How to do a French Manicure with Gel Polish: A Beginners Guide

The French manicure exudes a classy and elegant look without doing too much. If you're interested in trying a different approach with your gel polish and want to achieve the timeless French manicure, but unsure of how to go about it, we’ve got you!

In just a few minutes, you'll be able to master this technique. Read on for valuable insights and tips tailored for beginners.

how to do a French manicure

1. Prep your nails.

To begin, start with bare and unpolished nails. Ensuring they are properly prepped for gel manicures is crucial for their longevity. Gather all the necessary supplies before proceeding with this process.

Here's how to go about the prepping process: Apply cuticle softener and let it sit for 10-15 seconds. Use a cuticle pusher to gently push back the cuticles, and carefully get rid of any stubborn bits with cuticle scissors or nippers. Pushing back the cuticles reveals the maximum amount of available "nail estate," allowing your manicure to last longer before it begins to appear overgrown.

Nail preparation process

Apply nail cleanser to a lint-free cloth afterwards and thoroughly cleanse the nails, ensuring the entire nail surface is cleaned. Be meticulous in cleaning around the sides in the lateral folds and against the cuticle. Clean the free surface and the underside of the nails if they are long enough. Any residue, such as oil, filed nail powder, or old polish, can diminish the adhesion of the gel and impact its longevity. Avoid washing your hands, as many soaps contain moisturizers that can affect adhesion.

The next step involves filing the nails. It is crucial to file the nails instead of clipping them, as clipping can compress the C-curve and lead to the formation of very fine cracks. While these cracks may not be visible, they create areas of increased stress, making splits more likely. If there is a substantial amount of growth to remove, start with a coarser file but always finish with a very fine file to achieve a smooth surface. Japanese files are perfect for the job!

Make sure to go underneath the nails with something sharp after filing to get all the wee bits that may have landed underneath the free edge when you filed it, because that will make your gel polish manicure chip very easily if you don’t remove those first.

Gel adheres best to a textured surface, and it may peel if the finish is too glossy. Use a buffer block to gently buff the nail plate and remove shininess. If it's your first gel manicure, buff the entire surface. However, if you've just removed gel, only buff the new growth. Avoid over-buffing, as a thin nail plate is more susceptible to breakage.

base coat for French manicure

1. Apply Base Coat.

 Apply a thin layer of the base coat by starting with the brush in the center of the nail. It's crucial not to begin too close to the cuticle, as a saturated brush may lead to flooding the cuticle. Maintain a thin gap between the edge of the polish and the cuticle.

Applying polish too close to the cuticle can result in separation as the nail plate grows, causing the polish to lift. This lifting may create a jagged, uneven edge that is more prone to catching on things, further exacerbating the lifting issue.

Ensure that the base coat is applied sparingly, and after application, cap the free edges. For extremely short nails, cap the free edge (tips of the nails) by approaching it from behind. Gently push the brush up over the edge, and as you drag it back, allow some polish to cover the free edge and it is capped. Then cure for 30 seconds.

apply a neutral for your french manicure

1. Apply a neutral shade.

Apply a translucent polish afterward. You don’t want to go in with the white polish immediately after the base coat to prevent spreading and bleeding over the base coat. After applying the gel polish, cap the free edges, and cure it afterward.

apply the white nail polish

1. Apply the white polish.


For extremely short nails, use a dotting tool dipped in polish. Start at the middle of the free edge and move across, avoiding excessive use to prevent thickness issues that may affect curing. Ensure the free edges are capped. Similarly, for slightly longer nails, use the dotting tool across the smile line.

For longer natural nails or extensions, use the dotting tool along the smile line and, with the gel polish brush, remove most of the polish and apply it from the line to the free edge. Use gentle strokes for light colours. Shorter nails may not require an additional coat, but longer ones probably will. Let it set for a few seconds and cure.

If you make a mess during the process, take a flat angled brush, dip it in a bit of isopropyl alcohol on a lint-free wipe. Ensure the brush is not too wet. Use the short side of the brush to clean up any mess.

french manicure done

1. Apply top coat.

Apply the top coat in the same manner as you would a base coat to ensure even coverage and achieve perfect finishing touches. Following that, use a cleanser to remove any inhibition layer and other residues from the process.

Your nails may feel dry afterward, but don't worry. Grab a cuticle oil, preferably one with jojoba extracts, and pour it onto the skin above the nails. Massage it into the nails, and voila! Enjoy the finished look.

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