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Got Gel Nails for Summer? Here's How to Remove Them Yourself

Women's Health UK logo Women's Health UK 13/06/2019 Rebecca Norris and Courtney Leiva
a person with collar shirt © Arthur Neaman / EyeEm - Getty Images

There are some things you KNOW you just shouldn't do: pop spots, fail to wash your makeup brushes, and worst of all, peel your gel nails.

The latter is a serious crime because when you man-handle your gel mani, you can actually seriously eff with your nails. You could accidentally rip away the top layer of your nails – making them thinner, weaker, and seriously shabby-looking.

And while removing a gel manicure at home can be a pain in the glutes, here’s how to do it safely – without resorting to a trip to the salon:


Step 1: Break The Seal

Use a buffer, like Beauty Tool's 4-Way Nail Buffer Block (£4.19, to gently file away any protective topcoat still lingering on your nails.

If you have a design on your nails, Evelyn Lim, chief educator of Paintbox in NYC, says you should file through the design to the base color. “This is important to allow the acetone to penetrate to the deepest layer and speed up your removal process,” she says.

Once the nail color looks matte and powdery, you’re ready to move on to the next step. “Just be careful not to buff too much in the process – you don’t want to hit your natural nail,” says manicurist Skyy Hadley, owner of As U Wish Nail Salon in Hoboken, New Jersey.

a close up of a device: How To Remove Your Mani At Home Nail Buffer How To Remove Your Mani At Home Nail Buffer

Step 2: Wrap Up Your Nails

To start dissolving the gel, use a 100% acetone polish remover, like Super Nail Pure Acetone Polish Remover (£4.50, You’ll want to soak cotton balls in the remover, place them on your nails, and then wrap pieces of aluminum foil over the cotton balls and your nails. Let every nail soak for a good 15 minutes to soften the polish, says Hadley.

Lim adds that you should wrap your fingers extra tight. “Trapping in the heat will allow your gel to come off more rapidly, so you can opt to put your hand in a glove,” she says.

How To Remove Your Gel Mani At Home Super Nail Pure Acetone Polish Remover How To Remove Your Gel Mani At Home Super Nail Pure Acetone Polish Remover

Read: Shellac Vs Gel: What’s The Difference And Which One Is Better?

Step 3: Remove Remaining Color

After unwrapping your nails, most of the polish should easily come off on the acetone-soaked cotton balls. Use a wooden cuticle stick to gently scrape off any remaining bits of polish, says Hadley. “If you have trouble, soak your nails with a cotton ball for five more minutes, and try again,” she says.

Whatever you do, just be careful not to use too much pressure because your nail plate will be very soft, Lim points out. (You don’t want to scrape off parts of your nail!)

Step 4: Moisturise, Moisturise, Moisturise

Your nails and cuticles will likely be dry post-removal, so after you’re done taking your polish off, wash your hands and apply a hydrating cuticle oil, like Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil (£18, to both the nail and cuticle, says Hadley. “This will rehydrate your nails after using acetone on them to keep them strong and healthy between polishes,” she says.

How To Remove Your Gel Mani At Home Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil How To Remove Your Gel Mani At Home Deborah Lippmann Cuticle Oil

Consider taking a week off to give your nails a break from the harsh effects of acetone. And if you can’t go without color but don’t want to wreck your nails, try the OPI Gel Break Treatment System (£34.95, The three-step kit is packed with vitamins to heal and protect nails, and tops them off with a pretty sheer shade to hide any damage.

How To Remove Your Gel Mani At Home Opi Gel Break Trio Pack How To Remove Your Gel Mani At Home Opi Gel Break Trio Pack

What If My Gel Manicure Refuses To Come Off?

Even if you follow the directions to the T, sometimes you'll have a stubborn mani that just will. Not. Budge. (The worst!)

Again, do NOT pick at your nails. In extreme cases like these where it feels like your polish was basically welded onto your nails, head to a salon for professional help. A manicurist there will help get the color off, and ensure your nails are in tip top shape for the next #ManiMonday.

This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.

Whilst you're here, try these 4 Tricks To Make Your Nails Look Longer? Can't quite biting your nails? Here's How To Stop For Good


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