How to Remove a Gel Manicure at Home…Without Damaging Your Nails!

gel manicure

I’ve been getting gel manicures regularly for the past few years, and I haven’t looked back. As someone who’s prone to next-day-chips, this long-lasting manicure was a godsend. Perfectly shiny, chip-free nails for two weeks? Does it get any better?! The only con, in my eyes, is the removal process. It takes quite a bit more time than taking off a standard mani – sometimes I just don’t have the time to sit in the salon, waiting for the formula to come off. That’s why I decided to start removing the polish at home…I do it right before bed, while I’m watching TV, anytime that I have a few minutes to spare. To learn how to remove your gel manicure from the comfort of your own home (WITHOUT damaging your nails – don’t even think about peeling the polish off), keep reading!


-A coarse nail file, like the Silver Streak Nail File by Flowery. It should be rough enough to break down the barrier of the gel polish.

-Nail polish remover. You don’t need anything fancy; Cutex will do the job!

-Cuticle oil, like this one from Essie.

-Cotton balls

-Aluminum foil

-Nail strengthener

gel manicure file

STEP 1: Use a coarse nail file to break down the top layer of polish, going back and forth in a horizontal motion. You’ll know this step is complete once the shine is gone.

STEP 2: To prevent the skin around your nails from becoming super dry (acetone can do this), paint some cuticle oil around your nail beds before continuing the removal process.

gel manicure foil removal

STEP 3: Take a piece of foil and rip it up into ten squares – make sure each one is big enough to wrap around your finger. Grab the acetone and cotton. Soak a cotton ball in polish removal – really douse it in the stuff. The more remover, the quicker the process will be. Place the cotton ball directly on top of your nail, then wrap it up in foil as tightly as you can. Repeat this step for all of your fingers. If you can do both hands at once, great! If not, just take it one hand at a time.

STEP 4: After about fifteen minutes of soaking, check on your nails. The polish, or at least some of it, should’ve flaked off. If there’s a lot left, allow it to soak for another 10-15 minutes.

STEP 5: The majority of the polish should fall off on its own. If there’s anything left, gently push it off with your thumb. If there’s an extra stubborn spot (there’s always one or two!), take a cotton ball, soak it and rub until it disappears.

STEP 6: After being exposed to that much acetone, your nails will no doubt look dehydrated. Don’t worry! They just need a little TLC. Reapply cuticle oil to revive it. Another option: soak your nails in nourishing, multi-tasker coconut oil for a few minutes.

STEP 7: If you notice that the quality of your nails have deteriorated, consider applying a nail strengthener to your nails before your next salon visit. This will make them stronger, less prone to chips and breaking, and allow for your next manicure to last as long as possible. Try OPI’s Nail Envy.

Follow these steps the next time you want to remove a gel manicure – please resist the temptation to peel! – and you’ll be amazed by how healthy your nails will look afterward. Let us know what happens in the comments below and on PAMPADOUR!

Images via SheFinds and Into the Gloss

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