Oh, Gel-No! How to remove that stubborn gel manicure at home

mikaela.zmikaela.z
Aug. 9
There is nothing like a fresh gel manicure. If you want to make a great first impression, it gives your handshake that extra oomph. The only downside is, those sleek shiny shades are a little clingy. Your nails grow about 1 millimeter a week and, causing a gap between your polish and your cuticle. Your gel polish will also begin to chip and peel eventually. In short, growing out your gel manicure is not a great look.
If you need to remove your polish, but don’t have the time or money for the salon, Cherie has your back. Just grab a few supplies, follow our simple instructions, and you’ll be back to beautiful nails in no time.
Is Gel Polish the Same as Shellac?
Gel and shellac are similar, but shellac is a bit thinner and will break down faster. You can use the following process to remove either, and we’ll let you know which steps to skip on shellac nails.
Can’t I Just Peel My Gel Polish Off?
Not without damaging your tender nails. As time goes on, you will start to see your gel polish “lift” from the nail. This is natural, but if you start to peel it off yourself, you risk damaging your sensitive natural nail. 
Lifting and peeling is a sign that it’s time to say goodbye. If you leave it on, bacteria can collect in the warm area between your nail and your polish. It's icky, and it puts you at risk of infection.
So let’s set up our at-home salon, shall we?
You Will Need:
  • About half an hour to spare
  • A soft grit (180) nail file 
  • Pure acetone nail polish remover
  • Cotton balls
  • Masking tape, tin foil, or nail clips
  • An orangewood stick, or metal cuticle pusher
  • A cuticle oil or nourishing nail treatment
Get in the Buff
If you have shellac nails, you can skip this step. You need to break the bond between your gel polish and the natural nail underneath. To do that, just take your nail file and gently buff the polish until it’s no longer shiny. 
You may be tempted to remove an extra layer of polish, but this can damage your natural nail. Be gentle and don’t get too over-zealous.
Soak it Up
Saturate your cotton balls in 100% acetone nail polish remover. For efficiency, you can break each cotton ball into 2-3 pieces. Just make sure there’s enough cotton to completely cover your nail.
Stuck on You
Find a comfy way to fix the cotton ball to your nail. This is important, as it will need to soak up all that acetone. There are a few ways to do this:
  • Tinfoil traps heat to your nail, which activates the acetone. 
  • Some people prefer masking tape for dexterity and a tighter seal. 
  • If you’ll be doing this again, invest in some nail clips.
We found a lot of great deals on nail clips from Amazon. Or you can try Etsy.
Sitting Pretty
Sit back with your favorite sitcom and soak it up. This is going to take 10-20 minutes. 
Bye Bye, Gel Nail Polish
This is the most satisfying part of the process. Remove the cotton pads. You should see that your gel polish has softened, and has already begun to lift from the nail.
Using an orange stick or metal cuticle tool, start to push the polish off of your nails. This isn’t a race, so move slowly. Your nails will be a bit dry from the acetone, so don't get too aggressive with your tools.
You may have some stubborn pieces that don’t want to come off. If this is the case, just soak for another 5 minutes and repeat. A proper removal is worth the extra effort, and your nail beds will thank you.
Try a Little Tenderness
Your hands have been through a lot. Acetone can be incredibly drying, and all that pushing and prodding can be stressful. Be sure to treat them to a nourishing nail treatment today, and for the next week. 
We love this shea nail and cuticle oil from L’Occitane. Your nails will look so healthy, you may not even want to go back to polish.
The longevity of gel polish is a blessing and a curse. But with the right tools and a little patience, you can remove that stubborn manicure like a pro.
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