It’s been months & we still can’t head to the salon.
So that means it’s time to take such matters into your own hands & start thinking about how to remove gel nails. If your nails get anything like mine then they are a mess & need sorting ASAP!
Oh my God, the temptation to pick, rip, or bite off the polish is usually the first at-home “solution” that comes to mind, I get so tempted to peel it off before my nails even before I’m ready for my next manicure. (I do my own gel nails so I’m always thinking about the next colour change). It’s such a strong (and weirdly satisfying) urge, but resist it.
When you peel off your polish, you also take off layers of your nail bed with it, which leaves them susceptible to peeling and breaking. Peeling has always been something my nails have done so I have to be extra careful.
As I said, I do my own gels nail polish at home. I bought lots of supplies from so I don’t have to constantly be taking trips to the salon & spending more money. So, the good news is I’m going to tell you how to remove gel nails at home and without damaging your natural nails.
It does does take a bit of time and patience, but it will help to keep your nails in good shape, mine are finally getting stronger now I’ve moved away from constant acrylics to poly gel nails or gel polish alone.
If you love nails you should take a look at the nail inspiration posts across the blog.
FIND A WELL VENTILATED SPACE
As you’re just learning how to remove gel nails, you need to give yourself plenty of time & patience and most importantly, do it in a well-ventilated area so you’re not breathing in all that acetone. The process can’t really be done in a rush — you’ll need about 30 minutes. (Time to catch up on some Netflix time.)
BREAK OUT THE NAIL FILE
Before you break out the nail polish remover, grab a coarse nail file and gently and slowly sand down the top layer of polish. I love these Elegant Touch Professional Nail Files
Theres no need to sand all the polish off. You’re really just roughing up the topcoat, so take it slow. Don’t go over the top, you want to remove the shine, not file down the nail & risk damaging them.
PROTECT YOUR SKIN
Next, coat the skin surrounding your nails and fingertips with a cuticle oil or a thick cream. You need to protect your skin from the acetone, which is very drying. I end up with hard areas either side of my nails which I end up chewing. Not a good look! I love the OPI ProSpa Nail & Cuticle oil
SOAK SOME COTTON BALLS
The key to removing gel polish is to soak your fingertips in acetone. You can do this in a small bowl filled with acetone, or you can use a soaked cotton ball on each nail. I tend to use the cotton balls as I’m not using a full bottle of acetone to actually have enough depth in the bowl for my nails to be submerged. StyleFile has a great acetone based gel polish remover.
Saturate the cotton balls with acetone — more than you think you need. For the best results you’re better off steering clear of formulas with moisturizing ingredients (even though they’re tempting) since they tend to slow down the process, leaving your fingers soaking for a longer amount of time.
WRAP YOUR FINGER TIPS WITH FOIL
Grab some tin foil and tear it into squares about three inches by three inches. (You can do this beforehand.) Place an acetone-soaked cotton ball on your nail and use the foil to secure the cotton ball in place. You’re best of starting with your non-dominant hand — it makes things easier & less messy!
Repeat this on all 10 nails. It will get a little tricky by the end of the process when most of your tips are covered in tin foil & be careful not to squeeze too hard otherwise all the acetone will drip down your hands rather than saturate the nail. After 10 or 15 minutes, check your progress.
The gel polish should look as if it is falling off the nail and lifted. The remaining polish should be able to be removed with little to no pressure — if not, go back to soaking for another five minutes and try again.
If you’d rather not use foil you can buy gel polish remover grips which are not as messy as foil, the StyleFile Grips are fab. Or they even do a full gel nails remover kit which includes, the nail files, acetone & grips.
APPLY A LITTLE ELBOW GREASE
Once all the gel nail polish has loosened, pull the foil off of each finger and apply slight pressure to the nail with the cotton ball. For any remaining spots gently use a nail stick, working under the gel to lift it off the nail.
If the polish still isn’t lifting easily when you press your tool into it, you need more soaking. Rewrap the nail with a new cotton ball and try again in five minutes.
HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE
After all the acetone, your nails will likely be a bit dry. I like to smother my hands & nails with a gorgeous hand cream like Norwegian Formula, which is an absolute bargain for under a fiver. Or if you want to try something a little more fancy then The Chemistry Brand Intense Youth Hand Cream is fab. Once it’s all soaked in, I go in with extra cuticle oil too giving the nail bed a little massage too.
I’ll normally give it a day or so before reapplying any more gel polish just to give them a little break.