What You Need To Know To Remove A Gel Manicure At Home

The feeling of a fresh set of nails is simply unmatched. You finally took the time to treat yourself, booked yourself a mani, and feel brand new with your glossy new set of nails. Flash forward a couple of weeks and what was once a glorious set of gel nails has now begun edging off of your nail beds and chipped in all the wrong places. It's time to book a much less pleasant and rewarding appointment and plan to get them removed.

It's pretty irritating to have to pay for an appointment to get your nail goals all scrubbed off, and it's made all the more disappointing when you're left with weak and brittle nails at the end of it. Sure, there is a vast variety of gel nail formulas you can try that promise to protect your nails, for example, the new Builder-in-a-Bottle gel formula promises to actually strengthen your nails over time, per Woman & Home. Unfortunately, regardless of what you try, it's the process of removing the gel nails that causes the most damage. 

You would assume that opting to go to a professional is your safest bet for the best gel nail removal, but the truth is that often salons rely on the fastest methods of removal rather than the least harmful, per Self. Here are the steps you can take for the safest and most efficient gel nail removal process.

The tools you'll need to remove a gel manicure

We wish we could tell you that this is one of those DIY home beauty hacks that utilize nothing but the coconut oil in your cupboard. If you want to be thorough, there are a few tools you're going to have to make sure you have, but don't worry: these are all affordable beauty items that you could potentially already own if you're a fan of at-home manicures. 

At the most basic level, you're going to at least need to make sure that you have 100% pure acetone, not just typical nail polish remover, per Good Housekeeping. Another liquid you'll need that will work overtime to keep your nails as healthy as possible throughout this process is cuticle oil. You can use whatever cuticle oil you have in rotation currently, but be warned that you're going to use a lot of it.

When it comes to actual physical removal tools you're going to need a nail file, and some cotton balls, per Allure. But ideally, you'd also have some manicure sticks and a dual-sided nail brush (via Good Housekeeping). The final item you'll need is one you already have lying around: aluminum foil. And just like that, you have your perfect pro gel polish removal kit ready to go.

The prep you'll need to do to remove a gel manicure

Look at you. You have the complete arsenal ready to tackle your overgrown struggling gel nails. Your prep isn't quite done yet, though. The best way to go about the at-home gel polish removal process is to prep your tools, space, and nails for the process ahead. 

If you've gotten your gel nails removed before, you're likely already familiar with what some of the tools above are needed for. This is why it's best to save yourself some time and hassle by preparing your aluminum and cotton balls by cutting them into small squares that are ready to wrap around your nails, per Self. Don't soak the cotton balls just yet, though, as they'll likely dry out by the time you use them. 

The next — and most important — prep step you need is to bathe your cuticles in cuticle oil. Pure acetone is harsh, and while that harshness is necessary to break down the gel polish, you don't want to expose your cuticles to it for long, per Allure

Lastly, you should secure a well-ventilated area for the process. Acetone is strong not only in power but also in fragrance. You don't want to breathe it in throughout the removal process, so air circulation is key, per Allure. (You might as well also line up your favorite "Real Housewives" show to keep you entertained throughout the process.)

The process to remove a gel manicure

The first step in the actual removal process is to break down as much of the gel polish as you can, and this is where your nail file comes into play. You'll want to file down the top layer of the gel polish to break it down so that it's easier for the acetone to finish the job, per InStyle. Make sure to go slowly and gently; you don't want to end up filing all the way down to your actual nail and cause damage. 

Once you've roughed up the top layer as much as possible, it's time to grab your cotton balls and soak them in acetone, per Harper's Bazaar. Wrap each nail in the soaked cotton balls and tightly secure them by wrapping the aluminum foil squares you prepared around each nail to get that cotton ball snug and cozy. 

Now, this is where you'll be glad you popped on your favorite show because you're going to need to wait and let them soak for about 15 minutes. Celebrity nail artist Elle suggests wrapping your hands in a warm towel during this part as she explains that "acetone needs heat to work properly" (via Harper's Bazaar). Once the wait is over, unwrap your nails and use a nail stick to push the polish off. It should already be lifting easily.

That's it! If your polish persists, try soaking your nails in some hot water and dish soap to lift the remaining polish. But most importantly, the grand finale should always be bathing your nails in as much cuticle oil as possible to help repair them immediately. This would be a great time to whip out that hand-sheet mask you've been saving for special occasions!  

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