beauty looks How to Remove Gel Extension Nails at Home

Patience and acetone are key.

September 19, 2022
How To Remove Gel X Nails

If intricate nail art, long coffin 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 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 than acrylics, but it takes the right removal process to ensure that they’re 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 really easy to do at home. Read on as we share how to properly remove your gel extensions 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 simple 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 dental gloss, a nail tool, a credit card or with 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.

How to Remove Gel Extension Nails at Home 

Using acetone to remove your gel extensions is the best technique for many reasons. For one, pulling off your gel extensions will damage your natural nails and while soaking them in soap and water if they’re already lifting may be effective, it will take an extremely long time. Skip the damage and the wait, and follow these 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 e-file, if you have one. Disrupting the top layer of gel polish will help to speed up the removal process.

2.  Soak in Acetone or Use Foil

Using 100 percent 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 movie 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 and attach it to the nail, then 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 past, the extensions will have begun the dissolving process 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 file to remove any excess glue. 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 replace the set you just removed with a new one.

Next: 15 Glitter Nail Designs That Have Us Swooning

Written by: Reece Andavolgyi, Photo credit: iStock