How To Remove Your Gel Nails Safely At Home


I am a manicure fanatic.

Those who know me know that I am rarely without my nails done. There’s just something so powerful about having perfectly manicured nails —it makes you feel like your life is together even when on days when it’s so far from that.

For the past six years, I’ve treated myself to fortnightly manicures and I toggle between getting shellac and SNS. The upkeep can obviously be quite time-consuming and expensive but luckily I’ve found ways to cut corners here and there, like asking for a colour change instead of a full-blown manicure, keeping my nails short so the gel lasts longer, and, best of all, removing my own gel nails when I don’t have time or money to hit the salon!

So if you’re looking for ways to cut costs with your gel nails, here’s my step-by-step process for removing gel nails safely at home.

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Step 1

Before you start, you need to make sure you’re in a well-ventilated space. Open any available windows and doors and turn on a small electric fan if you have one – this will help to draw the fumes from the nail products out of the room. Never attempt to remove your nails in a sealed room – there’s a reason nail salons have lots of fans in them and always have their doors open – the products you’ll be using have potent chemicals in them.

Step 2

To break down fake nails you’ll need to get your hands on some pure acetone. Most chemists stock this, or something similar like isopropyl alcohol. Soak cotton balls in the acetone, place them over your nails and seal in place with some aluminum foil. Leave for about 30 minutes.

If you can’t find pure acetone or isopropyl alcohol at a chemist, fill a small bowl one third of the way with everyday nail polish remover and place your fingertips in to soak. (Cover with a towel so as not to release fumes.) This will take longer and won’t be as easy, so protect the skin around your nails first by smothering them with a little Vaseline. You should soak your nails for about forty minutes if you’re removing gel nails this way.

Step 3

If you’ve gone the pure acetone route, you’ll notice that the acrylic or gel nail has gone soft after about thirty minutes and you will be able to wipe most of it off. If this is not the case, simply place the cotton ball back on the nail and wait another 10 minutes before trying to remove the nail again.

If you’ve been soaking away, try using a cuticle stick and gently push it under the base ridge of one of the nails to see if they are starting to weaken. Keep in mind that as most nail polish removers only have a small amount of acetone in them, the nails will never soften entirely, only weaken – so you’ll have to use the cuticle stick to help them along. You will most likely find that some of the nails come off in pieces, rather than as whole nails. If this happens, simply repeat the soaking process for ten minutes then try again.

Step 4

Once you’ve got as much off as possible using either method, use a coarse nail file to file the remaining gel or acrylic.

Step 5

Finish by wiping each nail with nail polish remover, filing your natural nails to a neat length and buffing with a nail buffer. Use a clear coat of protective polish like Sally Hansen Hard as Nails to allow your natural nails to strengthen again before your next visit to the salon!

Do you wear gel nails? Have you ever tried to remove them yourself?

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Comments 6

  1. I wish Lauren had updated this article sooner. I used ordinary nail polish remover for around 40 minutes. What a disaster, it literally stripped the skin off my fingertips. I had blisters, and dry skin and flaky nails for weeks. Things have only improved this last week. I had to lather my hands with hand cream constantly. With all my extra hand washing and covid house cleaning, it was a full time job.

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