Beauty · DIY

Removing Gel Nails

When it comes to all things nail polish, I’m definitely the go-to guru of my friends. I get questions all the time ranging from color suggestions, to tips and tricks. By far, the question I get the most is how do I take off my own gel nails.

It’s actually incredibly easy to take off your gel nails at home and saves you the pain of having to schedule another appointment with your nail tech just to remove them.

All it takes is the right tools and about 15 minutes until your nails are gel free!

Here’s what you need:

gel nails 12


  • Acetone
  • Cotton Balls
  • Tin foil (cut into 10 rectangular strips)
  • Orange stick or cuticle pusher
  • Nail file or buffer

It’s important that you get 100% acetone instead of regular nail polish remover. It’s stronger than regular nail polish remover and it’ll get the job done. Be careful to only use it when removing gel nails, so you don’t over expose your nails to the harsher chemicals.

Step 1: Buff the nail with a nail file or buffer. The goal here is to break the seal of the top coat. I used the roughest side of my nail buffer and roughed-up the top layer until I could tell some of it was turning to powder and coming off. No need to go too crazy, so if you get to a point where you’re buffing the actual color, make sure you stop.

gel nails 9

Step 2: Dip a cotton ball in acetone, then place it on top of your finger nail. Because you’ve just buffed it to break the top coat seal, the acetone will be able to seep into the other layers of the nail to break down the polish.

Step 3: Secure the cotton ball onto your nail using one of the strips of tin foil. This helps the acetone from evaporating and keeps the cotton ball in place on your nail. In the picture below, you can see that my pointer finger is still wrapped in tin foil with the cotton ball in place. I like to do one hand at a time so I still have a little mobility with the opposite hand.

gel nails 5

Step 4: Wait 10-15 minutes, then remove the cotton ball and tin foil from your nail. The pictures above and below show what my thumb nail looked like after removing my tin foil finger. The polish should be peeling up a bit from your nail on its own.

Gel nails 4

Here’s another image of my pointer finger so you can see what I mean by the polish “lifting” away from your nail. The acetone has broken the seal to your nail which means the nail polish pretty much comes off on its own.

gel nails 1

Step 5: Using the orange stick or cuticle pusher, start at the base and push the gel polish off of your nail. There should be a big sheet that comes off with the first push, but might be a few left over spots that cling on to your nail. Just push/scrape these off with the orange stick and you’ll be left with a “clean,” gel-free nail.

Step 6: Remove any excess base coat and clear glue-like gel by taking one more wipe with acetone over the nail. If you have any remaining gel spots, just buff those away with the nail buffer.

Gel nails 3

And there you have it! Gel nails removed in 6 easy steps.

My nails always feel a bit beat-up after I’ve had gel on them, so after I remove the polish and smooth down my nails, I like to add an oil treatment to give my nails some hydration. I also usually try to wait a few days before painting them again to let them breathe a bit.

Have you ever tried taking off gel nails at home before? Do you use the same method or something different?

xxo, Kris

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