Remove Gel Polish The Right Way


Posted on August 20 2018

Gel manicures are made to last. As soon as they start growing out do you find yourself tempted to pick off the polish? We've been there. There is nothing less glamorous than gel polish that should have been removed sooner. The good news is, there is a way to remove gel polish in the comfort of your own home without damaging your nails. For times when you can't go to the salon, here are tips for an easy removal process that will make you feel like a pro.

1. Give Yourself Space and Time

You don't want to breathe in all that acetone. Find a well-ventilated place and give yourself plenty of time. You'll need about 30 minutes. It's a perfect time to catch up on your favorite TV show. 

2. File Away

Now it's time to start. Use a nail file to sand down the top layer of gel. We really like this Kanga File that has a maplewood core which allows for flexibility and control. Gently and slowly remove the very top layer of the gel polish. You want to just remove the shine and avoid filing too far into the color. 

3. Prep Your Skin

Next, prep and protect your skin from the acetone. Rub a cuticle oil or thick cream on your fingertips and skin surrounding your nails. You don't want to end up with very dry skin! We really like CND Solar Oil. It's a blend of jojoba and vitamin e. Your cuticles will thank you!

4. Soak Cotton Balls

Grab a handful of cotton balls, not cotton pads. Why? Because they're closer to the size of your nails and they are able to retain the acetone better. Avoid formulas with moisturizing ingredients and generously drench each cotton ball with more acetone than you think you need.

5. Wrap Your Fingertips

Find some aluminum foil in your kitchen. Tear the foil into little squares big enough to wrap around your fingertips. If you feel like aluminum foil might not be your thing, try our favorite OPI Removal Wraps. Then, start with your non-dominant hand (it makes things easier) and place an acetone-soaked cotton ball on your nail. Use the foil and secure the cotton ball pressed against your nail by wrapping your fingertips. Repeat until you have all ten nails covered. Leave your foil-covered fingertips alone for up to 15 minutes. 


6. The Big Reveal

The moment you've been waiting for! The wait is over. Apply pressure to where the cotton ball is placed for a moment and pull the foil off each finger. If there is gel left over, remove it with a nail stick by gently working under the gel to lift it off. If the polish isn't lifting easily, you need to soak your nail in the acetone for a few minutes longer, so wrap it back up and try again.

7. Hydration Is Key

Finish off by giving your cuticles some TLC. They'll need it after all of that acetone. Soak your nails in coconut oil for about seven minutes. Then apply the CND cuticle oil on your nail beds to bring them back to life. You'll end up with strong and healthy nails. If you're reapplying polish immediately, skip this step until after your new manicure sets. 

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Tags: DIY , DIY Gel , Gel Polish , Pro Tips ,


  • Kathryn Yarnell: March 20, 2020

    Thanks! I have to shelter in for who knows how long and my nail appointment was cancelled today indefinitely!

  • Carrie Thomas: March 28, 2020

    I did a little research and found out (and tried) that the easiest and quickest way to remove my old shellac is to put some acetone into a small dish and put that dish into a larger dish of hot water (basically creating a double boiler type of thing where the dish of acetone is sitting in the hot water but no water is getting into the acetone. If you google it “easiest way to remove shellac from fingernails”, it will show you three ways and this is the top way), and soak each hand for 10 minutes, the polish will scrape right off with a wooden or metal nail tool.

  • 1: March 02, 2021


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