How to Remove Gel Nail Polish

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish

Are you a fan of gel polish but not so much of the removal process? You have probably heard horror stories of people trying to remove gel polish themselves only to have their nails break off and become weak and brittle.

And it’s all true. If you try to remove gel polish yourself, your nails will certainly suffer the same fate. However, if you remove your gel polish the correct way, your nails will actually come out looking better and healthier than ever.

Before you begin this process at home, you will need the following supplies:

  • A well-ventilated area
  • A nail and file or an Electric nail file. 
  • Nail protectant to put around the skin and cuticle while removing the polish
  • Three inches by three inches aluminum foil squares for each fingernail needing gel polish removal
  • Cotton balls
  • Acetone
  • Nail cream moisturizer and/or nail oil

The process isn’t hard, and although it does require some patience and some time, you can definitely remove the gel polish yourself without harming your nails.

Check out below the steps on how you can accomplish this yourself. 

Prep Your Area

Before you begin the process of removing your gel nail polish, make sure you have a clean space that is properly ventilated. Removal can create dust filing and fumes from the acetone., be sure that you prep an area that has a fan or a window (or several) that you can open while you remove the nail polish. 

Firsts Things First: File It Down

After you have prepared your workspace and you have properly ventilated your workspace area, you can start the process of filing down the top coat or shine  on your fingers. Take a filling tool and slowly and gently file down the top layer of the gel polish on your fingers, one at a time. 

The idea behind this is not to completely file down to where the polish is coming off. Instead, the goal is to file down the topcoat so you can remove the shine. Be sure you go about this very slowly as to not damage the nail. 

Protect Your Skin

Now that you have buffed down the glossy top coat of the gel polish, you will need to protect the skin before continuing on. To do this, you will need to coat your skin around the nail and the cuticle with thick cream or a nail oil in order to protect the skin from any damage.

This will also provide your skin protection from the acetone polish remover that you will use later on, which can dry out your skin.

Soak in Nail Polish Remover

Now that you have your top coat of gel polish filed down and your skin has been covered with the thick protecting cream or nail oil (or both for that added sense of security), you are now ready for the process of wiping the gel polish off with acetone.

Remember when we mentioned earlier that you would need to have a ventilated area to work before you begin the process of removing the gel polish? It was for this very reason. Acetone is a very strong stripping agent, and it, therefore, has a very strong odor, which can cause extreme headaches or breathing problems for some individuals if not used properly. 

For the acetone, you will need to pour some in a bowl or soak some on a cotton ball. If you decide to use the bowl only, you will need to keep your fingers into the acetone for a few minutes at a time, remove and wipe with a cotton ball and repeat the process until all of the gel polish is removed.

If you decide to use the cotton balls instead, soak some cotton balls with the acetone solution and then press down and wipe the cotton ball soaked in acetone on the nail and cover with foli to hold the cotton ball in place for 10 to 15 minutes.  repeat this process on all nails.

Wrap Nails With Aluminum Foil

Before you begin the gel polish removal, you will need to cut out about three inches by three inches of aluminum foil. You will need one for all fingers you will be using this on. Therefore, if you are removing gel polish from all ten fingers, you will need ten individual three inches by three inches pieces of aluminum foil. 

At this point, you will then need to take your cotton balls and soak all pieces that correspond with the number of aluminum foil pieces you cut out. You will then take one cotton ball soaked with acetone, place it on your fingernail that needs the gel polish removed, and wrap the piece of foil around it.

Things to remember when placing the aluminum foil and cotton balls on your fingertips:

  • Start with your pinkie nail, as this will make it easier to go around your hands.
  • Start with your non-dominant hand when you begin this process, as it will make it easier to get your entire hands done. 

You will repeat this process for all of the nails that need the gel polish removed. Wait about 10 to 15 minutes, and then gently pull back the aluminum foil to check your progress. 

To make sure the process is working, when you check on your fingernails, the gel polish should look as it is lifted and falling off the nails. This will make the remaining polish removable with little to no pressure. If your fingernails do not look like this after the 10-15 minutes, put the aluminum foil and cotton back on and wait another 5 minutes.

Once the 5 minutes are up, you will move on to the buffering process. 

Buff, Soak, Buff, Repeat

At this point, you should be able to start buffing off all of the excess polish left on the fingernail. You will need a cuticle stick or cuticle pusher for this process.

Once you have removed your aluminum foil and cotton balls from your fingertips, you will then begin to  use your cuticle stick or pusher to help remove the dissolving polish.  Continue this process until there is no gel polish residue left on the fingernail.

Hydration Station

After your fingernail has been completely and gently stripped off the gel polish, it should be nice and clean and ready for you to rehydrate it after going through the stripping process. To hydrate your nails, you will need to apply  your  coconut oil or something similar on the nail to maximize nail hydration.

Since acetone is so hard on the nails, they will most likely feel dry and brittle. Using a moisturizer will help restore the natural smoothness. 

Apply Nail Oil

After you have applied and worked the moisturizer into your nail, you will now need to apply nail oil that will continue to keep your fingernails nice, smooth, and healthy.

You Can Definitely Remove Gel Polish on Your Own

Taking on removing gel polish yourself doesn’t have to be hard or end with damaged nails. If you follow these easy steps, you, too, can safely and gently restore your nails back to their healthy and polish-free fingernails.

Let’s recap the process:

  • Make sure you are in a well-ventilated area - Acetone  has a very strong smell and can cause breathing problems. Make sure you have a fan going or a window open when you are going through the process of removing the gel polish.
  • File down the top layer - Take a nail file or electric file and file down the top glossy layer of the gel polish.
  • Protect your hands - Apply a skin protectant to your nails and cuticles to prevent them from being harmed by the acetone polish remover.
  • Soak your fingertips in acetone - Take some aluminum foil and cotton balls soaked in acetone and wrap around the fingertips to help lift the gel polish.
  • Buff out any excess polish - Use a cuticle stick to buff anyway any excess polish still left over. 
  • Hydrate your nails - Acetone can leave fingernails dry and brittle, so be sure to soak them in coconut oil or an equivalent to restore moisture.
  • Apply nail oil to retain moisture - Apply a nail oil and massage into nails as the final step in protecting and hydrating your fingernails. 

Taking care of your own nails doesn’t have to be an intimidating or nail damaging task. The most important thing about this process is to make sure that you have a well-prepped area to work, the supplies we mentioned earlier, and the patience to work through these steps. 

Once you accomplish this process, you’ll be able to repeat these steps for all of your gel polish-removing future needs. 

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