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How to Remove Gel Nail Polish at Home: 4 Easy Ways

Last Updated: April 15, 2022

The longevity of gel nail polish is both a blessing and a curse. An amazing substitute for regular nail polish, a gel manicure can last two weeks and longer. You don’t have to deal with those annoying nail polish chips or broken tips. Life gets busy though, and we don’t always have the means to go get our gel polish removed at the salon. 

But, don’t despair. We’re here to guide you through how to remove your gel nail polish on your own. Though it’s tempting to simply pick the polish off, this can severely damage your nail bed. Instead, we’ll teach you how to remove gel nail polish safely and effectively at home. Let’s get started.

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish 

What You’ll Need: Acetone

Acetone is the main ingredient in almost every type of nail polish remover. A powerful solvent, it works by breaking down the polish to allow you to remove it smoothly off the nail. Some people are wary of using the solvent, as it is strong and drying, but there is actually no proof that the chemical holds any danger (besides if ingested). 

Traditional nail polish removers are formulated with part acetone solvent and part oil (such as caster). However, gel nail polish is made up of stronger ingredients that bond with the nail bed better than normal polish.

This is why traditional nail polish remover doesn’t work on gel polish. Instead, you’re going to need to use pure acetone

Now, let’s dive into the options on how to do it.

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There are a couple of ways to utilize acetone in order to remove gel nail polish. It’s more of a personal preference which route you want to take, but we’ll give you some options. 

Before any of these methods, you’ll want to prep your nails. 

To do this, take a file and gently file off the top layer of the gel coat directly on the nail bed. While not mandatory, filing first will drastically decrease the length of the removal process.

The Aluminum Foil Method

For this method, you’re going to need acetone, cotton balls, and aluminum foil

  1. Soak a cotton ball completely with acetone (really, the more the better)
  2. Place the wetted cotton ball directly on top of the nail
  3. Wrap a piece of aluminum foil around the tip of your finger, securing the cotton ball and helping to retain heat
  4. Repeat process with all other fingers; do it hand by hand if it’s too difficult to do all ten fingers at once
  5. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes
  6. Remove foil and push the cotton ball up, applying pressure, to slide the polish off.

*If the polish doesn’t seem to be coming off easily, put the wrap back on for a couple more minutes. Then try again.*

  1. Hydrate nails with cuticle oil or any other hydrating lotion.

The Baggy Method

For this method, you’ll need a small ziplock bag and acetone

  1. Pour a small amount of acetone into the ziplock bag. You just need enough to cover your fingertips. 
  2. Place one hand into the bag, fingers first
  3. Use your other hand to tighten the excess bag around your hand, suctioning the air out of the bag.

You could also use a rubber band or ponytail to hold the bag in place.

  1. Let your fingers soak for 15-20 minutes

The bag may get warm inside from your body heat; this is normal. It actually will help the acetone do its job.

  1. Remove your hand from the bag and use a cloth or damp cotton ball to slide the gel polish off

(Again, if the polish doesn’t easily come off, soak your nails for about 5 more minutes before trying again.)

  1. Repeat process with your other hand
  2. Hydrate the nails with oil or lotion

The Soaking Method

This method is more of a subsection to the Baggy Method above. Instead of using a ziplock bag, you can really use any sort of container to soak your fingers in the acetone. 

This method is the most simple and accessible. The process is the same as above, but the soaking will take longer here. Without the heat from the bag, it will take a little longer for the acetone to break down the polish. 

Soak your fingertips in a bowl of acetone for 20-25 minutes. You can conveniently lift your hands every so often to monitor your progress. Once the soaking is finished, you should be able to easily remove the polish with a cotton ball. Don’t forget to moisturize after!

DIY Method

If you’re absolutely against using acetone, a mixture of warm water, dish soap, and a teaspoon of salt is an easy DIY solution. This acetone-free concoction can be used in place of acetone in all priorly mentioned methods. 

Another option is using a store-bought tool, such as this bristled nail polish remover. There are tons of products out there designed specifically to safely remove gel nail polish. 

To Sum it Up

Gel nail polish is an amazing product that is a staple in the beauty community. The strong polish is tough, protective, and difficult to remove. This is what makes it so appealing, but it becomes a little frustrating when you actually need to remove it.

We found the best ways to remove that stubborn polish by yourself, saving you a trip to the salon. As with any nail polish remover, our methods use the miracle ingredient of acetone. When it comes to the method you should use, the choice is yours. 

We hope that we’ve provided the tools you need to remove your gel polish in a nondamaging way!

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