Gel Polish Basics– Everything You Need to Know to Start Your Gel Polish Journey

18 dic 2023

We get it, the world of nail polish can be intimidating. Even for people who grew up watching nail art videos on YouTube, the world of gel polish– especially at home– seems brand new.

Read on to learn the key terms you need to know as you become a gel polish expert.

Gel Nail Polish

Gel nail polishes are painted on just like any nail polish, but each layer of the polish is cured under a nail lamp, meaning your nails are ready to go without waiting ages for them to dry. 

Because of their fast cure time, gel nail polish is a great option if you’re interested in trying nail art or painted designs on top of already cured layers. As gel polish typically lasts 2-3 weeks, they are also great options for people who don’t have time to regularly re-up their manicure.

UV vs. LED Lamps

The difference between UV and LED lamps to cure your nails is the type of light used to cure your nails. LED lamps emit targeted wavelengths as opposed to the broader spectrum of wavelengths given off by UV lamps. SunUV uses targeted 365nm UV wavelengths and 405nm LED wavelengths, in combination with balanced wattages, to be gentle on your skin while also giving a complete cure and locking in color.

SunUV lamps are UV LED and were at the forefront of developing UV LED technology. These lamps have a longer overall life, more curing efficiency, and are more environmentally aware than traditional UV lamps.

Manicure or Pedicure

Manicures refer to a beauty treatment to your hands, while pedicures are for your feet. Many people get both manicures and pedicures and abbreviate them to “mani-pedis”.

Traditionally, both manicures and pedicures involve trimming and shaping the nails, grooming the cuticles, and adding nail polish. Some treatments may also include massages, exfoliation, and nail art, depending on where you go.


Semi-cured gel nails are partially cured and made to be applied like a sticker. Once on your nails you can fully cure them under a nail lamp just like any gel polish.

Many semi-cured gel nails also have designs on them, which means you could have super cute nail art within 30 minutes instead of the hours it usually takes.

Acrylic Nails

While gel nails are a type of acrylic nail as they are not your natural nail, acrylics are distinct from gel nail polish as they do not need to be cured under a nail lamp and instead can be cured by air.

They are a great option if you want your nails to be longer than they currently are, but if you’re looking for a natural-looking manicure with staying power, gel nail polish is going to be more your friend.


Polygel nails are a hybrid option between acrylic nails and gel nail polish. They are more lightweight and flexible than acrylics, are cured under a lamp, and can be applied on top of a natural nail, much like gel polish.


Finally, an easy one! When people refer to lacquer, they are typically just using a different word to mean “nail polish.”


Your cuticle is the thin band of skin on the bottom edge of your nail. Many manicurists will soften and either push back or cut them, although the cuticle protects the rest of the finger from bacteria that could lead to an infection.


If you’ve ever heard squoval, coffin, and stiletto in one sentence, there’s a good chance the person is talking about nails. Squoval in particular refers to nails that are more square-like on the sides but become rounded on the edges. Coffin shaped nails are tall with a flat tip, while stiletto nails are tall with a pointed tip!

Base or Top Coat

Base and Top Coats are the foundation of a good gel manicure. Base coats smooth out ridges in your nail for smooth polish application and help protect your nails from staining. Top coats are a great way to eliminate nail chipping.

With these words in your back pocket, you’re ready for any nail conversations as you start your gel nail journey!