Feeling anxious about damaging your nails while removing gel nail polish at home by yourself? You're not alone.
Here are the gel polish removal methods we use at S&L Beauty Company to maintain our nail beds healthy between gel manicures. We also touch on how to avoid brittle nails from removing gel nails.
Whether you decide to remove gel nail polish traditionally, or with a gel nail polish remover, we provide the instructions for both methods.
Below is a complete step-by-step guide on how to remove gel nail polish at home:
- File your nail bed with a nail file
- Apply acetone to a cotton ball
- Wrap the tip of the finger in aluminum foil
- Use a cuticle stick to remove gel polish
- Buff your nails
- Apply cuticle oil on your nail
What you need to remove gel nails at home
Before you begin, to remove gel nail polish you will need these items:
- A nail file (180 grit)
- A cuticle pusher (cuticle stick)
- Cotton balls or cotton pads (lint-free)
- 100% pure acetone
- A nail buffer
- Aluminum foil
- Cuticle oil
The core supplies you need to remove gel nail polish at home are acetone, cotton balls (or pads) aluminum foil, a cuticle pusher, and a nail filer. Cuticle oil and nail buffers are supplementary items that help maintain healthy nails, but are not necessary.
Preparations before removing your gel nail polish at home
Here are some tips to consider before removing gel nail polish.
- When removing gel nail polish, it is easier to work on one hand at a time.
- Set up an area in a well-ventilated space. Acetone has a strong smell.
- Cover your work surface with a towel, as acetone can cause stains.
- Cut out 10 squares of aluminum foil that are big enough to wrap around the tip of each finger.
- If you’re using cotton balls, break off 10 pieces that are big enough to cover just the nail bed of each nail.
How to remove gel nails at home: 6 easy steps
Before you start, know that the method described below is the traditional, acetone method.
Using our gel nail polish remover is the most time efficient way to remove gel nail polish because it removes your gel polish in 5 minutes, instead of 15 minutes by the traditional acetone method.
Now you know the options on how to remove a gel manicure at home. Here is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide on how to remove your own gel nails at home.
1. File your nail bed with a nail file
Use a coarse nail file to file down the gel top coat layer until the top coat is no longer shiny and smooth. File down every nail.
Start by filing the gel top coat on your non-dominant hand. Use the flat face of a nail filer to gently file your nail from the cuticle to the edge of your nail in a left-to-right motion (not a back-and-forth motion). Do not focus on a single spot.
By filing down the gel top coat, you expose the gel polish on your nail plate. This will make it easier to remove the gel polish with the acetone you'll be using later.
2. Soak acetone to a cotton ball or cotton pad
If you're going to use cotton balls, pull off 1.5x1.5 cm balls, making sure they're thin and big enough to cover the nail bed.
The cotton ball shouldn’t be so big that it's overhanging and touching the surrounding skin and cuticles.
Then, soak a cotton ball in acetone until it is damp but not dripping wet. Typically it takes about 5 to 10 drops of acetone to achieve this.
Saturating a cotton ball with too much acetone can cause mild irritation to the skin, causing the skin to become red, dry or cracked.
If you’re using cotton pads, apply acetone directly onto the pad so it’s, again, damp but not dripping wet.
Place the acetone-soaked cotton on top of a fingernail and move on to the next step.
3. Wrap the tip of the finger in aluminum foil
To hold the soaked cotton ball in place, begin wrapping the fingertip with the 3x3 inch pre-cut aluminium foil you prepared before.
Now you can repeat steps 2 and 3 for each fingernail until all your fingers are wrapped in aluminum foil and contain cotton balls.
After wrapping each nail, wait 10 minutes to let the acetone soak into the gel polish.
After 10 minutes, the gel nail polish should be softened and appear bubbling/curling. This means you can pinch away the foil and cotton ball from the nail.
4. Use a cuticle stick to remove gel polish
Gently loosen the gel polish off each nail with a metal cuticle pusher or an orangewood stick by pushing it off.
If the gel polish isn’t sliding off easily, continue soaking the nail with the acetone cotton ball for another 5 minutes.
5. Buff Your nails
Gently buff your nails to remove both ridges and uneven edges and smooth the surface of your nails.
Buff off any remaining flecks of visible gel polish.
Keep in mind, buffing your nails too much can thin the nail plate, weakening your nails and the gel polish's ability to adhere. This happens when overly buffed nails bend too much, causing the gel polish to separate easily from the nail plate.
6. Apply cuticle oil on your nail
Removing gel polish with acetone is damaging to your nails and skin. The acetone dries your skin and makes your nails coarse to touch.
Apply cuticle oil to rehydrate your cuticles to keep your nails healthy and strong.
Then, massage the cuticle oil to completely cover your cuticles.
You can never use too much cuticle oil. Apply cuticle oil as frequently as three times a day daily if you feel it’s worth keeping your nails and skin in perfect shape.
Using a g
If you're short on time and don't have the gel removal items, use our gel nail polish remover instead of acetone-soaked cotton balls and foil. Here's why removers are gaining in popularity:
- Removes your in 5 minutes
- Easy to use
- Doesn't damage your nails
- No hassle of wrapping
- Skip visits
- No pungent odor
- Travel-size friendly
- Works for , acrylic, , and regular lacquer
removers are easy to use, require fewer tools than the traditional method of removing and doesn't damage your nails.
How to use a g
1. File the topcoat
File down your top coat layer with a coarse filer until the top coat is no longer shiny and smooth.
2. Apply the
Apply a thick layer of over the . Avoid skin contact.
3. Wait 5 minutes
Wait 5 minutes for the to soak into the . The edges of the should begin to peel, crack, bubble or burst. Allow extra time for thicker .
4. Loosen the
Gently loosen the on each using a metal or an orangewood stick until it is completely removed. Clean with a .
5. Moisturize your nails
For , apply to rehydrate your cuticles.
Avoid these common mistakes when removing gel nail polish
Soaking your nails in an acetone bath
When you fully submerge your nails in a bowl of 100% pure acetone, the excessive exposure to acetone on your skin and nails will dehydrate the nail plate, cuticles, and the surrounding skin.
This method often results in nails becoming dry and brittle. The skin and cuticles can become dry, flaky, red, and irritated.
The method we recommend involves using acetone-soaked cotton balls to isolate where the acetone is needed on your nail to avoid exposure of acetone on your skin.
Due to the potential damage caused by an acetone bath, it will take longer to repair your nails and skin before applying gel polish again. Do not follow this commonly told advice.
Using an electric nail drill is not recommended
If you’re a beginner, using a drill to grind off gel nail polish is not recommended since you may risk grinding past the gel polish coat and into your nail plate.
As a result, your nail plate will be damaged and your nail bed will be more sensitive to pain. Your nails will be left thin and weak.
When this occurs, you will have to wait for the entire nail to grow out to be replaced by a new, healthy nail.'
It's not OK to pick and peel off your gel polish
When you pick and peel off the gel polish without acetone, you damage the top layer of your nails, which can lead to brittle nails that crack and break easily.
When your nails are weakened, it can take weeks (sometimes more than a month) for them to become healthy again and prolong your next gel manicure.
Thank you so much for the information on removing gel nails. I learned some things that I was not aware of that could damage the nails.
Thank you for the information it was very helpful now I’m ready to do my nails