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How To Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home: An Easy Step-By-Step Guide

Updated on July 13, 2014

How To Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home

“How do you remove gel nail polish?”. The answer is much less complicated - and less costly - than you might think! With a few simple supplies, in the comfort of your home, you can easily do this yourself. In this article, I’ll show you how to remove gel nail polish at home. You’ll save yourself time and money, and you’ll be able to do it whenever it’s convenient for you. Curious? Let’s get started!

The Process Of Removing Gel Nail Polish Explained

So, you love your gel manicures. And who wouldn’t? Two weeks plus of perfect, glossy color - without chipping, cracking, or peeling. Many women are hooked on them, whether applied in the salon or at home. But eventually your nail growth will start to show and it will be time to remove the gel nails. You can go to a salon to get this done, but you really don’t need to. It is very simple to remove gel nail polish at home, once you know the tricks.

“So What Do I Need To Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home?”

Well, I’m glad you asked! Before we get started, let’s talk about the supplies you’ll need at home in order to remove gel nail polish; in fact, you might have some of them on hand already. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A nail file
  • 100% acetone (not the same as standard nail polish remover)
  • Orange wood sticks
  • A nail buffing block
  • Cotton swabs and a sheet of aluminum foil, pre-cut into 2” x 3” pieces (approximately)
  • Nail wraps (made specifically for removing gel nail polish)
  • Solar Oi

Gel nails are a ‘soak-off’ product, meaning that a simple wipe with standard nail polish remover will not cut the mustard. Instead, removing gel nail polish must be done by soaking each nail in acetone for 10-20 minutes, which will loosen the polish; then, the gel is easy to flake and scrape off. After this, a gentle buffing and a reconditioning with oil is all it takes to restore your nails to their natural beauty - or to prepare them for your next beautiful gel manicure.

Note: Never, ever remove gel nail polish by peeling or picking at it. Doing this would risk ruining your natural nails, since the top layer of your nail bed will be well adhered to the gel. Take the time to follow the simple removal process and your nails will thank you.

Step-By-Step: How To Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home

When you’re ready to remove your gel nail polish, set up your supplies wherever you’d like to work in your home. Tip: It can be helpful to place a layer of paper towel underneath to help make cleanup a breeze!


Step One: Rough and Ready To Remove Your Gel Nail Polish

Take your nail file and rough up the surface of each nail. This won’t look pretty, but it works to break down the top layer of polish a bit so the acetone can penetrate the layers below. Remember, this polish is extremely durable!

Step Two: Soak And Wrap To Remove Gel Nail Polish

Choose one of two methods:

There are two ways to do this step. Both begin with having a bowl of acetone handy. You’ll want 100% pure acetone, which isn’t always available on the average drug store shelf - but it is stronger and works like a charm.

Method One:

Soak a cotton ball in the acetone, and place it on your nail. Next, take a strip of aluminum foil and wrap it securely around the tip of your finger. Repeat for each finger. When all the nails on one hand are wrapped, sit tight for 15 minutes or so and use your other hand to read a book, check your Instagram feed, or balance your checkbook. When the time is up, slide the foil wrap off one finger and check to see if the polish is flaking off. If it is, you’re ready for step three. If not, replace the foil wrap and get back to Instagram for another five minutes. The cotton-and-foil method works, but can be messy and cumbersome way to remove your gel nail polish. Instead, you can also use:

Method Two:

This method uses the same process, but makes it a lot easier and less messy by using pre-made nail wraps. These exist to remove gel nail polish, and in my opinion they make the process a whole lot easier. Each strip has a cotton pad that you soak, then apply to the nail and wrap. The strips are designed to wrap neatly and stay on, and they do. Just as in method one, wrap each nail and let it soak. Look for flaking polish and you’re done. Hands-Down Wraps get excellent reviews and are designed with grippy material that stays in place nicely. At $16 for 100, they’re a small investment that will make removing your gel nail polish a lot easier.

Step Three In Removing Your Gel Nail Polish: Slide and Scrape

When the nails are ready, you should be able to remove the gel by gently sliding the polish off each nail; use an orange stick to gently push it off if need be. You don’t need much force here, and in fact pushing overly hard can damage your nail bed. This step is where that paper towel you laid out earlier comes in handy - collect the residue and dispose of it in one easy step.

Step Four: Buff And Shine To Remove The Gel Nail Polish

Once you’ve removed the polish from each nail, use a good-quality nail buffer to sand and smooth the surface of your nail beds. A good buffer will last you a long time, and will come with instructions on how best to use it; careful buffing will help remove the last traces of gel nail polish from your fingertips. A buffer is great for shining up natural nails as well, and you’ll find plenty of use for one in your home, besides removing your gel nail polish.

Step Five To Remove Gel Nail Polish: Condition for care

You’re nearly done! The final step to remove your gel nail polish at home is simple but essential. First, wash your hands well to remove all traces of acetone and buffing dust. Then apply a drop of a nourishing oil to each finger, massaging well into the cuticle and nail bed. There are many products that will serve this purpose, including almond oil and Argan oil, but the cream of the crop is Solar Oil, made by Creative Nail Design. Its patented blend of jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, and vitamin E will leave your nails stronger and healthier than ever before and is an absolute must!

I hope I have explained this process well, but a visual is always helpful!

How To Remover Gel Nails At Home

How Do You Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home? Quickly And Easily, Now That You Know!

So there you have it: an easy and relatively quick method to remove gel nail polish at home. Investing a little in supplies will save you big money in the long run, and your nails will stay healthy and strong… which ultimately means you can keep getting gel manicures to your heart’s content, or simply keep your natural nails beautiful and healthy.

I’ve been a big fan of gel nail polish for awhile, and I’m glad to have learned how to remove the gel nail polish myself, at home. But I’m curious: have you tried gel manicures? Would you get a gel manicure again? Do you prefer your nails to be natural? Or do you have another nail treatment you love? Please share in comments section and let me know!

Nail Poll

How often do you remove your gel nails at home versus a salon?

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    • Jasmeetk profile image

      Jasmeet Kaur 2 years ago from India

      very helpful.. will try soon.. voted up!!

    • manicuregirl profile image

      Sarah 3 years ago from Canada

      No problem! Let me know if you try it! :)

    • Efficient Admin profile image

      Efficient Admin 3 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Excellent! Thank you manicuregirl and thank you for the link.

    • manicuregirl profile image

      Sarah 3 years ago from Canada

      The link to my Hub about doing gel manis at home is here, Michelle, in case you find that info useful also! :)

    • manicuregirl profile image

      Sarah 3 years ago from Canada

      Thank you for your comment, Michelle! If you really like the gel manicures you might consider getting a kit to do them at home. Most kits will pay for themselves after 2-3 manicures, and you can do them on your schedule. I wrote a hub about that too... I might be a little obsessed with gels! :)

    • manicuregirl profile image

      Sarah 3 years ago from Canada

      Thank you Bonny! It is pretty neat stuff.

    • Efficient Admin profile image

      Efficient Admin 3 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      The Soak Off Gel Nail Wraps is a great invention! I've had several gel manicures and love them but since I'm on a budget I stopped getting them. I just use clear polish nowadays, but if I ever get a manicure it will be gel for me. This is a very helpful how-to hub, thank you for sharing and voted up and useful.

    • lucybell21 profile image

      Bonny OBrien 3 years ago from Troy, N.Y.

      What a wonderful article! So much info. I had no idea about this at all.

    • manicuregirl profile image

      Sarah 3 years ago from Canada

      It's the best way to go if you like your skin! :D Thanks Linda!

    • LindaSarhan profile image

      L Sarhan 3 years ago

      I didn't think about wrapping an acetone soaked cotton ball to the nail. Thanks for the tip! Great Hub!