How to remove gel nail polish at home

Gel manicures can last for up to two weeks, making them a perfect alternative to traditional manicures which can chip almost right away. (Who among us hasn’t chipped their mani before even leaving the salon!?)

But, while gel manicures can last a long time, they can also be a beast to get off. That’s why most nail technicians will very sternly tell you to come back to the salon to have the gel polish removed, rather than hacking away at the polish at home.

Let’s be real, though — who wants to waste the time, or the money, having polish removed at the salon, especially if you aren’t planning to have another service done at the same time?

manicure photo
Getty Images | John Sciulli

Here is some good news: You can safely remove gel polish at home without screwing up your nails or causing yourself massive pain.

There are actually a few different ways to go about removing gel polish at home. First, you might consider buying a kit, like the Red Carpet Manicure Removal Kit ($15.75 on Amazon). It comes with everything you need to remove a gel manicure — whether you used gel polish at home or had a gel mani done at the salon — including a buffer, nail polish remover, foil, orange sticks and cuticle oil.


Already have a lot of these items at home? Then you don’t need to buy a special kit. Get started by using a nail buffer to buff all the shine off your gel mani.

Now, soak a cotton ball in nail polish remover (Hint: nail polish remover that contains acetone is your best bet), and wrap a piece of foil around the top of the finger.

nail polish photo
Flickr | xddorox

It might help to cut 10 small pieces of foil ahead of time, so you aren’t trying to mess around with the foil dispenser while half your nails are already wrapped up. Another tip? Wrap the cotton balls in foil around your dominant hand’s nails first. This’ll make using your non-dominant hand easier than it would be with those fingers already wrapped.

Alternately, you might consider purchasing re-usable nail wraps, such as these plastic soaking pads from Etsy store DanilenaSupplies.

Etsy, DanilenaSupplies

Now, let your mani soak for 10-15 minutes. Then, remove the foil. The gel color should now gently come off the nails as you swipe the soaked cotton ball against it. You may need to use the wood stick to remove any excess — just try to do it gently to avoid damaging your nails.

Finish by rubbing cuticle oil on your nails to help restore shine and smoothness. If you don’t have cuticle oil on hand, don’t worry, you can also use coconut oil or almond oil.

Beauty, Fashion & Style, Time-Saving, Tips & Advice

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About the Author
Bridget Sharkey
Bridget Sharkey is a freelance writer covering pop culture, beauty, food, health and nature.

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