With social alienation in full swing, removing your gel nail paint at the salon will have to wait until it’s safe to do so. That indicates it’s time to take issues into your own hands (very literally).
The first at-home “treatment” that comes to mind is usually to pick, rip, or bite off the polish. It’s a powerful (and strangely satisfying) urge but fight it. “When you remove your polish, you remove layers of your nail bed with it, leaving them vulnerable to peeling and breaking,” says the author. Jackie Saulsbery, a manicurist in New York City.
The good news is that you can remove a gel manicure at home without having to visit a professional – and without causing damage to your nails. “The best approach to remove gel polish properly takes a little effort and care, but it will help keep your nails in good shape,” Saulsbery explains. We spoke with nail professionals on how to remove gel polish at home without completely ruining your nails.
Locate a Well-Ventilated Area
Allow plenty of time for the removal process and, most importantly, perform it in a well-ventilated environment to avoid inhaling the acetone, says Jenna Hipp, a nail expert. You won’t be able to complete the process in less than 30 minutes. (This is an excellent opportunity to catch up on your Netflix queue.)
Get the Nail Files Out!
Grab a coarse nail file (Saulsbery recommends the Hand and Nail Harmony 180/180 File) and sand down the top coat of polish carefully and slowly before applying nail polish remover.
Soak a few cotton balls in the water
To remove gel polish, immerse your fingertips in acetone for a few minutes. You can do this in a tiny bowl with acetone and a drop or two of cuticle oil, or you can use a wet cotton ball on each nail, according to Saulsbery.
Cotton balls are preferred by Tracylee over pads because they are more closely matched to the size and form of your nails. Cotton balls also have a better hold on the acetone as your nails soak. She continues, “Cotton pads can absorb the acetone and dry off too rapidly.”
Using more acetone than you think you’ll need, saturate the cotton balls. Tracylee recommends avoiding products containing moisturizing chemicals (despite how tempting they are) for the greatest results because they tend to slow down the process, keeping your fingertips soaking for extended periods.
Wrap Aluminum Foil Around Your Fingertips
Tear some Reynolds Wrap (or any other brand of foil) into three-inch-by-three-inch squares. (You can do this ahead of time.) Wrap your fingertips in the squares after that. “Place an acetone-soaked cotton ball on your pinkie nail and secure the cotton ball with foil,” Tracylee suggests. “Begin with your non-dominant hand; it will make things easier.”
This should be done on all ten nails. (Warning: By the conclusion of the process, most of your tips will be wrapped in tin foil, making it a little tough.) Check your progress after 10 or 15 minutes.
“The gel polish should appear to be lifting and falling off the nail,” Saulsbery says. “If the leftover polish can’t be removed with little to no pressure, soak for another five minutes and try again,” says the author.
Grease your elbows a little.
Pull the foil off each finger and apply light pressure to the nail with the cotton ball once all of the gel nail polish has loosened. Use a nail stick to gently “move under the gel to lift it off the nail plate” for any remaining places.
“Wooden tools can be a breeding ground for bacteria,” Hipp advises, “so dispose of them after each use and don’t share them with pals.”
If you don’t have a stick and want to use anything else, such as this popular TikTok dental floss hack, be extremely cautious, says Jin Soon Choi, proprietor of Jinsoon Spas and Nail Lacquer in New York City.
“Only once the borders of the polish have lifted off the nail bed can gel be removed using dental floss, but it must be done with extreme caution,” she explains. “If you use floss too violently, you risk taking off not only the gel polish but also a piece of your natural nail.”
More soaking is required if the polish does not lift easily when you press your tool into it. Replace the cotton ball on the nail and try again in five minutes.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Your nails may most likely be a little dry after a long acetone excursion. Allow them to have a reprieve. “Soak your nails in coconut oil for five to seven minutes, then apply a cuticle oil like Ciaté’s Marula Cuticle Oil to renew and rehydrate your nail beds,” Choi recommends. She finishes with a hand lotion such as L’Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream.
It may appear that you’re using a lot of moisture-sucking acetone, but Saulsbury argues that if you’re a lover of gel manis, it’s far better than plucking or peeling your manicure. “Acetone eliminates oils from the nail,” she continues, “but it doesn’t harm the nail bed.” “This occurs when the nail bed is traumatized by stripping and forcing the polish off,” resulting in brittle, broken nails.
Have fun soaking!