Polygel: Dual Tips, Tips, and Forms, Which is better?

March 21, 2021

Two weeks ago, I did a blog post about my first time trying polygel nails. For the post, I used the original method for building polygel nails: inside of dual forms. However, these dual forms led to most of the issues I encountered using polygel, and they were definitely my least favorite part of the process. I have seen dual forms work for many people, so I believe the reason they didn't work for me was simply just due to the shape of my natural nails. I did still love how easy polygel was to work with, so I figured I would try it with other methods of building nails and compare them to dual forms. I tried dual forms (again), paper forms, and half-cover nail tips.

What are dual forms?

Dual forms were specifically made to be used with polygel. The goal is to form the perfect nail inside of the form that can be placed on top of the natural nail, providing a smooth nail that requires minimal extra filing. After curing, you pop off the form to reveal the nail. Dual forms are typically made of plastic and look like full cover nails. If you're only using these on yourself, they can be used more than once which can make it more cost-effective to use dual forms. They usually come in a box or small bags that separate all the different sizes. While there are a wide range of sizes for dual forms, the shape is almost always square, oval, or something in between and they're usually curved. This can become a problem if you have straight or longer nails.


What are paper forms?

Paper forms have been around for a very long time as they're usually used with gel or acrylic. Sometimes paper forms come in a pack or a roll of stickers. Paper forms are made of stiffened paper and sit under your nails. They normally have stickers of some form to hold them in place. The forms provide a base for you to build a nail on top of which is removed once the nail has hardened. The downside to paper forms is they can only be used once. However, they are fairly inexpensive. Because forms sit under the natural nail, it's much easier to make your extensions blend with the length and shape of your natural nail, making it a good option for straighter nails. Recently, there has been a new method for polygel using both dual forms and paper forms, but I'm going to be trying to build the nails on paper forms alone.

What are nail tips?

Nail tips, like dual forms, are also made from plastic. They also come in bags or boxes separated by size and can be used one time. There are several differences between nail tips and dual forms. Nail tips come in all shapes and sizes- long, short, coffin, square, stiletto, and more. Nail tips can also be half cover or full cover. Full covers are typically used for press-on nails and are glued to the natural nail. Half cover nails are also glued to the natural nail but only cover half of the nail. Because of this, they're mostly used with gel, acrylic, or polygel. Unlike dual forms, tips stay on your nails until you decide to remove the nails. Tips may already be in the shape you prefer, so there's no need for extra filing and shaping. Nail tips may also be curved or straight, so it's easier to get a perfect fit for your nails.

How to use Dual Forms:

Since dual forms are the standard way to build polygel nails, that's what I tried first. I used clear polygel for all methods, but it's a little harder to see on dual forms, so if you'd like to see a full tutorial using dual forms with colored polygel check out this post.

To start off I applied a polygel base coat to my nail in order to help the polygel adhere better and cured it under a UV/LED lamp. Next, I found the dual form that fit my nail best and put a bead of polygel in it.

Then, I used a polygel brush dipped in slip solution/ rubbing alcohol to push the polygel around inside of the form and create the shape of a nail. This part is difficult to see on camera.

After I finished shaping, I pressed the form onto my natural nail and cured it. After curing, I popped off the form.

You can see here that the nail didn't blend well with my cuticle because the dual form didn't lay flat on my nail. There were also some areas that were way too thin, so I had to go back in with a little more polygel to build those areas. Afterwards, I cut the nail and filed it down to the length I wanted. I also tried to file the cuticle area, but no amount of filing was able to make it smooth. This would probably be easier with an electric file.

How to use paper forms:

Again, I began with a polygel base coat on my natural nails. Next, I placed the form under my natural nail and made sure to stick it securely. One thing to remember about forms is if you make it super narrow, the nail will be super narrow, whereas if you make it wider, the nail will be wider.

Next, I applied a bead of polygel directly to my natural nail.

I again used a brush dipped in slip solution to push the polygel around and form the nail.

Next, I cured it, but once I removed the form, I also needed to cure the underside of the nail to fully harden it. Once the nail was fully hardened, I used a file to fix the shape and smooth out any ridges. It was much easier to create a smooth cuticle with this method.

How to use nail tips:

Before applying my base coat, I used regular nail glue to glue a half cover tip to my natural nail.

Then, I cut the tip down, filed it to my desired shape and applied the base coat.

I again put a bead of polygel directly on my nail.

I used the brush dipped in slip solution to form the nail and cured it. This method required the least filing as the shape was mostly created by the tip and I was able to create a smooth cuticle before curing.

Overall, my favorite method was using nail tips. I can't seem to make dual forms work for my nail shape because they always create too many issues that are very time-consuming to try and fix for a whole set of nails. Tips may be harder to work with if you have long nails, but because tips come in so many sizes, it may be easier to find some that do work as opposed to dual forms which can be hit or miss. I also liked using paper forms, but they might require a little more practice and getting used to in order to create the shape you'd like.

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  • Reply Maggie February 1, 2022 at 3:37 am

    Thank you for this! I was wondering if I could even use tips because I didn’t know if the poly gel would want to pop off of them like they pop out of the dual forms. I cannot stand the dual forms and I have bought all different shapes!! The paper forms are easier than they are! Thank you for this!!

    • Reply Kristen February 27, 2023 at 11:23 pm

      Yes this is the best descriptions I have found on the web. I love she use detailed photos of each nail type.

  • Reply DS March 20, 2022 at 3:01 pm

    I just used polygel for the first time and had mixed results. I’m a DIYer and have been wondering about the paper forms and tips with polygel too. This article answers so many of my questions and is super helpful! Thank you!!

  • Reply Tiffany July 17, 2022 at 1:40 pm

    Thank you so much for this. I have tried the dual forms that came with my set and I have even tried the paper forms and so far neither set has lasted longer than a few days. I know that there is a learning curve with polygel and it takes practice but both the dual forms & the paper forms just did not work for me especially when you have to use your less dominant hand. Looks like I am going to try the tips next

  • Reply Karen December 7, 2022 at 5:47 pm

    Best most comprehensive explanation!! It answered so many questions and the pics are great. Thank You So Much!!

  • Reply Florence December 26, 2022 at 2:48 am

    Hi, I’m wondering if polygel would work on full nail tips ? I bought a kit off Amazon, but the Nail tips aren’t half tips. Do you think there’s a risk the polygel would pop off ?

    • Reply Michelle Curtis March 12, 2023 at 9:47 am

      I’ve been doing Polygels for a year now. It’s definitely a learning curve. I have tried every single method out there, spent countless money on tips, forms, and papers. (I’m obsessed. Lol) I have very flat wide nails with absolutely no apex or curve to them. So, I thought I needed flat nail forms or tips to match. This just wasn’t working! Finally, I stumbled upon this really cheap set of dual forms that were highly curved that I had gotten in one of the many sets I bought. I remember laughing at these forms, but upon examination I found a HUGE thumb nail form that actually fit my thumb. (No others did) I gave these forms a try, not only did they distribute the gel better on my nail because it wasn’t as thick as the flat forms, I actually got that nice rounded curve that I was lacking. So ladies with flat nails…. Don’t laugh….. try the “hawk” forms! A little filing and they looked beautiful. My nails last a month. I wait till they start popping off then I k ow it’s time to redo. And again. It’s ALL in the prep. Don’t skimp on your prep and use all the products that go with that particular rand you are using. They are meant to work together. Good Luck!

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