8 Reasons Why Polygel Breaks or Lifts: Tips to Fix & Avoid

Polygel nail enhancements provide lengthy, chip-free wear when applied properly. But nothing’s worse than when your new set starts showing cracks, breaks, or lifting just days after your appointment. While polygel is designed to be durable, there are several reasons it can become damaged prematurely.

To help you know more about this, I’ll break down the 8 most common causes of broken or lifting polygel. I’ll also provide tips on how to repair minor damage at home along with steps to help avoid these issues in the future. With the right application techniques and aftercare, your polygel manicure can go the full three weeks chip-free.

Reasons Why Polygel Breaks or Lifts

1. Insufficient Prep

One of the most common reasons for polygel breakdown is inadequate preparation of the natural nail. Skipping steps like dehydration, etching, or primer can lead to poor product adhesion and lifting around the edges or cuticle area.

How to Fix: Use a nail file to gently scratch the lifted areas to renew surface texture. Re-adhere with small dried beads of polygel or dabs of gel resin. Cure under LED light and gently file smooth.

How to Avoid: Never skip the nail prep steps before polygel application. Ensure nails are fully dehydrated and etched for texture. Apply primer to help the product bond tightly.

2. Incorrect Application Technique

If polygel is applied unevenly or in overly thick layers, the enhancement is prone to cracking or popping off, especially around the edges and sidewalls. Proper application techniques prevent issues.

How to Fix: For small cracks or chips, use polygel to fill in and seal the damaged areas then cure and file smooth. If large chunks release, it’s best to have your nail tech redo them.

How to Avoid: Ensure polygel is applied thin and evenly across the entire nail. Avoid lumping near cuticles or sidewalls. Complete the shaping process gently to prevent pressure cracks.

3. Excess Moisture Exposure

While polygel binds well to the natural nails, moisture is its enemy. Too much water exposure can compromise the bond, leading to swelling, white spots, and lifting.

How to Fix: Use a nail file to gently roughen up bonding layers on lifted sections then re-harden with dried polygel or resin. Avoid excessive water until rebonded smoothly.

How to Avoid: Wear gloves when washing dishes or cleaning. Limit bath time. Thoroughly dry hands after washing. Maintain prim, protected manicures between fills.

4. Insufficient Curing

The polygel layers must fully cure under LED light to gain optimal rigidity and adhesion. Incomplete hardening leaves enhancements soft and vulnerable to damage.

How to Fix: Re-cure lifted sections under LED light for 30 seconds or until hardened. Follow by sealing with resin and curing once more. File gently to smooth.

How to Avoid: Ensure each layer is fully cured before moving onto sculpting or applying the next. Use sufficiently powerful professional LED lamps. Don’t cure too thick of layers at once.

5. Improper Maintenance

Picking, peeling, scrubbing or otherwise breaking the seal of an applied polygel can undermine the structure and cause premature cracking or lifting. Gentle care is essential.

How to Fix: Lightly roughen lifted areas and re-harden with polygel or resin, then file smooth. Resist handling nails roughly, even if imperfections occur. Let your nail tech make repairs.

How to Avoid: Use a light touch when cleaning under nails. Avoid picking at the enhancement edge, even if lifting starts. Use gloves for heavy cleaning or dish washing to prevent moisture damage.

6. Incorrect Fil Removal

When polygel begins to grow out, the product must be properly removed from the new nail growth before fills can be done. Rough removal rips away adhesion.

How to Fix: For small lifted spots, gently roughen the bonding layer and reseal with resin or polygel before curing and smoothing over.

How to Avoid: Never peel, pick, or pry polygel off new growth. Only your nail tech should remove product using proper tools and techniques to avoid pulling on bonded layers.

7. Underlying Layers Compromised

If the natural nail or a bonding base layer becomes damaged, weakened or infected underneath, the polygel will eventually crack or lift even with careful application and wear.

How to Fix: Seek medical help for any infections. For structural issues, the best resolution is to fully remove and start fresh with a new set after nails heal.

How to Avoid: Ensure nails are healthy before application. Use gentle prep methods. Allow nails to breathe between sets. Seek help at first signs of damage or infection like discharge or swelling.

8. Mechanical Damage

Just like natural nails, polygel can crack or break if harshly banged, smashed or bent. The damage may start small but spread over time.

How to Fix: Gently pry or clip off any jagged, broken sections to prevent snagging and further damage. Use polygel or resin to fill gaps then smooth with file.

How to Avoid: Avoid direct blows or pinches to the nail extensions that can cause cracks. Wear gloves for heavy cleaning or manual labor. Mount handles vertically when possible rather than horizontal.

Tips to help prevent polygel from breaking or lifting:

  • Thoroughly dehydrate and etch the natural nail before applying polygel
  • Use primer or bond to help the polygel adhere properly
  • Apply thin, even layers and ensure proper curing between layers
  • Avoid excessive moisture exposure by wearing gloves for wet tasks
  • Be gentle when cleaning under polygel to not compromise the bond
  • Don’t pick at or peel the product if lifting begins – see your nail tech
  • Protect hands from direct blows, pinches, or bangs that can cause cracks
  • Have your nail tech properly remove product from new growth during fills
  • Get repairs or removals done professionally to avoid damage
  • Take occasional breaks between sets to give nails a rest
  • Seek help quickly if you notice any signs of infection like discharge or swelling


By understanding what causes polygel to fail, avoiding those scenarios, and properly addressing minor damage right away, your manicures will stay flawless between professional fills. But at the first signs of infection or major damage, contact your nail salon. The pros can safely assess and fix any issues for beautiful, long-lasting results.

For more nail care tips, check out the blog at Villa Nails blog!

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