If intricate nail art, long almond nails and glitzy, chrome manicures are your cup of tea, then you likely know something about acrylic nails and gel extensions (also known as Gel-X nails). The latter serves as a sort of upgraded version of press-on nails and are glued to your natural nails, adding strength and durability to create whatever length and shape you desire. Gel extensions are great for sporting all types of nail art, they’re easy to apply, and they use fewer chemicals (and create less fumes) than acrylic.
But, it takes the right removal process to ensure that gel extensions also less damaging for your natural nails. The right removal process will allow you to grow your natural nails while keeping them healthy, and despite how complex it may look, removing gel extensions is actually pretty easy to do at home. Read on as we share how to properly remove your Gel-X nails at home without damaging your natural nails.
What Are Gel-X Nails?
Gel extension nails are attached to the natural nail with builder gel or gel glue and are cured with a UV light. The gel nails that are applied to your natural nail are soft, flexible and soak-off with acetone. They come in tons of different shapes and sizes from long coffin to short square to medium almond-shaped. They can last around three to four weeks and when properly removed, the soft-gel extensions can dissolve without damaging your nails, making way for a new set to be applied.
Are Gel-X Nails Better Than Acrylics?
Gel extensions are favored over acrylics because the application is simpler and there’s no odor, filing or shaping. But, they can be damaging when they are pulled off using the wrong tools. Pulling off gel extensions (similar to pulling off acrylic nails) with a nail tool, a credit card, a Metrocard (New Yorkers get it) or simply on its own is really detrimental to the nail plate and can even rip the nail apart from the skin.
When removing gel extensions, the best thing to do is to soak them with acetone so they can dissolve. Any sort of pain is a good indicator that you're removing them improperly.
What Tools and Products Are Needed to Remove Gel-X Nails?
Here’s a list of everything you’ll need to remove your Gel-X nails at home:
100% pure acetone
1 sheet of tin foil or a bowl
A heavy duty nail file (100/180 grit; the same type that works for acrylic nails)
How Long Does It Take to Remove Gel-X Nails?
Gel-X nails can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to remove at home. The longest part of the process is the acetone soak. Once you file the surface of your nails, then you can soak them in acetone or wrap your nails in cotton (soaked in acetone) and foil. This can take anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes. You don’t want to harm your nails, so it’s better to spend the extra five minutes soaking your nails to remove all the gel than pulling and ripping the extensions off.
Hard Gel vs. Soft Gel Nail Extensions: Can Both Be Removed at Home?
Hard gel, (also called builder gel or BIAB — builder gel in a bottle) cannot be soaked off like soft gel. It can only be filed off with an electric file. Hard gel can be used to create nail extensions or to create strength and shape on natural nails.
Soft gel is more durable and flexible than hard gel, and it’s typically used to add color to the nails or to create soft gel tips, which is what Gel-X nails are. Soft gel can be removed at home by simply soaking it off with acetone. ask your nail tech what type of gel your manicure if made of so you know whether or not you need to go to the salon to have it removed.
How to Remove Gel Extension Nails at Home
Using acetone to remove your gel extensions is the best technique for many reasons. While soaking them in soap and water if they’re already lifting may be effective, it will take an extremely long time. Skip the wait, and follow these five simple steps to remove gel extensions at home.
1. Trim and File Your Nails
If you have long extensions, trimming them before removal will help speed up the process. Make sure to look under the nail so you’re only trimming the extension and not your natural nail.
Once you’ve trimmed your gel extensions, buff the surface with a course file or an electric file, if you have one. Disrupting the top layer of gel polish will help to speed up the removal process.
2. Soak in Acetone
Using 100 percent pure acetone will yield the best and quickest results. To remove the gel extensions, there are two different ways you can go about it. The first one is to fill a small glass bowl with just enough acetone to cover your nails. Soak them for 15 to 20 minutes. Patience is key during this step so turn on your favorite TV show and zone out.
If you don’t want to soak your nails, you can also use foil, cotton and acetone to remove your gel extensions. Soak a cotton ball in acetone, attach it to the nail, and cover both with a piece of foil. Do this for each nail. Let the foils sit on your gel extensions for about 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Gently Scrape Off the Extensions
Once the time has passed, the extensions will have begun to dissolve and you can use an orange stick to gently scrape them off. If at any time during this process the scraping begins to hurt or you find yourself harshly tugging at the nail, go back to soaking with acetone. Repeat the process until you can gently remove the entire gel extension and nail glue. Harsh scraping and tugging before the gel has fully dissolved can seriously damage your natural nails.
4. Buff Your Natural Nails
Once all of the gel extensions are removed, lightly buff the surface of your nails with a buffer to remove any excess glue.
5. Moisturize Your Nail Beds
Finish with cuticle oil or petroleum jelly to moisturize the skin around your nails. If you’re properly removing your gel extensions and your natural nails don’t appear damaged, feel free to polish your nails or replace the gel set you just removed with a new one.
Photo Credit: iStock