Nail & Harmony Gelish Soak-Off Gel Nail Polish Review and Swatches

Due to the lack of authentic Japanese gel manicures in the Chicago area, UV gel nails have always been one of those things I love but can’t ever get enough of – literally! Which is why I finally decided to splurge on Nail & Harmony’s Gelish, one of the first soak-off gel systems.


Hand & Nail Harmony Gelish Soak-Off Gel System

I got the basics which included:

Gelish pH Bond – to be used prior to application by prepping the nail as a dehydrating step.
Gelish Foundation Base Gel – base coat.
Gelish Soak-off Top It Off Sealer Gel – top coat.
Gelish Structure Clear Gel – a clear gel that can be used on its own or to help strengthen thin, weak nails.
Gelish Gel Cleanser – removes any sticky residue from the gel after you have cured them.



along with 4 Gelish Soak-off Gel Nail Polishes:

Sleek White is a matte white which goes on pretty opaque so you can create the perfect French tip with just 1 coat.
Light Elegant is a nude pink with fine shimmer. It applies semi-sheer and shows up a very light pink that is beautiful as a base.
June Bride is a medium pink with chunky glitter. It is the sheerest out of the bunch and takes at least 2 coats for the pink to show up completely. Katy Perry also wore this color at the Teen Choice Awards in 2010.
Gossip Girl is a hot pink that is loud and super opaque.

Gelish Soak-off Gel Polishes in Sleek White, Light Elegant, Gossip Girl, and June Bride
Gelish Soak Off Gel Polishes in Sleek White, Light Elegant, Gossip Girl, and June Bride

Gelish Sleek White Soak-off Gel Nail Polish
Gelish Sleek White

Gelish Light Elegant Soak-off Gel Nail Polish
Gelish Light Elegant

Gelish June Bride Soak-off Gel Nail Polish
Gelish June Bride

Gelish Gossip Girl Soak-off Gel Nail Polish
Gelish Gossip Girl


The instructions were simple to follow and application was a breeze. Unlike the old school gels like the IBD I had, the Gelish products (except the Structure Clear Gel) all come with a twist cap and brush applicator so you can apply just like regular nail polish. They also apply thinly and evenly and can be cured under both UV and LED lights. The generic 45-watt UV lamp I got from Amazon works great with them.

30 minutes later, I got my first DIY Gelish Soak-Off Gel manicure on both hands. I used Light Elegant as a base and June Bride on the tips.


Wearing Gelish Light Elegant and June Bride


Although the gradation effect I was going for didn’t show up the way I wanted – which by the way, was totally due to my lack of experience – I am still very happy with the results. My nails looked shiny and smooth with zero bubbles, just like what you would get at the salon. The manicure also lasted a good two weeks with no lifting, peeling or chipping and it made my nails stronger and less prone to breakage and biting (thank God!)

Removing the gel was equally painless. Unlike the previous gel manicures I had at various salons, not a bit of filing or prying was required. All I did was soak a cotton pad with acetone, wrap it around my nail, add foil over it, wait 10 minutes and the gel came off easily with zero damage to my nails.

Overall, I LOVE the Hand & Nail Harmony Gelish Soak-Off Gel system! Yes the start-up cost can be a little high (I spent almost $200 on everything), but it is a great investment and a few manicures is all I need to get my money’s worth. Not to mention each Gelish polish can do up to 50 to 60 full sets so a bottle will last you quite some time.

I will definitely be picking up more colors so I can further experiment!

Overall Rating:

Disclosure: The products in this entry were purchased by me. Please see my Disclaimer for more information on my posting policy.

Phyllis Li is the Founder and Editor-in-chief of Makeup For Life, one of the top 50 beauty blogs that focuses on celebrity makeup breakdowns, product reviews, makeup tutorials and all things beauty. Having lived and traveled in North America, Europe and Asia, she was exposed to different techniques and products at an early age and hopes to put a global perspective towards beauty. Phyllis won the Best Content Award by Total Beauty in 2008 and has been featured in various publications and websites including ELLE, Glamour.com, Yahoo Shine!, AOL Stylelist, Nylon Korea, VOGUE China, Ming Pao Daily (Canada) and Shanghai Weekly. In 2010, she was appointed one of the nine Real Women Ambassadors in the United States to take part in the Latisse® Wishes Challenge, working with Hollywood celebrity Kathy Ireland and raised over $400,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant wishes for approximately 54 children. In 2012, she teamed up with luxury skincare brand TATCHA and released a limited-edition 3-Piece Set of her favorite beauty products. Phyllis currently lives in Chicago, US. She is the beauty editor for Shanghai Daily's StyleHai Magazine and a member of the Glam Beauty Network.

55 COMMENTS

    • Yes you must! I was a biter too (nasty habit I know!) so I could never grow out my nails but ever since I used Gelish, my nails have become stronger and longer =)

  1. Hi, I love Soak Off Gel polish as well… but I use the OPI Soak Off and was wondering if you are able to compare them. I actually have some trouble removing the gel, it made my nails thin but yet still long. What type of nail polish remover do you use?!

    • Funny you asked cos I JUST got a gel manicure with the OPI Axxium right before I bought the Gelish system and like you, I had a hard time removing it. I ended up having to file off the top layer than soak with acetone which is SO bad for your nails. I also found out that this problem is actually fairly common (just google it and you will see tons of people complaining about the same thing). Now you know why I ended up with Gelish. Not to mention, there are a LOT more colors to choose from. Just get gelish =)

  2. I just purchased the gelish system online yesterday. It was between gelish and shellac but the gelish have way more colours (and sparkly ones too!) so that was the decider. Im a total nail novice but just love the gel nails so much I thought it would be totally worth the splurge. Im so glad to see your getting on so well with them. im really exited to get mine now!

  3. Hi

    Im quite keen on doing Gelish or Shellac from home, the only thing is I have no experience or qualifications….!

    What kind of qualifications do I need, and which ones better…Gelish or Shellac….Thanks so much

    • If you know how to put on nail polish …you know how to put on Gelish…it’s almost too easy to use, but, if you don’t have patience and the time (about an hour, maybe more) don’t do it. I use it then I put Konad nail art stamps on top and it comes out the best I have ever seen.

  4. I have been looking ALL OVER for information on curing Gelish with a 45 watt lamp. Looks like you got the same Themal Spa lamp that I have. What times did you use to cure each layer? I have heard that it is harder to remove the Gelish if overcured. I’m concerned that if I leave it in for the 2 min like in a 36w lamp that I’m overdoing it. Would love your thoughts and thanks for the great photos!

  5. Is getting Gelish bad for you in the long run? I love them but all my friend told me not to do it anymore. Please help!!

  6. Did your friend say why Gelish is bad? From what I know, getting gel manicures in general is bad only if you do it all the time because of the UV light (just like tanning beds).

    • Did you mean using regular polish in between the Gelish base coat and top coat or on top? I’ve only tried using the Gelish base coat –> structure gel –> top coat then regular nail polish and top coat and it works fine.

  7. I had an awfully difficult time removing Harmony Gelish Soak off gel from my nails…. I filed my nails, covered each nail w/ an acetone soaked cotton ball & wrapped each nail in foil for 15 minutes…. This did not work… So I tried the soaking process a second time. If still didn’t completely work, so I had to resort to filing & clipping my nails down. My nail beds were weakened. Does anyone out there know of a better or more effective way to remove the Harmony gel polish?

    • Hi Carolyn,

      I’m sorry you’re having trouble with Gelish but do you mind telling me how you did your manicure? I have done Gelish over a dozen times now and never had to file or clip my nails.

    • Before soaking polish off, barely file outside of polished nail just to break the outer polish barrier to allow the acetone into the Gel polish. Then put acetone soaked cotton on nails and wrap finger tips in foil with the shiny side outside, it will break up the relish easily. no clue why shiny side out matters, but it does for me.

    • Hi there

      I too don’t like soaking my nails in acetone for 15 mins or using the foil method. It does not come off for me well either (and in the salon same thing
      they end up scraping it off and i don’t think that is very good for your nail either
      plus the constant filing makes your nails thinner and subject to breakage and
      tearing when you do not have your nail polish on. So I peel the polish off after i have wetted my hands (I wait till it is lifting so that means the seal is broken
      and I do one nail a time when it lifts. That way your manicure is always
      looking its best. I have read that you are not supposed to peel it off but i tell you, that seems to work best for me and there is no acetone involved. I have
      read on other comments that other people peel them as well so I guess I am not the only one. Good luck.

  8. Hi, I had the same problem like you did Carolyn, I LOVE Gelish, but the only problem is that I ended up filing my nails, wich ruins my natural nails….its a bummer because I thought that Gelish was going to prevent that….Help! :) Thanks in advance.

    • Hey Michelle, you really shouldn’t need to file the natural nail for Gelish removal. Perhaps there is a fundamental error in application.
      You must ensure you use GENUINE Gelish, purchasing from place like eBay and Amazon are not official distribution lines.
      perhaps the foundation gel is applied a little too thick?
      perhaps you are over curing with your lamp?
      hope this helps?

  9. Has anyone found success using silk or fiberglass wraps to mend a split nail along with Gelish soak off polish? If so, what steps did you take and how long did the gelish manicure last before peeling, etc.?

  10. We have recently started using gelish and really love the product. We also use shellac, however it started bubbling on nails and so we decided to start using geish. Now we are having the same problem. we do a lot of gel nails and now it seems that it is 2 out of 4 that show bubbling. Help! we don’t want to lose our clients.

    • Hmm I have never experienced bubbling with Gelish but I just googled about it and found this:

      Brush may have air trapped inside the belly of the bristles. To remove the air, press the brush all the way down inside the dappen dish and watch the bubbles (air) float to the top! Make this routine a general habit at the start of every nail service.

      Hope that helps!

    • I just found your website and it may be way too long after the question to publish a response but maybe it will help someone else. Regarding any gel polish “bubbling”, I have gone to several advanced classes now and the key is putting the product on thinly. The first coat needs to go on thin enough to see through it. Especially watch when doing the white tip for a french because it is very easy to get it too thick.

      I have also seen some questions on folks having trouble removing Gelish. It does take a bit longer but I have noticed my own clients don’t know that polish remover is not necessarily acetone. To remove gel polish you need PURE ACETONE, the same acetone (and much cheaper) you get in the paint department at the store.

      Hope this helps.

      • Also, please dont shake the Gelish bottle, there is no need and will simply create air pockets in the product.
        Definitely need to be applied very thin and SUPER think for the Foundation Gel

      • Using PURE Acetone will not be healthy for your nails. It will undoubtedly dry them out causing curling etc.
        Hand & Nail Harmony Soak Off Remover has a blend of conditioners in the solution to prevent this AND soaks of perfectly

  11. after i cured my nails between every coat they r still wet u can leave a finger print in them is that normal i cured for like 6 mins and u still could

    • Hi Misty,

      From my past experiences, it is normal for the coats to be a little tacky (that’s what the Gelish Gel Cleanser is for) but what you described sounded off. Are you applying too much gel? I think the key is to keep the layers thin and not overcure them. You can always add a few more coats if you want your gel nails to be thicker.

  12. Hi,

    Do you have to use both the base coat and top coat or could you use the base coat as both please?

    Thank – you,

    Stacey

  13. Hello
    I am qualified in Manicure and Pedicure, and have been for 12 years. Am I qualified enough to use Gelish on my clients?

  14. where did you purchase this kit from? Other than the mini kit at sally’s, I am having trouble finding it (the kit at sally’s doesn’t have the structure gel-which i REALLY want). So pls let me know where you bout this, thanx!

        • Is the structure gel the same as foundation gel? Just wondering because I work at Sally Beauty and we sell the whole system.

          • No they are not. The Foundation Base Gel is like your regular base coat and the Structure Clear Gel is like a clear polish that goes over the Foundation Gel. You can use the Structure Gel over the base gel then finish with top coat or you can use it after the base gel and underneath a color polish if your nails are too thin.

  15. I have been looking to get this brand or the OPI brand and I don’t know which to get. I wanted the OPI because of the colors that I love (linkin park in the dark) but I don’t like that you need to use a paint brush and worry about cleaning it. What is the price difference? Does anyone know if I got this kit would I be able to use the OPI gel polishes colors??? Please help.

  16. Hi,

    Love all the info you have given us here. I do a lot of nail art and was hoping to add gelish to my collection of polishes. I want to use a standard polish then apply a gelish coat for extra durability. How would I do this? Apply the structure gel, then apply the polish, then apply the top coat? There are so many different products it’s difficult to tell what will be effective.

    Thanks

    • You’re welcome Tammy! I have used regular polishes with the Gelish in the following two ways and they both worked out great:

      1) pH Bond -> Base Gel -> Structure Clear Gel -> Regular Polish -> Soak-off Top It Off Sealer Gel

      2) pH Bond -> Base Gel -> Structure Clear Gel -> Soak-off Top It Off Sealer Gel -> Regular polish

  17. Greetings! I have searched Google quite a bit to get instructions from A to Z. I only come up with pieces. This site really caught my attention, and your helpful replies are so nice of you.
    Like you, I purchased everything separately at Amazon.
    Where my confusion lies is it appears that you are supposed to put on more coats of those polishes than I have seen my manicurist do. I thought she only did a base coat, two coats of color, topped off with the top coat. Then she does wipe off my nails and they are great. So, I see three procedures, but the start up kit, and Google seem to indicate more applications. That is what I can’t find, the difference between my manicurist and the product instructions. Sorry for being so long winded. Thank you in advance for helping me if you have time!!
    Dorri

      • PHEW! I am so grateful you responded today Phyllis. I leave on a flight tomorrow, and my nails are bare and ripping!!
        I will go right to that link; funny thing is, I have very weak nails too! Acrylics would never last the two weeks, and the gel starts to give just under two weeks.
        Thanks to you, the future gel applications s/b even better!!
        Again, thanks.
        Dorri

  18. I’ve been using the Gelish system for a several weeks now. The first time I soaked it off, I used the Gelish soak off liquid. It came off great. This last time, I didn’t have any of that, so I used regular , warmed acetone. It took an hour of soaking and scraping to get it off and it totally damaged my nails. I have been putting it all on, as per instructions on the Gelish website, except because my UV lamp has a 120 second timer, I have been curing the foundation that long and not the one minute they say to do. Could that be why it wouldn’t soak off very easy? But yet, I did that the first few times when it soaked off great. Really trying to figure out what went wrong this last time,so I won’t continue hurting my nails.

  19. Hi there, I have just purchased gelish and wanted to ask if any one knows. If you need the structure gel to add glitter? I had shellac done and as far as I can remember she did a base coat, then colour, then glitter and then top coat. Is this the case with gelish?
    Hope you can help me?
    Jay

    • Hi Jay,

      my suggestions is to use the genuine products that have been formulated to work together properly. that way you can gauge the performance as well as giving yourself the best chance of carrying out the treatment to the best you can

  20. I love the gelish system & have just purchased the structure gel due to having weak nails. Can you use the structure gel to add an extension or fill in a nail that has a chip in it ( not just the polish). I have 1 nail that broke & is shorter than the rest & 1 that is chipped on the side. I put a tip on the short one but that broke & cause more damage.

  21. There is a strong possibility thats why. Also, applying the Foundation Gel too thickly. Over curing is a problem.
    If your nails are taking longer than 8-10mins to soak off in Gelish Soak Off Remover then there is something not quite right with the application OR the removal process.
    Furthermore, if Structure Gel has been used then you will need another 1 -2 mins on soak off time

  22. Hi! Enjoyed reading your gelish blog! I am purchasing the whole system soon and I am getting the structure gel as Well because I have weak peeling nails but I wanted to know if the gelish structure gel will help my peeling nails? I’m so excited to purchase! And I just want to make sure I’m getting everything I need!
    thanks for the help!

    • Thats great to hear…..however, if you have naturally peeling nails the perfomance of Gelish or any other gel system may very well be compromised. Have a look at going on a course of the amazing VitaGel…the FIRST led curable vitamin nail strengthener!! with a supplement of Gelish Nourish Oil…that should do the trick! :-)

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