Literally no one likes having chipped nails. And nail technology has tried to ebb the frequency of chips with the invention of gel nail polish. But, the bad news is, nail polish remover doesn’t exactly work with this improvement — at least not as easily. If you’re trapped at home with gel nails you’re ready to remove, you may be feeling a little lost, considering experts often urge people to leave removal to professionals or risk damaging your nails. Since you can’t go to the salon during the COVID-19 pandemic, here’s an at-home guide on how to remove gel nail polish without ruining your nails, with advice from the pros themselves.
First and foremost, do not peel off your gel polish, no matter how bad the urge is; this strips your nail beds of their upper layers and makes them more susceptible to breaking. Instead, manicurist Brittney Boyce, an L.A.-based celebrity nail artist, and Paintbox nails have both shared tutorials on Instagram detailing how to remove the polish with no nail damage. For even more advice, I spoke with Paintbox’s Creative Director Mabelyn Martin and celebrity nail artist Elizabeth Garcia. All you’ll need is a few tools, and you’ll be ready to go. If you don’t want to search your home far and wide for a collection of tools, you can get ORLY’s At Home Gel Removal Kit ($20, ORLY), which has all the items you need in one bundle. For those who can’t wait for shipping, though, you’ll need acetone, cotton, aluminum foil, an orange wood stick, a nail file and buffer, and cuticle oil.
To begin, I recommend a warm towel so you can pretend you’re truly at the salon. After that, Garcia tells Elite Daily to use your nail file to take off the topcoat and a bit of the gel color. However, Boyce warns that if it starts to hurt or burn, you should stop immediately — you don’t want to over file.
Next, Martin recommends you apply cuticle oil to each nail to keep nails moisturized throughout the process. To actually remove the gel, all the experts say you should soak your cotton in the acetone and place it over the nail bed. Then, wrap the aluminum foil over the entirety of the tip of your finger to keep the acetone from drying. You’ll leave your nails like this for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the gel starts flaking and loosening. “The best tip is to remove each foil one at a time to avoid the acetone evaporating, and the gel hardening again while you’re removing from other nails,” Martin recommends.
Once you’ve removed the aluminum foil, Garcia says to use an orange wood stick to gently push the gel off in the same direction that the polish was applied. Don’t push too hard or you’ll dig into your nail bed, Martin warns. Do this on each nail, and then, buff off any polish left behind. Once you’re done, make sure to moisturize your hands again, as the acetone can be very drying. Overall, this process should take about 30 to 40 minutes.
If you’ve already peeled off your gels, don’t worry; your nails aren’t a lost cause. “Buff the nail surface very lightly with a buffer to even it out. After that, apply a nail hardener … Then, massage coconut oil, jojoba, or cuticle oil into cuticles,” says Garcia.
Boyce and Paintbox are posting daily tutorials on creative nail art you can do from home. Once your nails are free from polish, consider trying some of their out-of-the-box ideas and even more.