There are key differences between soak-off and regular gels that every nail tech should know about before performing the service.

It’s a common misconception that soak-off gels, which come off by soaking the nails in acetone rather than using a buffer, can be applied just like polish, says LCN’s director of education Somer Downes. “You really need a layer of another product underneath. Otherwise, you’ll be filing off the natural nail later.”

Before applying soak-off gels, techs should still prep and lightly buff the nail. Make sure the colored gels you’re using are soak-off because some manufacturer product lines have both types.

Though the quality might be less, “clients and techs like the soak-off gels because it’s more of a quick fix,” adds Downes. Soak-off gels last about one to two weeks longer (without chipping) than regular polishes, but not as long as the full-service regular gels, which can last until you file them off.

Erick Westcott, CEO of Gelousy Gel Nail Systems, also reminds that soak-off gels can soak off faster when first scored by a light-grit file. “You can get the gels to soak off a little faster by taking a 100-grit file and scratching the top of the nail with a couple swipes before you soak,” Westcott says. “It’s like scoring wallpaper before taking it off.”

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