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How To Remove Gel Nails at Home: A Nail Pro Shares the 5 Easy Steps That Won’t Damage Nails

Learn how to easily take off gel polish without harming nails

Going to the nail salon and getting a fresh set of gel nails that are shiny and gorgeous can be such a mood-booster. Or, you can get the same benefits from doing your own gel manicure at home, and adding on a cute designs. However, what’s not great is when your gel polish starts to chip after a few weeks of wear. And while you may feel the urge to pick the polish off, but it’s best to fight the temptation in order to keep nails healthy. The good news? You don’t have to make a trip back to the salon just to have them removed. We spoke to celebrity nail artist Sigourney Nuñez for her tips on how to remove gel nails at home. Keep scrolling to see how with just a few supplies you likely already have, you’ll have fresh, clean nails in no time.

What is a gel manicure?

Hands with nails painted red
gilaxia/Getty

Although gel manicures may seem like a newer nail technique, they have actually been around since the 1980s. “Gels have been popular since the ’80s but it wasn’t until the late ’90s and early 2000s that they started to become more accessible in salons,” says Nuñez. “By the 2010s, gel services became a nail menu staple.” And in 2015, almost one in four women had had at least one gel manicure in a salon.

After each coat of polish, you’ll place your hands under a special UV/LED lamp for 30 to 60 seconds. The drying process is called “curing,” and the polish “dries once being exposed to the UV rays in a professional LED lamp,” explains Tamara Di Lullo veteran nail artist and CND Education Ambassador. Basically, curing creates a protective barrier against chipping and stripping.

And unlike regular nail polishes, gel polishes are made from ingredients that adhere to the nail tightly and are strong enough to withstand daily wear without chipping. Long story short: gel manicures keep nails looking gorgeous much longer than a manicure that uses regular polish.

Related: Ask for ‘Shellac Nails’ For the Most Natural Looking Artificial Nails On The Market

Can I remove gel nails at home?

One hand with gel manicure and another hand with gel removal
mikroman6/Getty

Yes, you can! But there is a right way and wrong way to do it. “Picking or peeling off your gel nails can unintentionally damage your natural nails by removing layers of keratin, leading to thin and weak nails,” says Nuñez. Which is why it’s best “to use proper removal techniques to maintain healthy and strong nails,” she adds.

How to remove gel nails at home

If you’re getting tired of your gel nails, need them off for an event or just simply want to give your nails a break, you can do so from the comfort of your home. Here, what you’ll need and the steps for how to remove gel nails at home yourself according to Nuñez.

Supplies you’ll need to remove gel nails at home:

The steps for how to remove gel nails at home:

how to remove gel nails at home with foil
familylifestyle/Getty
  1. File off the top coat of your gels. “It’s best to file off the top layer in an effort to remove the top coat. If you remove some of the color, it’s okay, but if you see the natural nail, you went too far,” cautions Nuñez. She suggests being gentle and careful to not to over-file your nails. If when filing, you starts to feel pain or a burning sensation, then it’s best to put the file down.
  2. Saturate cotton balls with acetone, and place one on top of each nail, then wrap nails with pieces of aluminum foil. This helps the acetone loosen the gel without evaporating.
  3. Let nails soak for 10-15 minutes in the foil wraps to let the acetone loosen the gel completely. Tip: If you don’t have any foil, you can fill a bowl with acetone and soak your nails in the bowl for the same amount of time to get a similar effect.
  4. Remove the foil and cotton balls one nail at a time and use the cuticle pusher to gently push off the gel. You don’t want to push too hard and dig into your nail bed. Repeat for the rest of nails.
  5. Apply one drop of cuticle oil on each nail for added hydration and gently buff nails to remove any excess base coat.

For a more in-depth visual tutorial, watch the below YouTube video from @jesslizs.

Related: How To Remove Acrylic Nails at Home — A Nail Pro Reveals Her 5 Easy Steps

How to treat hands and nails after removing gels

After removing gel polish, it’s important to rehydrate nails and the surrounding skin. Acetone can be very drying, which can make nails weak and brittle. The best way to do this is to apply a penny-size amount of a hand cream, like Caudalie Hand and Nail Cream (Buy from Sephora, $16). And use it twice a day to ensure hands and nails stay hydrated.

Also, if the above sounds like a lot of work and tools to gather up, there are at-home gel nails removing kits, like the ORLY At-Home Gel Remover Kit ($14.40, Amazon), that come with everything you need. And whether you want to let nails breathe or paint on a new polish right away, find inspiration for you next manicure with the best nail designs of 2023.

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For more nail inspiration, click through:

At-Home Gel Nails: How To Reap the Benefits of the Pricey Salon Treatment for $100s Less

Polygel Nails: The Trending Manicure Technique That Makes Nails Look Longer and Stronger

The 8 Best Press On Nails According to Celebrity Manicurists

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