Skip to content
The Chemistry of Gel Polish: How It Works at the Molecular Level

The Chemistry of Gel Polish: How It Works at the Molecular Level

Have you ever wondered what goes into Gel Polish? If you’re reading this you’ve probably applied more than your fair share of gel polish but here at Glitterbels, we understand that a thorough knowledge of the products you use daily is essential. That’s why we wanted to dive into the science behind gel polish and try to shine a more technical light on gel polish and how HEMA-free alternatives work, so let’s dive in. 

What Goes Into Gel Polish?

Gel polish might seem like magic, but it’s all about chemistry. It’s composed of several key ingredients, each playing a crucial role in delivering that perfect, durable manicure your clients love.

Monomers: These are the building blocks of gel polish. They are small molecules that can bond together to form polymers. Common monomers in gel polish include methacrylate and acrylate derivatives.

Oligomers: Oligomers are short chains of monomers. They give the gel polish its thickness and help it to stay put on the nail without running.

Photoinitiators: These are essential for the curing process. When exposed to UV or LED light, photoinitiators absorb the light energy and initiate the polymerisation process, turning the liquid gel into a solid.

Pigments: These provide the colour in gel polish. Pigments are finely ground particles that give the polish its vibrant hues and ensure even coverage.

Additives: These include stabilisers, which help to maintain the shelf life of the product, and plasticisers, which give the gel polish flexibility and prevent it from becoming too brittle.

For a closer look at the specific ingredients check out our collection here

The Curing Process: From Liquid to Solid

When you apply gel polish, it’s in a liquid state, which allows for smooth and even application. However, it’s the curing process that transforms it into the durable, glossy finish we all adore. Here’s what happens during curing:

Light Absorption: When the gel polish is exposed to UV or LED light, the photoinitiators absorb the light energy. This energy absorption is crucial as it activates the photoinitiators.

Activation of Photoinitiators: The absorbed energy causes the photoinitiators to break down into reactive species known as free radicals.

Polymerisation: These free radicals initiate a chain reaction with the monomers and oligomers in the gel polish. This reaction causes the monomers and oligomers to link together, forming long polymer chains. This process is known as polymerisation.

Hardening: As the polymer chains form, the gel polish transitions from a liquid to a solid state. This hardened state is what gives gel polish its durability and resistance to chipping.

HEMA-Free Gel Polish: A Molecular Perspective

HEMA (hydroxyethyl methacrylate) is a common ingredient in many gel polishes. However, it can cause allergic reactions in a very small amount of people. HEMA-free gel polishes offer an alternative for those who a hypersensitive and prone to allergies, without compromising on quality. Here’s how they work:

Alternative Monomers: HEMA-free gel polishes use different monomers that have a lower risk of causing allergic reactions. These monomers are carefully selected to ensure they still provide the same durability and performance as HEMA-based monomers.

Enhanced Oligomers: To compensate for the absence of HEMA, HEMA-free gel polishes often use advanced oligomers that enhance the viscosity and stability of the polish. These oligomers ensure the polish applies smoothly and stays in place during application.

Optimised Photoinitiators: The curing process in HEMA-free gel polish remains similar to traditional gel polish. However, the photoinitiators are often optimised to work effectively with alternative monomers and oligomers, ensuring a thorough and consistent cure.

Balanced Additives: The additives in HEMA-free gel polish are balanced to provide flexibility, stability, and long-lasting wear. This ensures that the final product is just as resilient and glossy as its HEMA-containing counterparts.

Curious about HEMA-free options? Explore our HEMA-free gel polishes to find the perfect match for your clients.

Why Understanding the Chemistry Matters

For nail technicians, understanding the chemistry of gel polish is more than just interesting – it’s essential. Knowing what’s in your products and how they work helps you make informed choices about the best products for you, and your clients. At Glitterbels, we’re committed to providing you with the highest quality products and the knowledge you need to use them with confidence. Whether you’re working with traditional gel polish or exploring HEMA-free options, understanding the chemistry behind these products is key to achieving stunning, long-lasting results. If you want some tips and tricks on gel polish application check out our blog here. And if you want to learn about gel polish application from our award-winning training team check out your options here.