The Ultimate Guide to Gel Tips: Learn Refilling, Removal, and More 

What’s the Purpose of Refilling Gel Tips?

The purpose of gel tip fills is to maintain healthy nails and an aesthetic look. After getting a gel nail extension, the natural nail continues to grow, causing the gel tip to move away from the cuticle area. This then creates a noticeable gap between the gel tip and the cuticle area. 

If gel tips go a long period of time with no fills, this can cause damage to the nail plate as the weight of the gel tip pushes against the weaker area of the nail. The old gel tip is removed and replaced with a new extension during a refill, and the client may have the chance to change the length, shape, and color of the gel tip. 

Replacing gel tips will also allow you to remove any old product from the nail plate and prep it for the new application. This helps prevent lifting, infections, and more. However, high-quality electric nail file bits are a must to prep the nail properly.

How to Remove Gel Tips

Step 1: Remove the Soft Gel Tip 

We highly recommend using the T-rex bit for removing soft gel tips. You’ll want to run at around 25,000 RPM, and start shaving down the free edge. (Note: You don’t want to use this bit on the natural nail, so be careful to not catch your client’s fingertips during the process). Remove as much of the tip as possible, and then soak off what’s remaining. 

Step 2: Soak off the Soft Gel Tip 

Use acetone to soak off what’s left of the soft gel tip, and soak the nail until it develops a gooey-like consistency (this should take less than 10 minutes). 

Step 3: Remove Remaining Product 

After soaking the nail, you’ll then want to take your diamond barrel bit to exfoliate off the remaining soft gel tip. Run this bit at around 10,000 RPM and run it parallel to the nail plate. 

Step 4: Shape the Free Edge

To shape the free edge, take the Boss Lady diamond hand file and smooth it out. It is OK to file back and forth - this file leaves a smooth finish without frayed pieces of nail. Remove debris with alcohol and a nylon brush. 

Step 5: Begin Cuticle Work

Start with the medium Micro Taper diamond bit at around 10,000 RPM. (Note: When you’re working from left to right, put your electric nail file in the reverse direction. If you’re working from right to left, put your electric nail file in the forward direction – Make sure your electric nail file is completely stopped before switching directions). Remove debris with alcohol and a nylon brush.


Before and after of soft gel tip manicure with T-Rex carbide nail bit

How to Rebalance/Fill Gel Tips

Step 1: Remove the Color

During a gel tip fill, you have the option to rebalance the nails without adding a new soft gel tip. In this case, you’re going to use the sanding band to only remove the color. Run the bit at around 15,000 RPM. 

Step 2: Apply Structured Gel

Start with a very thin layer of a structured gel and map out the area where you want the gel to settle. Don't cure this layer. Now apply a bead of structured gel near the cuticle, and sweep the brush back and forth in a U shape down the nail until you reach the free edge. Cure according the the gel manufacturer's directions.

Step 2: Apply Color + Top Coat

Start your brush near the cuticle and pull down. Use a detail brush near the cuticle for an even closer color application. Cure. Usually you'll want to apply 2 layers of color before applying 1 layer of top coat.

Watch these steps in action in my Gel Tip Refill demo here: 

Troubleshooting Soft Gel Tips

Troubleshooting soft gel tips is the process of identifying problems, and taking the time to fix those problems. These may include:

  • Flooding 
  • Not enough product
  • Soft gel tip is too long 

#1 Flooding

Flooding occurs when there is too much product. It can occur either underneath the free edge of the gel tip or in the sidewalls. 

  • Step 1: If the product underneath the nail is still wet, wipe the excess amount with a brush. If the product is already cured, use the under nail cleaner bit.

  • When using the under nail cleaner bit, pull back the fingertip to find the hyponychium – Avoid cutting the client. Run at around 20,000 RPM and carve out the existing product. 

  • Step 2: If there is cured gel in the nail sidewalls, take the uh-oh bit and run it at around 12,000 - 15,000 RPM. Lightly tap out the product until it releases from the nail plate or lateral fold. 

  • If you’re working on the left side, make sure that your electric nail file is in the forward direction. If you’re working on the right side, make sure that your electric nail file is in the reverse direction.


    #2 Not Enough Product

    It can be frustrating finishing a soft gel tip to find out that you did not apply enough product underneath. That’s okay, all you need to do is add more. 

  • Step 1: Take a non-wipe top coat and push it back into the nail.

  • Step 2: Cure the product. 

  • #3 Soft Gel Tip is Too Long

    There’s times that a client may want a shorter soft gel tip. Instead of applying a whole new tip, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Take your sanding band, and start trimming down the length.

  • Step 2: Smooth the nail edge with a medium diamond hand file. 

  • Step 3: Prep the cuticle area with the medium Micro Taper diamond bit. Remember to remove any product lifting. 

  • Step 4: Spray the nail with 70%+ alcohol and use a nylon brush to remove debris. 

  • Step 5: If needed, remove any overgrown cuticle with your cuticle nippers.

  • Step 6: Apply new structured gel and gel color on top of the soft gel tip.

  • Watch these tips in my YouTube tutorial here!



    Become a soft gel tip pro by following these steps. Remember to not rush and provide your clients with high-quality services. If you’re interested in more nail education, check out Erica's ATA YouTube channel here

    March 28, 2023 — Erica Schlabach

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