Gel nails are amazing. Your nails are perfectly set when you leave the salon, so you can get right back to life (or in my case, happy hour) and they are chip-free for at least two weeks, so you can easily go on a vacation or a work trip, worry-free. Plus, they are super shiny and there are tons of cool, decorative options for gel manicures (foil, galaxy, cat-eye, ombre…you name it, I’ve tried it).
But what do you do when you want to remove your gel, but don’t want to, or can’t get to, the salon? You can remove your gel manicure at home, and not by peeling it off, either, which, while tempting, is damaging to nails because it removes the top nail layer and weakens nails. Removal can take some work, and it’s all about having the right products, right steps, and a little bit of time and patience.
- Nail File (The one you use for gel removal should only be used for that.)
- Cotton Balls (I’m obsessed with this jumbo plus size)
- Orange Wood Sticks
- Metal Cuticle Pusher/Gel Polish Remover
- Cuticle Softener and Remover
- Cuticle Oil
- Hand Cream
10 Steps for Gel Nail Polish Removal
1. Cut (or tear) 10 nail-sized pieces of tinfoil, so that those are ready when you are.
- Gently buff down your nail polish with the coarse grit (100) side of the nail file.
- Soak your nails in a bowl of acetone for 10 minutes, so that the gel polish starts to dissolve and loosen.
- Douse cotton balls (torn in ½; so you’ll only need five) in acetone.
- After soaking nails, apply cotton to each, and then wrap tinfoil around the cotton. Leave foil/cotton tips on for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, open the foil, and remove cotton by pressing on it and swiping in an upward motion on each nail.
- Take a clean cotton ball, saturate with acetone, and go over each nail to further remove polish.
- Use an orangewood stick to chip away at any remaining nail polish.
- For stubborn spots, let nail sit in a new foil/cotton tip for an additional five minutes, and then use the orangewood stick again. If the polish is still on the nail, use the metal implement to chip at nail polish.
- Once nail polish is removed, go over nails again with a cotton ball saturated in acetone to remove any last traces of polish.
Acetone is drying to nails, so aftercare is super important for healthy cuticles, nails, and hands. After you have removed your gel nail polish, you can use a cuticle remover and softener and gently push back cuticle with an orangewood stick. Follow up with a cuticle oil, such as the CND Solar Oil. After letting that sink in for a few minutes, use a rich hand cream, such as The Body Shop Almond Hand & Nail Butter, which nourishes with almond oil.
Lia is a makeup addict in Washington, D.C. When not at her digital marketing day job, she explores all things beauty and works as personal makeup shopper. She enjoys a strong latte in the mornings and a strong cocktail in the evenings.