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Step-by-step guide to removing gel nails

The allure of gel nail polish lies in its long-lasting and chip-resistant qualities, giving you a glossy, salon-finished look that lasts for weeks. But when it's time to bid farewell to your gel nails, it's essential to remove them carefully to avoid damaging your natural nails. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to remove gel nails safely at home.

Prepare Your Nails

Before diving into the removal process, make sure your nails are ready. Begin by gently filing down the top coat of your gel nails. This will remove the shiny layer and allow the remover to penetrate more effectively. Be careful not to file too deeply, as you don't want to damage the nail underneath.

What You Need

- Nail File
- Acetone
- Cotton balls or pads
- Aluminum foil
- Cuticle oil

Soak Cotton in Acetone

Acetone is the most effective solvent for breaking down the tough bonds of gel nail polish. Soak a cotton ball or pad in acetone until it's saturated but not dripping. You'll need one for each nail.

Protect Your Skin

Gel nails require pure acetone for removal, which can be harsh on the skin. It's a good idea to apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly around your nail beds to protect your skin from drying out.

Wrap Your Nails

Nails wrapped in aluminium foil

Place the soaked cotton ball on top of your gel nail and wrap it tightly with a piece of aluminium foil. Ensure the foil is snug but not too tight; you want to keep the cotton ball in place while allowing your finger to remain comfortable. Repeat this process for each nail.


Patience is key. Leave your nails wrapped for about 15 minutes. This will give the acetone time to dissolve the gel nail polish.

Remove the Gel Polish

After the time has elapsed, gently remove the aluminium foil and cotton from your nails. The gel polish should come off easily. If there's any residue, you can use an orange stick or a cuticle pusher to gently scrape it off. Do this carefully to avoid harming the nail bed.

Checking Progress

If the gel polish isn't coming off easily, re-soak the cotton balls in acetone, rewrap your nails, and give it another 5-10 minutes.


Cuticle oil being dropped on a nail

Once all the gel is removed, your nails might feel dry due to the acetone. Wash your hands with soap and water to remove any acetone residue, then hydrate your nails and cuticles with cuticle oil or a moisturising lotion.


To restore moisture, consider using a nail strengthening cream or treatment, and give your nails a break before applying another set of gel nails.

By following these steps, you can remove your gel nails safely and keep your natural nails looking healthy. Remember, if you're unsure or uncomfortable with the removal process, it's always best to seek help from a professional.