How to Remove Gel Nail Polish | The Safe & Easy Way

If you’ve recently gotten a gel manicure and want to know how to remove gel nail polish safely & effectively, I’ve got you covered.

Remember, the number one way to damage your natural nails with a gel manicure is to pick or peel off the gel polish! Please, resist the temptation, and follow my guide below for how to remove gel nail polish at home without damaging your nails.

Step-by-step guide: how to remove gel nail polish

Supplies needed

Before you get started, gather the following supplies:

  • 100% pure acetone
  • 5-6 cotton balls
  • 1 sheet of aluminum foil
  • Scissors
  • A nail buffer (preferably 100/180 grit)
  • A quality metal cuticle pusher (or orange stick)
  • Nail clippers

Prep your nails

If you take the time to prep your nails before trying to remove your gel manicure the process will go much more smoothly.

You’ll also reduce the risk of damaging your natural nails and nail plate.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Wash & dry your hands thoroughly.
  • Buff your gel top coat with a nail buffer grit 100/180 to break the seal and make removal easier.
  • If you have nail extensions, trim them down now using your nail clipper. (If you have gel x extensions and want to remove them at home check out my article on “How to Remove Gel X Nails.“)

Removing the gel polish

  • Tear 10-12 small pieces of 2×2 inch aluminum foil and set them aside, one for each finger.
  • Cut 5-6 cotton balls into 1/2 so you have a total of 10-12, one for each finger.
  • Soak cotton balls with 100% acetone and apply them to each nail.
  • Wrapping each nail with a foil square to secure the cotton.
  • Repeat for all ten nails.
  • Let the cotton-soaked acetone on your nails for 10-15 minutes.

Do a test nail first

After the acetone has had time to soak into the nails, the gel polish should become soft and easy to remove.

  • Remove the foil from a nail and gently push the gel polish off with a cuticle pusher or orangewood stick. It should come off easily.
  • Be gentle to avoid damaging your natural nail.
  • If the gel doesn’t come off easily, wrap cotton back around your nail with the foil and wait another 5-10 minutes.
  • Repeat for all ten nails.

Nail aftercare

how to remove gel nail polish
Using quality cuticle oil can help restore luster to your nail beds, cuticles, and surrounding skin.

Now that your gel nail polish is removed, it’s important to take good care of your nails to keep them healthy and strong.

  • Wash your hands to remove any remaining acetone and gel polish residue.
  • Apply a nourishing cuticle oil or cream to moisturize both nails and cuticles.
  • If your nails feel weak or brittle, use a nail strengthener to help strengthen them.
  • Avoid biting your nails or using them to open things like soda cans to prevent damage.
  • Wait two weeks before getting another gel manicure so your nails can recover.

Possible risks and how to avoid them

how to remove gel nail polish
Damage to the nail plate due to improper gel polish removal.

Removing gel nail polish at home is safe and generally won’t damage your natural nails as long as you follow these tips:

  • Don’t scrape too hard with the cuticle pusher: Be gentle when removing the gel polish to avoid damaging your natural nails.
  • Don’t peel or pick the gel polish off: Picking or peeling off gel polish is the number one way to cause damage to your natural nails.
  • Use 100% pure acetone: Nail polish removers that don’t contain acetone might not work as well so make sure to use 100% pure acetone for best results.
  • Don’t inhale acetone fumes: Use acetone in a well-ventilated room as it can be harmful if inhaled.
  • Don’t over-soak your cotton balls: avoid getting your cotton balls soaking wet with acetone. This will only dry out the skin and cuticles around your nails.
  • Allergic reaction to ingredients in gel polish: some people develop skin allergies to gel nail polish. If you’ve got a gel mani and are experiencing itchy or inflamed skin around your nails you could have an allergy. Promptly remove the gel polish and consult with a dermatologist.

Alternatives to gel nail polish

Some people are allergic or can develop an allergy to certain ingredients in gel nail polish like HEMA.

If you have sensitive skin or are looking for an alternative to gel polish that is easier to remove, consider getting a classic manicure with traditional nail polish or nail lacquer.

Classic manicures can last up to seven days and are the easiest to remove with just straight nail polish remover and cotton balls.

Alternately if you want a manicure that will last longer then consider getting dip powder nails. For removal, these will have to be filed down with a nail drill but they do last several weeks longer than a gel manicure.

Key takeaways on how to remove gel nail polish

Now that you know how to remove gel nail polish at home safely and effectively, you can keep your nails healthy and beautiful without having to go to a salon.

Remember to follow these tips to get the best results and keep your nails in perfect shape for your next manicure!