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How to Remove Gel Nails The Right Way With No Nail Damage!

When it comes to the question of how to remove gel nails, there really is only one correct way. I’m sure you can find other ways listed on many other sites….but most of them either don’t work, or result in damage to your natural nails.

Do yourself a favor and follow this guide that tells you once and for all how to remove gel nails correctly with no nail damage!

How to Remove Gel Nails Correctly With Acetone

When it comes to how to remove gel nails, using acetone is the most common way and probably also the fastest. Although many people that use acetone to remove gel nails do so incorrectly, and this results in damage to your skin and damage to your nails.

The correct method to use acetone to remove gel nails is detailed below.

Supplies needed:

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish

I’ve put together an easy to follow step by step guide to help show you just how easy it can be to remove gel polish. Make sure you read each step carefully as doing this incorrectly WILL lead to damaged nails.

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish Step 1 – Filing

Grab your course nail file, but don’t just go and start filing your gel polish off!

You need to be careful here:

You are just wanting to file lightly on your nail polish to break through the top coat to expose the color gel nail polish below. You are just wanting to remove that top sealing coat so the acetone can work its magic on the color polish.

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish Step 2 – Heat Up Your Acetone

(optional, but highly recommended step)

This is a step that I have not seem mentioned in many guides, but it is an important step that helps remove gel nails more easily.

Heating up our acetone helps it to break down the gel nail polish, and thus removes it much quicker.

It is important to heat up your acetone in the correct way. Do NOT heat up your acetone on the stove, in the microwave or anything that uses a flame or electricity. Acetone is flamable and doing so will likely start a fire!

We must heat op our acetone using a hot water bath, which is a simple procedure:

  1. You will need 2 ceramic or glass bowls, 1 small enough to fit inside the other. The smaller bowl needs to be acetone proof.
  2. Fill the larger bowl with a small about of hot or just boiled water – the amount of water will depend on the size of your smaller bowl. Keep in mind the water level will rise when you place the smaller bowl in it.
  3. Half fill your smaller bowl with acetone and sit it in the hot water in the larger bowl
  4. Wait for the acetone to warm up – probably 5 minutes then move onto step 3.

Here is a pic of my setup so you can see what it is meant to look like.
how to remove gel nails

How To Remove Gel Nail Polish Step 3 – Soaking

Please do NOT dip your fingertips in acetone and let them soak. Please don’t do that! Soaking your entire finger tips in acetone will damage your skin, your nails and your cuticles.

For this stage you will need 5 cotton balls teared in half and 10 pieces of foil wrap (roughly 3″ x 3″)

Soak each piece of cotton ball in the warmed acetone.

You will then take a piece of cotton ball and lay it on one nail, touching as little of your skin as possible. Ideally, the cotton ball is only touching your nail.

Now you are going to take a piece of foil and wrap it around the finger to hold the cotton ball against the nail. Repeat this for each finger on one hand. Each nail then needs to soak like this for about 10 minutes.

Here’s a tip:

If you are doing this yourself, don’t try to do two hands at once!

Yet another tip:

how to remove gel polish
Gel polish caps can save a lot of time

Instead of using foil to wrap your fingers, you can use gel polish caps. These are pre-formed rubber covers and foam pads than slip on easily over your fingers and removes the need to use foil and cotton balls. Certainly worth a look if you do remove gel nail polish often!

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish Step 4 – Scraping

Now we are getting to the fun part of how to remove gel nails!

Take your fingernails out of the foul wrap…..and here is a pro tip for you:

Don’t unwrap the foil, simply slide it off the end of your finger. By doing this, it will stay in the shape of your finger and be easy to slide back on should you need to re-soak the nail.

So take your orange stick (or cuticle pusher as you may know it), and start scraping the gel nail polish color off.

It should scrape off pretty easily at this point, especially if you used warm acetone. If you do find that some parts are still hard and wont come off, then simply re-soak that finger and try again.

Another super important point here is: do NOT file the polish off. It might be tempting to do so if the polish stays hard, but it will result in damage to your natural nails, and you don’t want that. Strengthening your nails can take quite some time.

How to Remove a Gel Manicure Step 5 – Tidying Up

After you have removed all of the gel color, you will probably still have a clear layer left with a funny spotty type pattern on it.

You will need to use your nail buffer to smooth that out and prepare the nails for the next polish you are ready to put on!

Don’t forget to shape your nails and to wash your hands to remove the dust and acetone residue. Let your hands dry thoroughly before applying your next gel polish.

How to Remove Gel Nails Without Acetone?

Don’t – just don’t. Seriously……any guides that tell you its possible to do it without damage are WRONG.

Here is why you shouldn’t pick or file your gel nails off:

Let’s be honest, every gel nail polish user has picked their polish off at some point. Most of us have even probably filed them off as well in a burst of eagerness to get the next latest and greatest color on asap.

Whether it’s a color changing nail polish, or a matte finish – trust me, it is not worth damaging your natural nails for. And that is what picking our filing your gel nail polish off will do.

Every time you pick or file your gel nails off, they get thinner. You are actually removing layers of your natural nails each time you do so. It gets to a point where they become so thin that they are actually like paper, and will bend and fold backwards very easily.

Yes, I said it – your nails will bend and fold backwards easily….as in ALL THE TIME!

So please please please please, use the proper method listed above on how to remove gel nails. Trust me, it’s worth the extra time it takes!

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About Vanessa Steed

I am a mum, a wife and a lover of all things to do with nails and nail polish! I have worked in the beauty industry for over 10 years but am currently an at-home mom looking after my two young kids.

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