What Do You Wipe Gel Nails With at the End?

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Discover what you wipe gel nails with at the end and why…

Gel nails are a great type of manicure to have. They are a much better option for the health of your natural nails, they’re long-lasting, and they also have a much more natural look to them compared to other types of manicures. However, gel nails do have a very specific process, and if it is done incorrectly or a step is missed, not only will the manicure not turn outright, but it can be very damaging to your natural nails.

One key step that people get confused about is the end. Prepping the natural nail and applying the gel can be straightforward, but the finishing steps of curing the gel can cause many issues. Most people have one question: What do you wipe gel nails with at the end?

Isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol is used to wipe gel nails at the end, to remove the tacky coating and residue on the base of your nail after curing.

In this post, I’ll be sharing what you wipe gel nails with at the end. I’ll be explaining what the product is and why it is used. I’ll also be sharing useful information surrounding this topic, for example, why this needs to be done and what can be used instead when doing gels. All the information is key tips that can help with applying gel nails and give them a more professional look.

What do you wipe gel nails with at the end?

Once you have applied the gel nail polish, you may have noticed a tacky coating and residue on the base of your nail. It obviously cannot be left like this as it will ruin the finish of your nails even without doing anything, which is highly impractical. In addition to that, the tacky coating makes the manicure look cheap and gives it an unfinished look, which you do not want. 

To remove the residue on your gel nails, they need to be finished with isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol. Applying this will dissolve the tacky layer on your gel nails and reveal the hardened layer. This will also give it a professional look and the desired finish. All you need to do is apply a small amount to a lint-free wipe and simply wipe the nail. There’s no need to hold it down on the nail or do it multiple times; a simple wipe will do the job. 

There are also wipes that are pre-soaked with isopropyl alcohol that you can buy, and again just wipe the nail, and it’ll remove the residue. In addition, you can get gel cleansers, mostly known as nail prep & polish, which is a specific product design for this, and it dissolves the tacky layer on your gels in the exact same way as isopropyl alcohol does. 

Neither of these products harms the manicure or affects your natural nails. The tacky layer needs to be removed, so it is a necessary step and product to use; it will not affect the finish of the nails, nor will it weaken the gel. 

What is the sticky residue on gel nails after curing them?

The sticky residue on gel nails is the layer you get after applying each coat, including the topcoat, once you’ve cured them. The top layer is sticky due to the chemicals in the gel not curing; this is known as the inhibition layer. The chemicals make up the top layer of the gel nails, and the inhibition layer is caused by the oxygen preventing the chemicals from drying properly. The only way to resolve this is to wipe the topcoat layer off.

You may be wondering why this happens if you have to wipe it off anyway, but the reason is that the tacky top layer keeps the other layers of gel bonded in place; it is only the top layer that has this tacky texture. Once you’ve wiped off this layer, the layers underneath are not affected, but it’ll reveal the hardened gel, and once the topcoat is applied and cured properly, it’ll give you the proper finish of gel nails.

Alternative you can use to wipe gel nails with at the end

If you don’t have a gel cleanser or isopropyl alcohol, some alternatives can be used in emergencies. It’s important to note that it is advised to use the products made for this process to get the best results. These items will work, but they aren’t made for this purpose and should only be used when you don’t have access to the actual product.

Acetone-free polish remover

You can use acetone-free polish remover in replacement to achieve the same result; however, you can only use a small amount. If you use too much polish remover, it can potentially weaken your gel manicure, which could result in your nails not lasting very long or easily chipping. It is also essential that the polish remover is acetone-free as an acetone polish remover will remove the tacky layer and the gel too, which we don’t want to happen. To get the best results and a clean finish, use lint-free wipes or cotton pads and wipe the nail in a clean, smooth wipe motion. 


Now, this may seem like a random alternative, but vodka has a high alcohol concentration and will help remove the sticky layer on your gel nails. This one should only be used in serious emergencies when you have no access to anything else or cannot wait; it shouldn’t be something you use regularly. If this is used on your gel nails, be aware that you won’t get the same results as you would with a gel cleanser; as this isn’t the purpose of the product, it may not work. You only want to use a little bit, so it is best to soak a lint-free wipe and then wipe your nails.

Hand sanitiser spray

This is one of the best household items you can use to wipe your gel nails at the end. Other than it also has a high concentration of alcohol, it is probably one of the most accessible alternatives as most people have some in their homes. Again, like the vodka, hand sanitiser spray is not created to wipe off the tacky layer on gel nails, so it won’t be as effective as other products. You may need to spray it a few times for it to work, and there is a risk of it ruining your manicure.

No-wipe topcoat

A no-wipe topcoat is made specifically for gel nails to avoid this final step. Applying this topcoat will cut out the final process of having to remove the residue. This is the most practical alternative, and it is used by many, both professionally and at home. If you don’t have one of these and want to make the process of gel manicures much easier, I would advise investing in one of these. They are slightly more expensive than regular gel topcoats, but it is totally worth it and will make your life much easier.

Do you wipe gel nails between coats?

No, you don’t wipe gel nails between coats. You only need to wipe the top layer of gel nails, as this is the only layer with a tacky coating. As mentioned earlier, the tacky layer keeps the bonded layers in place; this means that the other layers have cured properly and are hardened, so they don’t have this tacky coating. Therefore it is unnecessary for you to wipe gel nails between coats. If you do, it can cause damage to the gel and give the manicure an unfinished look.

How do you know if gel polish is cured?

A great way to know if your gel polish is cured is to look out for signs of under-cured gel. These indications are much easier to notice, so while you get used to curing gel nails having key signs that you don’t want to see will help you get the correct result.

The main signs of under-curing are ‘bubbling’ or peeling of the gel. It’ll look as if there are small dots on the nails; these are air pockets and are the key indicators that the gel hasn’t cured fully.

You’ll also be able to tell if the gel has cured or not when you go to apply the topcoat. When you apply the top coat and the gel sticks to the brush, this is an obvious sign that it hasn’t cured and will still have a tacky, wet texture.


I hope this has been helpful and cleared up a few questions you may have had about gel nails. The final stage of applying a gel manicure and curing it is the most important yet complex stage. It may not go right the first few times, or you may struggle, but once you get used to it, it’ll be very straightforward and give you a professional look.

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