As you may already know, I love my Sally Hansen Gel Nail Polish System. One question that comes up often with gel nails is whether you can use regular polish with the base and top gel coats. I was wondering about it, too, so I decided to do some experimenting.

To cut to the chase, you can use regular polish if you do it correctly, but it’s not quite as awesome as using a gel polish. Let me explain.

First, I tried using the gel base coat, then 2 coats of regular polish, and then the gel top coat. News flash: THIS DID NOT WORK AT ALL. The LED light doesn’t dry the regular polish, and then once the top coat cures and you wipe it, it ends up a crazy mess.

It does work, though, as a reader suggested, if you put on your regular polish and let it dry completely, and then put a base and top coat of gel over the regular polish. It’s kind of like protecting your regular manicure with a layer of secure gel. Paint your nails and let them dry THOROUGHLY before you start in on the gel. I actually let mine dry overnight before I did the gel. And even so, my results weren’t completely as I wanted.

I got some of the wrinkling that we’ve seen before on both my thumbs. I’m not sure why it was localized to my thumbs or if that was just a coincidence. It’s really hard to show the wrinkling in a photo, but here’s my best shot:

gelregpolishSee how there’s that wrinkle in there? It’s small and relatively subtle but not perfect, so it bugged.

This pic was taken about a week into the manicure. It held pretty well but you can see in the corner that I am getting some lifting that I don’t usually get with the gel color (unless I peel it, of course!).

The other part of using the regular polish is that the removal is slightly more difficult. Or perhaps not difficult, just not as clean. It worked better than I expected, but when I removed the polish the traditional gel way (by wrapping my fingers with the acetone and foil), I ended up with a kind of sticky film from the regular polish. I was able to brush it away carefully but sometimes it stuck to my finger and it took some fussing to get it off. The trick is to really let the acetone sit a full 12 – 15 minutes, because if you take it off before the dissolving is completely done it’s an even bigger mess.

So, my final word on this is: you can do a gel manicure with regular colored polish, but it’s not recommended. I probably won’t do it again unless I find some FABULOUS color that I can’t get in the gel polish that I must have.

As a side note, I wanted to try this new YSL regular polish that I saw, so I bought some and used it for this experiment. It was disappointing! The polish is the Tie & Dye Polish:



It looks so cool, and the name is awesome. I thought it was going to be kind of like tie dye or something similarly cool. The look of the product, too, made me think that maybe you could use the middle color layer as a base and then shake it up to get the sparkly-ness. Not so much.

It’s basically a really light, sheer, sparkle coat. Using it alone isn’t really advised because it’s so sheer. I used it with a light pink (something like Essie’s Ballet Slippers, I think), and I wasn’t all that impressed. I bought Pop Coat, which is the pink one, and it was so subtle that it wasn’t worth the $25 or whatever ridiculous amount I shelled out for it.

So, there you go… an impromptu review of the YSL product along with my thoughts on using the gel system with regular polish. Let us know in the comments if you’ve had other experiences using the gel system with a regular color polish!



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  • September 13, 2013, 6:16 am Stephanie@Henry Happened

    This is interested stuff! I haven’t tried gel yet, but I’m pretty sure I would mess it up. So, salon it is, haha!

  • November 30, 2013, 1:40 pm Carole

    Sounds a little complicated to me. I just use one or two coats of regular polish, let dry completely. Put on one coat of gel topcoat. Under the led light for 60 seconds and that’s it. I wonder if putting the basecoat on over the regular polish it what’s making yours wrinkle? Mine have no wrinkles and are just as shiny as using the whole gel system, just not as thick so doesn’t peel as easily. I like that you can get any colour you like and it’s way cheaper than the gel polish.

  • March 2, 2014, 9:05 am Debbie

    I’m trying all ways with the gel kit
    1st way gel base coat , regular nail polish then top gel coat. This way it wrinkled .
    2nd way just put on the regular nail polish and the use the top gel coat , this seems to work better!!
    I am determined to use my reg nail polishes. I have too many to let just sit there, lol

  • October 6, 2014, 8:43 am Belinda

    I have had success with using first regular polish. Using a hair dryer on warm setting to completely dry it. Regular clear top coat & dry it. Then SH gel top coat, but cure it for 1 min. I even used regular and gel colors to make designs then cured before a top coat cure.

  • October 6, 2014, 8:48 am Belinda

    Forgot to mention I wiped with alcohol before applying gel top coat. I love doing my nails now! Before I would only paint my nails a couple times a year because the polish would chip off in a day.

  • November 3, 2014, 5:01 pm Mb

    Loved your review. I’ve gotten six days of no-chip wear by layering two coats of regular nail polish *on top* of a clear gel manicure and finishing with seche vite top coat. It was awesome. The shine dulled a little after a few days but a refresher coat of plain top coat helped. the gel manicure provided a strong smooth base – something I never had with my regular nails. And if you get bored non acetone remover will take off the polish but leave the gel manicure completely intact.

  • January 25, 2015, 3:39 pm Rhoni

    I used the Sally Hansen miracle gel polish ( the one that doesn’t require the light) top coat over an O.P.I polish and it worked pretty well. It had a gel finish but it only lasts about a week, which is still better than a regular manicure.

  • September 2, 2015, 5:35 pm cole

    just got a UV light to try out and picked up some gel polish. Discovered it was too sheer, though, so I had to use regular polish as a base. I was super confused with the wrinkling but glad to see I’m not alone