering what specific brands and colors you are using? I’m looking at some Gelish products online, but don’t want to accidentally end up with a pearly white (when I want a solid white for the tips) or a solid pink (when I want a sheer pink for the French manicure).
    Also, what specific products are you using for the cleanser, ph bond, foundation, and top coat? I’d rather know now so I don’t find out the hard way when I’m deployed and can’t get replacements.
    Many thanks!

    • Hi Christine,
      I use Gelish polish. My white is Snow Bunny and pink is Little Princess.

      This is the starter kit I’ve been using all year:

    • Hi there

      I have been using gelish for about 3 months. Yes I am a peeler too. Mine don’t chip ..they just
      lift at the sides so I wet my nails (like do dishes without gloves) and gently lift up the peeling
      parts and keep slowly lifting until the entire thing comes off). I do not file my nails either.
      They have become softer since i have been wearing it so I am hoping the horizontal cracking
      will stop. As far as the colours go ..I use Arctic Freeze (that is the whitest .. i had same problem
      with yellowish white) and for the pink ii use Simple Sheer 2 coats. So you clean you nails with
      the cleanser, apply the ph bond, then the foundation and cure (I use the Gelish lamp LED
      only cures for 1 min per layer on a timer there is no guessing) , then i do two coat of the Simple Sheer
      (cure between coats), then two layers of the Arctic Freeze just at tips cause i do French) and
      then the Top It Off .cure again and wipe (i use kleenex) with the cleanser and you are done.
      Good luck .. it takes a bit to make a nice line but i am getting better at it. I use a nail oil as well
      and rub it in all over the nails and cuticles about 2 times per day and also moisturize your hands
      when you wash them. It keeps everything looking like you just put it on. Mine don’t last two weeks
      cause i type all day and use a calculator but it is still way better than regular nail polish. I normally
      fix one nail or two at a time as they start to lift. I don’t ever do all ten at once as some many not
      need it.

      • The reason your nails are getting soft could have something to do with the fact that you are peeling off the gel polish. I am a nail technician and can tell you that you are removing a layer of nail everytime you peel off the gel. Remove it properly to protect your nails.

        • I have been using the gelish polish with a cnd light. I am also one that has issues with the polish sheeting off only a day or so after it being on. I can not go into dish water without wearing gloves. I have been trying to do very thin layer and stay away from the cuticle .This has helped some I am able to get almost a week out of my manicure. Any other suggestions to try to get this to stay on longer I would love to hear.

  9. I love the Gelish polishes, I have been doing it for about a year! My job made it impossible to use regular nail polish and have it stay on more than 2-3 days. The Gelish polish stays on my nails for at least a week and a half and my nails don’t break or split when I keep them polished! I recommend the UV light which is much faster as far as the curing process goes.

  10. How did your husband know what supplies to buy? I find that amazing

  11. Please show us the outcome of your right hand. In all gel tutorials ive come across people only show their left hand because as righties it’s so much easier to do the left hand. This is why I can’t do the French. Left hand looks great, right hand looks like I did it myself and not the salon!

  12. Ok ladies. I love that more of you are discovering Gelish by Harmony. GELISH and Shellac are similar… although if used incorrectly you can cause damage w both. I am a nail technician and have been using Gelish at my spa for two yrs. I love it because it is 100% safe to the natural nail and looks great for 14-21days. Totally depends on you though. How fast your nails grow, french or all over darker colors, your activities & products you use daily. I will say that the timing for setting/curing gel depends on your LED light. NEVER peel it off! You absolutely are going to damage the nail and make them weak and thin. Always deydrate nail before useing foundation gel. And as for the cleansers scrub fresh by CND works great. Also..I wipe of tacky layer of foundation before applying color. Use lint free wipe..paper towel is best. Lint free wipes are not truly lint free. Happy Gelling!

  13. Thank you for useful info. Why does the white polish pull away from the front of my tips before I cure them?

  14. I bought my Gelish set almost 2 years ago. And I LOVE it!! It is definitely worth the investment!!

  15. More info about DIY Gelish for beginners:

  16. My daughter just started using Gelish nails at my Scrapbooking Retreat in Seaforth Ontario she is a esthetician and the girls love getting their nails done when they are here

  17. so I have a question I bought the kit to gel polish my nails but can’t seen to stop them from peeling off is there something I’m doing wrong?