How to fill or “refresh” your at home gel mani

Hello, gel nail lovers!

I hope you’ve been loving all of these gel nail tutorials I’ve put together for you so far. I’ve gotten a ton of positive feedback so far and I’ve replied to a number of emails regarding questions some readers have had about doing their own gels. My DIY gel nails post is my #1 most popular blog post to date, so thanks for all of the feedback and comments!
To recap, here’s a list of the gel nail tutorials I’ve posted so far:
And now I’m going to tell you about filling, or “refreshing” your gel nails.

So, what exactly is filling?
Filling a term for what they do for acrylic nails when they grow out, where they go and “fill in” the new growth area. You know that area around your cuticles? That’s the new growth of your nail, and it’s obviously lacking polish, gel, acrylic, or whatever it is you use on your nails.
OK. Say you did your own gel manicure at home following my awesome tutorial.
Now say that it’s 1-2 weeks later and your mani is still looking shiny and chip free. 
Except now you have the nail equivalent of “roots.”
You have grow out.
Not cute.

Especially if you have a hot date, a meeting, or just hate staring at grow out.

Normally it would be time to change your gel polish, right?
But why soak off a completely good set of gel nails & start over?

If your nails are still in relatively good condition with minimal chips there’s an easy way to refresh them without removing them and starting over from scratch.

We’re going to basically follow the same instructions I laid out in my DIY Gel Nails post, but we’re going to change our prep work just a bit. If you haven’t read my DIY Gel Nails post yet & are interesting in filling your gels, I highly recommend reading that one first to get all of the detailed step by step directions. This version I’m going over is going to be a quicker step by step and won’t be as in depth, so make sure you’re really familiar with gel nail application before trying a fill.

Need a good gel polish starter kit? Try this one here– it’s the same exact set up I have & love!

  • Apply sunscreen to your hands if using a UV lamp. If you’re using LED, skip it.
  • Trim or file nails to desired length and shape with your 180 grit file. They will probably be long if it’s been a week or two since your original application.
  • Using your cuticle pusher, gently push the cuticles back.
  • Use your file to gently buff off the topcoat of your gel nails, removing all of the shine and blending the line where the gel meets the nail until it’s flush. Then use your buffer to go around the cuticle area & remove all the shine from the natural nail. There should be absolutely zero shine anywhere on the nail. Remember- gel won’t stick to a shiny surface!
  • Remove the dust and oil with an alcohol soaked lint free wipe (I do this twice to be ensure all oils are gone).
You’re now ready to apply the gel product like you normally would.
    • Apply Gelish Foundation to entire nail (sealing the free edge first). Get as close to the cuticle as possible without touching it.
    • Cure for 1 min (UV lamp).
    • Use a clean, dry lint-free wipe to remove the tacky layer (only do this for the Foundation layer)
    • Your nails should now have a glossy look to them.
    • Apply desired number of coats of colored gel nail polish to entire nail. Cure each coat according to instructions. (Example: When I used black I only needed 2 coats for good coverage, and I cured each coat for 3 min under a UV lamp. You may need 2-3 coats depending on the color, and curing times may vary on the brand/color you choose). Note: Gels will be sticky & have a tacky layer even after the colored gel has cured. This is normal. Do not touch or remove this tacky layer yet!
    • Apply Top It Off sealer and cure for 2-3 minutes (UV lamp)
    • Use an alcohol soaked lint-free wipe to remove the tacky layer after Top It Off has cured. Your nails are now completely set!
    Repeat on 2nd hand and you’re done!
    I only recommend filling your nails once or twice and then soaking the entire set off. After you fill them a time or two they tend to get a little thick after the 2nd fill.
    I really love how my nails look and feel after I’ve filled them once. They seem to be the perfect thickness for me and they don’t break or get chipped so I can wear them with a little more length on them.
    If you’re wondering what black I’m wearing in the picture it’s by Sally Hansen. This is the only Sally Hansen gel polish I’ve tried so far and I’m super happy with it. I only tried it because I couldn’t find a black in the Gelish brand I love, and I’d been wanting to try the Sally brand anyway. This stuff stays on! Seriously…I’m pleasantly shocked and surprised at how good it is. I might need to try some more Sally Hansen colors!
    Update: I finally found a black in the Gelish MINI brand. It’s called Black Shadow and I like it much more than the Sally Hansen brand. SH ended up getting a little runny and it takes a lot of coats to get good coverage. I highly recommend Gelish MINI’s Black Shadow, which you can see that I used here.

    Have you ever had a chipped gel nail? Need to repair it?

    Find out how to fix a chipped gel nail!


     Hope you found this tutorial helpful!

    What gel brands have you tried and loved?
    Will you try filling yours?
    As always, please email me with questions and I’d be happy to try to answer them!