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How To Remove Gel Nail Polish

Take it off the right way.
May 26, 2021

By now, you’ve probably become pretty adept at how to tackle a slew of at-home beauty processes, including how to color your own hair and how to groom your own brows. But when it comes to your nails, you may have shied away from taking care into your own hands. So what do you do when you want to switch up your mani or simply take your current nails off and you can’t get to the salon? Well, fortunately, when it comes to how to remove gel nail polish, you’ve got options. Sure gel nails are meant to last, but nothing is made to last forever. Much like removing acrylic nails, it can be a bit of a process! But with the right tools you can get that gel nail polish off correctly. So, we’re breaking down how to remove gel nail polish below, but first, let’s talk about what not to do.


Gel manicures sometimes get a bad rap that can be attributed to people getting the removal process all wrong. Have you heard that getting a gel mani will leave your nails in an unfit state? Well, there’s some truth to that statement for a lot of people, but it’s often due to a mistake on their end. If you pry your gel nail polish off your nails when you’re feeling fed up with it, yes, you’ll likely end up with damaged nails. Gel polish is not meant to be ripped or peeled off—even if it has started to lift on its own. While taking off gel polish the right way may not be as quick (or oddly satisfying), it’s the right way for a reason.


Ready to learn how to take off gel nail polish the right way? Follow these steps the next time you want to get gel nail polish off at home and avoid unnecessary damage.

STEP #1: File the tops of your nails. 

If you have your gel polish professionally removed, the first thing they’re likely to do is reach for a 100 grit nail file (for it’s coarseness). You can also do this at home to speed up the removal process. Take your nail file and go over the gel that’s on your nails.

STEP #2: Soak and wrap. 

Take cotton balls or pads and saturate them with pure acetone. Save your regular nail polish remover for another occasion and break out the big guns for this one! Place the pads on your nails and then wrap them with aluminum foil. If you aren’t particularly dexterous, you may need someone to help you with your non-dominant hand.

Editor’s tip: If you don’t have cotton pads you can use paper towels or napkins as an alternative. There are also premade foil kits available that include everything you need to get those gel nails off with ease.

3. Wait it out. 

Taking off gel polish requires patience. While your nails are all wrapped up and your hands are essentially useless, binge your latest TV show or discover a new podcast. After around 20 minutes, take a peek under one of the pieces of foil. Is the gel polish practically falling off your nails? If yes, move on to the next step. If no, give your nails more time.

4. Buff your nails. 

When the gel polish is lifting right off—it might look like big flakes of polish—unwrap your nails and remove the cotton pads. You should be able to wipe the gel polish off easily at this point. Once you’re left looking at your natural nails, grab a nail buffer and buff your nails. This can help smooth out any rough spots and remove any discoloration that certain shades of nail polish can leave behind.

5. Treat your cuticles. 

Acetone is a must when it comes to how to remove gel polish, but it can take a toll on your cuticles. The skin around your nails is likely to be feeling pretty dry right about now, so use a little cuticle oil to show your hands some TLC. Then slather on a hand cream like the L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Hydra Nutrition Manuka Honey All Over Balm – Face, Neck, Chest and Hands.

Photo Credit: Nyah/@nyahnailartist

Next: What Makes Gel Nails And Acrylic Nails Different

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