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Why Do My Nails Hurt After Getting Gel Nails? [Main Reasons]

If you’ve recently had Gel Nails done and you are experiencing pain then you would like to know why. This way you can prevent it happening again and also look to reduce the pain. But what can cause your nails to hurt?

Having experienced this many times myself, I decided to put in the research to find out the cause. I’d like to share that with you today.

So, why do my nails hurt after getting Gel Nails? Gel Nails can hurt if they have not been applied correctly. This can occur due to incorrect procedure, wrong tools and the type of gel used. However, if it is also possible to experience pain if you are suffering from a nail infection or if your nails are brittle, weak and dry to begin with.

Getting Gel Nails is an exciting and quick way to give your hands a new makeover.

The majority of times, gel nails offer a guaranteed, safe and comfortable couple of weeks of wear.

But this is not always the case as you have discovered yourself. That’s why you are here of course so let’s start to take a look at why this can occur

Why Are My Nails Hurting After Gel Nails?

The truth is, your nails should not hurt after gel nails have been applied.

If they are hurting, something is wrong.

Normally, this is due to an inexperienced nail technician applying the nails incorrectly.

They could be simply not following the right procedure when applying or removing the previous nails. They could be using the wrong tools, the wrong products.

Sometimes you can get pain even after a more experienced technician undertakes your order.

These are just some of the reasons why it is so important to go to a reputable Salon that you can trust and rely on.

However, expertise aside, there are some other factors which may be causing the pain.

Here are some of these reasons that your nails may be hurting after getting gel nails:

Reason #1: Buffing

Your nails contain a smooth, outer shell that is called the plate. This acts like a shield that protects the sensitive nerve endings beneath the nail from exposure to oxygen and other elements that cause pain.

Buffing your nails removes this smooth exterior surface.

Buffing is important to applying gel nails in order to allow the gel to bond to the nail and prevent it from lifting. Applying gel nails directly to nails without buffing simply will not work.

An experienced technician will gently buff the nails (not rough them up), removing as little of the shield as possible. The gel that is applied to the nails should, therefore, not irritate the nerve endings, resulting in pain.

They will also ensure that your nails are clean and dry using a nail dehydrator. This will remove any natural oils in the nail that will also encourage proper bonding.

Reason #2: Infection

It is very important that both you and your nail technician’s hands and nails are clean and sanitized before the application process starts. This is to remove all germs and prevent infection.

If these germs are not removed, they can enter the nail bed through the buffed, porous nail surface resulting in pain and, even worse, infection.

It is also important to ensure that your nail technician does not blow or wipe any dust away with their hands that result from filing or buffing.

This can introduce infection-causing bacteria or germs. It may also result in oils being placed on the nail causing poor bonding.

Poor bonding can result in nails lifting, and this can be painful. A nail primer can reduce the need to buff as well as assist in better bonding.

If you have damaged and weak nails, or fear that you have an infection, thankfully there are a range of treatments on the market you can use. I’ve written about them extensively here.

Reason #3: Gel Layers

Gel nails need to be applied in individual layers, which takes time and patience. The process should never be rushed, resulting in a layer of gel that is way too thick.

You will know if the gel layer is too thick once you place your nails under the UV lamp to dry the gel.

If you feel a hot flash or burning, it means that the gel layers have not been applied properly. Once again, this can result in poor bonding, causing lifting, which can be painful.

Reason #4: Filing Tips

The ideal tip application results in no visible join and no marks from filing the tip to join smoothly with your nail.

Incorrect filing can result in your nail and not just the tip being filed. This causes damage to the plate and the nail resulting in exposure of the nerves and pain.

If you are having tips applied, make sure that the technician is not filing your nail when they are filing the tip.

The damage caused by doing this will be irreparable, and you will need to wait for your nails to grow out again.

Reason #5: Gel Nail Removal

There is only one right way to remove gel nails, and that is by soaking them in a solution containing acetone and gently buffing away the gel layer by layer.

This is a very time-consuming process and can take upwards of 15 minutes to complete.

The soaking solution may irritate the sensitive nerves and roots below the nail bed slightly, and buffing may result in some tenderness.

However, this discomfort should pass soon after the removal process has been completed.

NEVER let your nail technician clip, chip, or scratch away at the gel nails – even if they are using a soak and buff process. This will cause extreme damage to the nail bed and result in pain and discomfort.

A nail technician will only use these techniques to speed up the removal process.

But just like the application process, it is best to be patient and allow the nails to soak off as naturally as possible to cause little to no damage to the nail.

Reason #6: Resting

Our nails are not just a protective coating to protect the nerves, roots, and blood vessels beneath. They also serve to provide oxygen and nutrients to the nail.

Buffing, gel application, and nail varnish all prevent this from happening resulting in weak and brittle nails.

It is recommended to give your nails a rest between gel nail applications or even applying paint for between 4 to 6 weeks between removal and the next application.

Which brings us right back to the start – buffing.

If you do not give your nails time to recover and grow out before your next gel nail application, the buffing process will eat even further into your nail, causing even more pain and discomfort.

It is impossible for even the best nail technician to avoid removing too much nail with repeat buffing. It is also ideal for applying gel nails to strong, healthy nails.

Reason #7: Type of The Gel

Even those who are used to regular manicures are not aware that there are two types of gel nails.

The first is soft gel, which is new to the market and can be easily removed without the need for strict nail disposal or harmful chemicals.

The second is the hard gel that has been used since the 1980s and is known to be impermeable to chemicals such as acetone. Due to their resistance to low to mild solvents, they must be filled.

For this reason it is a good idea to opt for soft gel if you can. While it may be more expensive, or not as freely available, it is preferable especially if you experience pain.


Experiencing pain after getting your Gel Nails done should not occur. If it does, then you know that something is wrong.

Choosing a skilled nail technician who is experienced in applying gel nails is absolutely critical to avoiding pain. This is perhaps the most important thing that you can do.

It is also important to be aware that there are a number of different gel nail systems available and that the instructions for each system may be different and must be followed correctly.

Thankfully, there are a range of gel nail kits that can help you to do your own gel nails at home and give you more control over what, when, and how your gels are applied.