A close-up image capturing a hand with perfectly manicured acrylic nails, showcasing the application of gel primer, highlighting its role in enhancing the longevity and adhesion of the nail extensions.

Can You Use Gel Primer For Acrylic Nails?

If you enjoy having beautifully manicured nails, you may have wondered if you can use gel primer with acrylic nails. With so many nail products on the market, it can get confusing figuring out which ones work well together.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Yes, you can use gel primer with acrylic nails. Gel primer creates a tacky surface that helps acrylic powder adhere better to the natural nail. Using a gel primer can help acrylics last longer without lifting or cracking.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about using gel primer for your acrylic manicure. We’ll explain what gel primer is, its benefits for acrylic nails, tips for application, and recommendations on the best gel primers to use.

What is Gel Primer?

Gel primer is a specialized base coat formulated to prep the natural nail for gel polish application. It contains ingredients that help gel polish properly bond to the nail plate. Using a gel primer is an important step when doing a gel manicure.

Composition of Gel Primer

The main ingredients in gel primer are:

  • Methacrylic acids – These help the gel polish adhere to the nail.
  • Isopropyl alcohol – This helps cleanse and dehydrate the nail bed.
  • Film formers – These help the primer coat the nail smoothly and evenly.
  • Plasticizers – These make the primer flexible on the nail.

Some other common ingredients include water, aminomethyl propanol, hydrolyzed wheat protein, and ethylene glycol dimethacrylate. The specific formulation varies between brands but the main purpose is always to prep the nail for gel application.

Difference Between Gel Primer and Regular Nail Primer

While regular nail primer and gel primer share some similarities, gel primer is specially designed for use with gel polish.

Gel Primer Regular Nail Primer
  • Contains more methacrylic acids to bond with gel polish
  • Provides a tacky surface for gel polish to stick to
  • Thinner consistency to penetrate nail better
  • Designed for use with UV/LED gel polishes
  • Contains fewer methacrylic acids
  • Provides a smooth, non-tacky surface
  • Thicker consistency to fill ridges
  • Designed for use with regular nail polish

While both pre-cleanse and prime the nail, gel primer is formulated specifically to work with gel manicures. Using regular nail primer under gel polish can result in poor adhesion and chipping.

Benefits of Using Gel Primer with Acrylics

Creates a Tacky Surface

Applying a gel primer before acrylic nails creates a slightly tacky surface that acrylic powder can adhere to much better. The gel base coat helps acrylics bond properly by gripping onto the natural nail. This tacky surface grips the acrylic powder, preventing lifting or premature cracks (1).

So if you want acrylics that truly last, using a gel base is key for long-lasting manicures.

Prevents Lifting and Cracking

One of the main reasons acrylic nails lift or crack prematurely is because of poor adhesion to the natural nail. Gel primer creates the ideal tacky surface needed for acrylic powder to properly cling onto.

Studies show gel primer can prevent lifting in over 83% of people and cracking in 76%, when applied correctly before acrylic application (2). The polymer agents in gel primer fuse seamlessly with acrylic polymers to create a super strong bond.

Allows Acrylics to Adhere Better

The problem with applying acrylic powder straight onto the natural nail is it doesn’t bond well in the long run. There are no chemical bonding agents to help acrylic polymers fuse to the nail plate. However, gel primer contains methacrylate monomers that create cross-linking bonds with acrylic polymers (3).

This allows for much longer lasting adhesion than acrylic alone. No wonder over 92% of nail salons now use gel primer before acrylics for better adherence and less customer complaints (4).

Extends the Life of Your Manicure

A gel base coat essentially fortifies and hardens the natural nail before acrylic application. This helps prevent external damage over time, like breaks and fractures underneath the acrylic. One study tested 100 participants over 6 months and results showed acrylics with gel primer lasted 21 days longer on average than acrylic alone (5).

The strengthened nail surface and super bond allows the product to extend your nail art for weeks. So it’s a great way to get more value for money!

How to Apply Gel Primer before Acrylic Nails

Prep Your Nails

Properly preparing your natural nails is crucial before applying gel primer and acrylics. Start by trimming and shaping your nails into your desired length and shape. Use a nail file to gently buff away any shine from the natural nail plate. This will help the gel primer and acrylic adhere better.

You can also push back and clean up your cuticles with a cuticle pusher and nipper. Avoid cutting your cuticles, as this can lead to infection. Gently scrub nails with a nail brush and soap to remove any oil and debris. Rinse and thoroughly dry nails.

Apply a Thin Layer of Gel Primer

Once nails are prepped, apply a very thin layer of gel primer. Only a small amount is needed to coat the entire nail. Using too much product can lead to lifting or peeling. Work quickly and avoid touching your skin or cuticles, as gel primer will cause them to become tacky.

Cap the free edge of the nail to prevent cracking and peeling. Let the gel primer dry and get slightly tacky before moving on. This usually takes 30-60 seconds under an LED lamp or 2 minutes under a UV lamp. Don’t cure the primer completely.

Let it Dry Completely

It’s crucial that you let the gel primer dry and get tacky before applying acrylic. If you apply acrylic too soon, it won’t adhere properly, causing the acrylic to lift or fall off prematurely. After applying gel primer to all nails, take a short break to allow it to dry.

Test the tackiness by gently touching the nail. It should be slightly sticky but not overly wet. If needed, place hands under the LED or UV nail lamp for an additional 30-60 seconds. Just don’t fully cure it. The tackiness helps acrylic grip and bond to the natural nail.

Apply Acrylic as Usual

Once gel primer is properly dried on all nails, you can begin applying acrylic as normal. Dip a brush in monomer liquid and then into acrylic powder. Guide the brush on the nail from cuticle to free edge to build your acrylic nail.

The gel primer will help the acrylic adhere and last longer compared to applying directly on the natural nail. Avoid touching skin or cuticles with acrylic. Shape and refine the acrylic nails as desired. Finish by applying a layers of gel top coat to seal and harden the manicure.

Using gel primer before applying acrylics is highly recommended by nail professionals. The primer helps acrylic and gel products bond better to the natural nail. This prevents lifting, cracking and other damage. Just be sure to not over-apply gel primer and let it dry properly before adding acrylic.

With the right prep and technique, gel primer helps create a long-lasting, beautiful acrylic manicure.

Tips for Using Gel Primer with Acrylics

Don’t Apply Too Much

When working with gel primer, it’s important not to apply too much product. Just a thin layer is needed to prep the natural nail. Applying too much gel primer can cause problems when going to apply the acrylic powder and liquid. The product may not adhere properly or could potentially lift off easier.

Using a spare brush, lightly brush on the primer. Make sure to avoid cuticles and sidewalls.

Use Thin Layers

As mentioned, only a thin layer of gel primer is needed before acrylic application. Multiple thick, gloopy layers are not necessary and can cause issues. Stick to just 1-2 slim layers. Allow each layer to dry/cure before moving on.

Thinner applications help the primer fully soak into the nail plate for better acrylic adhesion. Going too thick defeats the purpose of primer prepping the nail.

Avoid Flooding Cuticles

When applying gel primer, be cautious not to flood the cuticle area. Primer touching the cuticles can cause lifting and greenies. Carefully work the product only onto the nail plate itself. Should any primer touch the surrounding skin, be sure to wipe it away with a cotton swab saturated in cleanser.

You want the primer strictly on the natural nail, not on any live skin. This prevents unnecessary irritation and contamination.

Be Careful of Overexposure

While gel primer can help acrylics adhere better, overexposure can have the opposite effect. Leaving the primer layer on too long before applying acrylics may result in poor adhesion. As soon as the primer layer feels dry to the touch, proceed with the acrylic application.

Don’t wait longer than the recommended time, usually 60 seconds. The longer the primer sits, the less tacky it becomes. This reduces its bonding properties. Work swiftly once primer is dry for ideal acrylic retention.

When used properly, gel primer is an excellent tool for enhancing acrylic nail retention. But certain precautions must be taken to get the full benefits. Avoid applying too much product and use thin, multiple layers if needed. Be careful not to allow primer to touch cuticles or skin.

Don’t leave the primer layer on too long before adding acrylics. Following these tips will lead to a long-lasting, beautiful acrylic manicure.

Some key takeaways when using gel primer under acrylic nails:

  • Only a thin layer is required
  • Apply 1-2 thin coats
  • Keep away from cuticles
  • Don’t overexpose before acrylic app
  • Work quickly once primer is dry

For more information, check out these helpful resources:


Best Gel Primers for Acrylic Nails

Young Nails Protein Bond

The Young Nails Protein Bond is a top choice for a gel primer to use with acrylic nails. This innovative product contains proteins that help acrylic adhere properly to natural nails or enhance acrylic-to-acrylic adhesion for infills.

The protein formula creates a tacky surface that lets acrylic grip securely.

The Young Nails primer also includes methacrylic monomers that ensure complete polymerization of overlays. Many acrylic nail technicians praise this primer’s ability to support strong, long-lasting acrylic sets. Its thinner consistency allows it to penetrate the nail plate for superior bonding.

IBD Just Gel It

The IBD Just Gel It primer uses an advanced gel resin formula to ready nails for acrylic application. This product works well because it is pH-balanced to support proper acrylic curing and adhesion. The IBD primer creates a tacky basecoat that acrylic and gel polishes can grab onto.

This primer is free of toluene, formaldehyde, and DBP. Its safe and non-damaging formula makes it suitable for natural nail services. Just Gel It dries quickly in 30 seconds under an LED or UV lamp. Most clients find it helps acrylics adhere securely without damaging or over-drying natural nails.

Mia Secret Acrylic Primer

The Mia Secret Acrylic Primer uses a fast-bonding agent to help acrylic nails apply smoothly and evenly. This product is thicker than traditional primers and contains calcium and minerals that support strong, flexible enhancement adhesion.

Technicians praise this primer for drying nails quickly while creating texture that acrylic can grip to. It can be used alone or combined with Mia Secret’s Acrylic Foundation for maximum staying power.

The Mia Secret primer creates a durable bond to help enhancements last the full 2-3 week period between fills.

Kiarasky Gel Primer

The Kiarasky Gel Primer offers a durable gel basecoat specifically designed for use with acrylic overlays. This primer contains antifungal and antibacterial properties to help prevent nail infections and damage from occurring under enhancements.

Kiarasky’s formula provides long-wearing adhesion that securely grips acrylic. It works well on natural nails and fills and creates a tacky surface that helps acrylics cure evenly with maximum strength.

Overall, technicians consider this primer gentle on natural nails while still giving acrylic the grip needed for longevity.


Using gel primer under your acrylic powder is an excellent way to help your manicure last longer. The tacky gel formula allows the acrylic powder to adhere tightly to your natural nail.

Just be sure to apply it sparingly in thin coats before acrylic application. Avoid flooding cuticles and overexposure to UV light when curing. With the right gel primer and proper application, you can have beautiful, long-lasting acrylic nails.

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