How to Remove a Gel Manicure at Home in 5 Easy Steps

Rachel Krause
Klaus Vedfelt/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Klaus Vedfelt/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Maybe you’ve found yourself in a veritable beauty emergency: Your gel manicure is peeling or splitting, and you don’t have time to head to the nail salon before a major event. Or hey, maybe you’ve just had enough of your color, or your nails have grown out and you don’t want to deal with a salon visit just to get the gels off. (All’s fair in beauty and war.) Based entirely on the presence of acetone and rubber gloves, removing gel polish may seem like a task intended for professionals and professionals alone, but there’s no reason you can’t get the job done at home. You’ve seen your manicurist do it—so once you get started, this step-by-step guide may just ring a bell.

You’ll need:
A nail file
A nail buffer
An orange stick
Cotton balls or pads
Pure acetone
Aluminum foil

1. Use a coarse nail file to scratch at the top layer of the gel polish. Don’t get too rough it—you don’t want to damage your nails, obviously—but scratch through just enough to get to the color polish beneath the clear coat. This gives the acetone a place to actually penetrate through the polish.

2. Saturate 10 cotton balls (yes, one for each finger) in the acetone, and apply one to each nail before wrapping securely in aluminum foil to keep the cotton in place. If you’re doing this without help, it’s easiest to do one hand at a time rather than struggle with both. You can probably imagine how difficult it is to do this with one hand after you’ve already wrapped the other in cotton and tin foil.

3. Let the acetone sit on the nails for about 10 minutes. You can check a finger intermittently to see if the polish appears to be coming off or if it needs to sit longer. Once you see the polish start to lift, use your orange stick to peel it away from the nail. If it doesn’t come right off, place the acetone back on the nail rather than scraping hard to remove stubborn polish.

4. Once you’ve got the gel off, your nails will likely be looking a little worse for the wear. Use a nail buffer to smooth each nail out and buff away any leftover spots or speckles from the polish.

5. Wash your hands thoroughly to remove the acetone, and groom and polish your nails to your liking.

Read more from Daily Makeover: Simple Hacks to Fix Any Gel Manicure Problem