How to Remove Gel Nail Polish at Home The Safe and Easy Way (2022)

Do you have gel polish on your nails that you're desperate to remove? While it's best to go to the salon for a removal, sometimes life happens and you don't have time for that. Keep reading to find out how you can remove gel polish at home the right way!

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What You'll Need

Step 1: Prep Your Workspace

Step 2: Buff Your Nails

Step 3: Soak Some Cotton Balls In Acetone

Step 4: Wrap Your Fingertips With Aluminum Foil (Or Nail Polish Remover Clips)

Step 5: Wait For 10-15 Minutes

Step 6: Gently Scrape Off The Gel From The Nail

Step 7: Moisturize Your Nails

FAQ

Conclusion

This post was originally published in April 2020 to help readers who were stuck at home at the height of the pandemic. It has since been revamped and updated with more accurate and relevant information.

This post contains affiliate links. This means that we’ll make a small commission on qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

What You'll Need

Here I’m going to show you how to remove gel nail polish at home with basic household supplies. This DIY process requires nothing more than acetone, cotton balls, aluminum foil, and an orangewood stick. Sadly, gel nail polish remover doesn't exist, but this is the next best thing.

So, without further ado, here is how to get gel nails off at home!

(Video) At-Home Gel Manicure Removal / NO FOILS, NO DAMAGE!

Here are the tools you'll need for removing gel nail polish at home:

If you don't want to gather these items separately, check out this Gel Polish Removal Kit:

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This kit includes all the basic tools you'll need for removing your gel polish at home - all you'll need to do is add a bottle of pure acetone to your Amazon cart, or pickit up at your local drugstore!

If you decide to go with this kit, go easy with the metal cuticle pusher and peeler. Pushing too hard with these tools can damage your natural nails. Orange wood sticks are a much gentler, and safer alternative.

Step 1: Prep Your Workspace

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First things first, find a well-ventilated space. Acetone is very strong and you shouldn’t be breathing it in more than necessary.

It can also ruin painted surfaces, wood and plastic, so be sure to protect the area you are working on. Something like an old towel or t-shirt would work.

Knowing how to remove gel nails also means knowing how to get your workspace ready.

To do that, place some paper towels over your protected work area. These will catch nail dust and gel polish pieces and make your clean-up a breeze later on.

Next, prepare your cotton and aluminum foil to make the rest of the steps run smoothly. Here’s how:

Take your cotton balls and break them into 10 smaller pieces (1 for each of your nails); the pieces should be big enough to cover the surface of your nail in a thin layer.

For the aluminum foil, cut rectangular pieces that will wrap easily around the top half of your fingers.

Don't have time for this? Check out this kit with pre-cut foils with cotton pads!

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Pre-Cut Foils with Cotton Pads

If you want a more environmentally friendly alternative, try using nail polish remover clips. I've been using these for years now and find them much easier to use than aluminum foil. They hold the cotton in place better and come in a fun range of colours!

(Video) The Right Way to Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home | Beauty How To

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Nail Polish Remover Clips

Let’s move on to the next steps!

Step 2: Buff Your Nails

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Grab your nail file and start removing the gel top coat layer. I’d recommend a coarser one, of at least 180 to 100 grit. Anything with a higher grit (240 and above), will be too fine, and you’ll be filing forever!

DO NOT file too aggressively here – you’re not removing all the gel manicure; you’re just filing until all the shine is removed. Once this is done, wash your hands to get rid of any excess dust. Now you’re ready to move on to the next part.

“The best way to safely remove your gel polish does take a bit of time and patience, but it will help to keep your nails in good shape.”

Jackie Saulsbery, Professional Nail Manicurist

Step 3: Soak Some Cotton Balls In Acetone

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When you use pure acetone to remove gel nails, you need to protect the skin around your nail bed first by covering it with a thick layer of cuticle oil, cream, or Vaseline.

This is because acetone is very drying to the skin. [1] It can leave your skin dehydrated after gel removal, so it’s essential to have a barrier between your skin and any excess acetone.

Soak one end of the little pieces of cotton in acetone and let them become saturated.

Now place the acetone-dipped end onto your nails, allowing the liquid to soak into the manicure thoroughly. This acts as a gel polish remover.

Step 4: Wrap Your Fingertips With Aluminum Foil (Or Nail Polish Remover Clips)

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Once the cotton is on your nail, take your strips of aluminum foil and gently wrap them around your fingertips to keep the cotton in place.

Make sure you fold it over at the end so your fingertips are covered like a glove.

(Video) 5 WAYS TO REMOVE GEL POLISH AT HOME | FAST & EASY NO DAMAGE NO DRILL

This helps to keep the heat and acetone fumes retained inside the aluminum, making the process more efficient.

If you're using nail polish remover clips, simply clip them onto the ends of your fingers to secure the pieces of cotton.

Step 5: Wait For 10-15 Minutes

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Once you’ve got both hands done, wait for 10-15 minutes while this gel nail removal process gets to work!

I find this is a convenient time to catch up on Netflix or watch a few YouTube videos. You can’t really do much with your hands during this time.

If you’ve got a thicker gel on, you might need to leave it on for a little bit longer, like 15-20 minutes. Try to lift the foil and see whether the manicure is starting to lift off from your natural nails.

Step 6: Gently Scrape Off The Gel From The Nail

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Now comes the satisfying part – scraping the gel off your nail!

I’d recommend using an orange wood stick for this, as they’re gentler on your nail. Some people use a metal cuticle pusher instead of the orangewood stick, but I wouldn’t recommend it because it can harm your nail beds.

Starting at the base, carefully scrape the loose polish off your nail towards the end. If the manicure is stubborn, don’t force it off – it just means that you need to repeat this whole activity again.

DO NOT scrape toward your cuticle – that’s an easy way to hurt your skin and nails!

Step 7: Moisturize Your Nails

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Once you’re done, wash your hands, apply cuticle oil and a heavy-duty hand cream or moisturizer to your hands. This whole process is very drying, so aftercare is essential.

First things first, find a well-ventilated space. Acetone is very strong and you shouldn’t be breathing it in more than necessary.

FAQ

How do you take off gel nail polish without acetone?

How do you remove gel tips?

(Video) How to remove gel nail polish at home safely? | 5 ways | Gelpolish manicure removal

Is it OK to peel off gel nail polish?

How do you get gel nail polish off without foil?

How often should you get gel nail polish replaced?

Why do my gel nails peel off?

Which is easier to remove: acrylic or gel nail polish?

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed my guide on how to remove gel polish at home! Now the most important thing to remember when removing gel nails is to be patient and gentle with your nails. If the gel doesn’t want to budge, soak it for a bit longer and repeat as needed. Turn on your favorite movie to help time pass by quicker!

Of course, I'll always recommend going to a salon for a professional gel polish removal when possible. At Sunday Beauty Boutique, our gel polish removal service takes about 45 minutes, and includes a nail trim, and optional nail strengthener and cuticle oil application!

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References

1. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-is-acetone-polish-remover_n_55af9e15e4b0a9b948530c0a

2. https://www.self.com/story/gel-nail-polish-mistakes

FAQs

How do you remove gel nail polish at home without damaging your nails? ›

The easiest and fastest way to take off gel polish at home is to use acetone-soaked cotton balls wrapped in tin foil, and then scrape the remainder of the polish off with a nail buffer or nail file, Molly Romah, lead nail artist at Chillhouse spa in NYC, tells SELF.

Is there a way to remove gel nail polish without acetone? ›

Remover: You have a few replacement options to use instead of acetone. Hand sanitizers, hydrogen peroxide, and cuticle oil are some of the most popular and effective methods. You can also try a kitchen oil like olive oil. If you have nothing else on hand, warm, soapy water or vinegar can be used to remove gel nails.

What is the fastest way to remove nail polish without remover? ›

According to Boyce, rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer are two of the best ways to remove polish without needing an acetate remover. "Apply some to a cotton ball or pad and place it on your nail," Boyce says. "Let it sit for about 10 seconds and gently rub it back-and-forth.

What is the safest way to remove nail polish? ›

Acetone and non-acetone nail polish removers are the gold standard for taking off polish, and they're considered safe to use in small amounts.

What's Soak Off gel Polish? ›

ASP Soak-Off Gel Polish is a 100% pure gel formula that applies like polish giving you a high shine gel manicure that lasts up to two weeks. ASP Soak-Off Gel Polish can be cured under an LED or UV lamp and Soaks Off with acetone.

What is the healthiest way to remove gel polish? ›

Acetone offers the most effective way to remove gel nail polish at home, says board-certified dermatologist Shari Lipner, MD, FAAD.

Do gel nails ruin your nails? ›

Although gel manicures can be beautiful and long-lasting, they can be tough on nails. Gel manicures can cause nail brittleness, peeling and cracking, and repeated use can increase the risk for skin cancer and premature skin aging on the hands.

Does hand sanitizer remove gel nail polish? ›

The good news is that most sanitizers contain a little bit of alcohol, which is a good solvent to soften nail polish. Soak your nails in lukewarm water to soften them, then wet a cotton ball with sanitizer and use it to wipe off the nail paint. Repeat till all is gone!

How do you remove gel nails at home with hand sanitizer? ›

The alcohol or hand sanitiser acts as a disinfectant if you chip off your nail when removing the gel. Removing gel with alcohol is considered a better alternative than acetone because you can wrap your cotton ball around your nails and rub it continuously after 10 seconds.

Does toothpaste work as nail polish remover? ›

Toothpaste is one of the most effective ways to remove nail varnish if you've emptied your nail polish remover bottle up. This is because much like removers, toothpastes also contain ethyl acetate that is known to break down the nail polish easily.

Does toothpaste remove nail polish remover? ›

Do you have chipped nail polish but ran out of polish remover? Just dab some toothpaste on a cotton ball to remove the polish. Toothpaste contains ethyl acetate that is found in nail polish removers.

How do you get nail polish off without remover or alcohol? ›

You'll need to mix two parts hydrogen peroxide with one part water. The water needs to be as hot as you can handle it. Soak your nails for about 10 minutes, rubbing them gently in the water. Once you've dried off, take a nail file and file the polish off.

Is it better to soak or file off gel nails? ›

Lightly buff off the top coat to break the seal (notice, no use of a drill), but careful to not file too much and hit the client's nail plate. Place acetone soaked cotton balls onto the nails then wrap in foil; this process helps to break down the gel making it easy to come off without damaging the nails. That's it.

How long do gel nails last? ›

Gel polish lasts between 2-3 weeks at the minimum, while regular polish is lucky to go a week without chipping. With light wear, your gel nails last at least twice as long as a normal polish, but realistically they get you four to six times a standard manicure mileage.

Does vinegar remove nail polish? ›

White vinegar also contains acid that can break down nail polish. You can either use vinegar on its own or combine it with lemon juice as a mixture. You'll need to soak your nails for at least 15 minutes in warm water.

Can gel Polish be removed by water? ›

Unfortunately, removing gel polish without acetone is a little tricky, but it can still be done. To start, soak your nails in warm water, this will help to loosen up the polish a little and hopefully result in an easier removal. While your nails are wet, use a cuticle stick to start lifting up the polish.

Is removing gel polish hard? ›

If you have a set of hard gel nails, you'll only be able to “remove” the colour by filing it down into a thin, translucent layer and waiting for the rest of the nail to grow out. However, if you have soft gel or soak-off gel nails, you will be able to remove the polish with acetone.

What can ruin gel polish? ›

"Roughing up the nail with files not meant for natural nails prior to application, forcefully scraping off product during removal instead of allowing it to release, aggressive filing again after removal, and picking and peeling off the gel polish can all cause damage," she says.

How do you remove gel polish without alcohol? ›

Use a Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover

If you don't have isopropyl alcohol or a gel cleanser, a non acetone remover can really help. Also, a non acetone polish remover is not only handy to remove sticky residue, the word on the curb is that it is also healthier for your natural nails.

How do you remove gel professionally? ›

How Salons Take Off Gel Polish. In addition to applying acetone-soaked cotton balls directly to the nail and wrapping them in aluminum foil for upwards of 10 minutes, your local nail salon may also opt to use professional tools, like a nail drill, to remove existing polish.

What happens if you don't remove gel nails? ›

While this may seem harmless, over time your nails will become thinner, weaker, and more brittle. Once this damage is done it can take months for your nails to recover. And if that isn't reason enough for you, it also impacts how good your next gel mani is going to look.

Why do my nails hurt after removing gel nails? ›

If you're feeling pain after applying nail polish remover—or after any other nail treatments—that's a sign your nails are damaged to the point that they're no longer serving as an effective barrier, she explains.

Does hot water ruin nail polish? ›

According to Byrdie, soaking your tips in hot water allows the water to “seep into the nail plate, which causes the polish to lift up and even peel off altogether.” Switching to cooler showers helps, but even running fingers through your hair in the shower or tub can cause chips in polish.

Should I wipe my gel nails with alcohol? ›

The most common, budget-friendly, and effective way to remove the sticky or tacky layer on top of your gel top coat is to use Isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol will dissolve the sticky layer (which is uncured gel polish) making it easy to wipe away. Citation. I usually use and recommend using alcohol wipes.

Can hand sanitizer damage your nails? ›

All that soap, warm water and hand sanitiser can contribute to nail breakage too. Due to its high alcohol content, hand sanitiser can be particularly damaging for nails. If you're noticing that your nails aren't as strong as they once were, it's probably time to up your game when it comes to pampering nail products.

How does olive oil remove gel nails? ›

If you are finding it difficult to peel the nail off under running water, try using olive oil or cuticle oil instead. Cover the gel nail and the fingernail you are using to push the gel nail off with oil. Then, slide your nail under the gel nail and gently push it off. Apply more oil as needed.

How do you melt off nails? ›

The easiest way to remove acrylic nails fast is to cover them with a cotton ball soaked in pure acetone, wrap your fingers in tin foil, and let them sit for 30 minutes. The acetone will help break down the acrylics, so you can buff or scrape off the rest with an orange stick or cuticle pusher.

Does hot water make gel nails peel? ›

Keep gel nails away from hot water

Hot water is your gel nails' worst enemy. Therefore, avoid long baths and wear gloves while doing the dishes or else, it will cause the gel polish to lift up and even peel off altogether.

Can I use vodka to wipe gel nails? ›

Use an acetone free remover with a very light hand . It won't damage the gel at all . A little plain vodka will do the trick of you are out of rubbing alcohol!

How do you make nail polish remover? ›

Vinegar-orange juice soak

Combine an equal amount of white vinegar and organic orange juice until well mixed. Dip a cotton pad in the mixture and press on your fingernails for about 10 seconds, until the nail polish softens. Pull down the cotton pad to remove the polish (the pigment should melt right off).

Does Hairspray remove nail polish? ›

Does hairspray remove nail polish? Hairspray does remove nail polish from clothing in some instances. Spray the hairspray onto the stain, allow it to dry, and then use a pair of tweezers to scrape the dried nail polish away.

Does baking soda remove nail polish? ›

A: yes, baking soda is one of the best things to remove nail polish from your carpeting material.

Can Colgate clean nails? ›

You can use your regular toothpaste for this. Apply a thin layer of the paste to your nails and leave it on for about 10 minutes. Grab a nail brush or a toothbrush and gently scrub your nail beds. Doing so will polish your nails and turn them whiter and brighter.

Why we Cannot Remove nail polish with water? ›

Nail polish is not removed by using water because polish does not dissolve in water. The water particles are not attracted to the nail polish particles. They remain clumped together. So, we can say that nail polish is insoluble water and has formed a suspension.

Is toothpaste safe for nails? ›

Yes, toothpaste! Whitening toothpaste, when applied, can lighten and brighten your nails in just a few short minutes. The same clinically proven natural whitening ingredients in products such as Tom's of Maine Luminous White Toothpaste can double as a treatment for surface stains on nails.

Which is better nail polish remover with or without acetone? ›

Bottom Line Acetone is still the most effective way to remove nail polish. Unfortunately, it's harsh and can dry out skin and nails. While other solvents work, they don't work as well as acetone. This means more time that you have to spend rubbing polish off your nails.

Can hydrogen peroxide take off nail polish? ›

Try Hydrogen Peroxide + Hot Water

A mild antiseptic, hydrogen peroxide is another option for removing your nail polish in a pinch.

What do nail techs wipe nails with after gel? ›

Sometimes gel will leave a tacky residue after curing, which you can simply wipe off with a cotton ball dipped in alcohol. Then you're good to go!

Should I let my nails breathe between gel? ›

For gel nails, take a break for a week at least once every eight weeks to allow the nails to rehydrate and to allow repair of the underlying structures. “An emollient applied directly to the nail and cuticle oil will also aid recovery,” said Batra.

Which is more damaging gel or acrylic? ›

Both types of artificial nails have their pros and cons, but gel nails are generally considered to be the less damaging option. Gel nails are more flexible than acrylics, so they're less likely to crack or chip. They also don't require the use of harsh chemicals to remove them.

What happens if you leave gel nails on too long? ›

You're leaving gel polish on too long.

However, Hadley suggests removing a gel manicure after two to three weeks maximum to avoid damaging nail beds and cuticles. Harpring agrees, adding that overextending gel manicures can not only lead to weakened nails, but also introduce potentially harmful bacteria.

Can you wear gel nails for years? ›

While the beauty world is kindaaaa split on this answer, the time you take between gel manicures is entirely up to you. “I've had gel on my nails for four years straight,” says Lim. “If you're applying and removing it properly, there's no harm in getting gel manicures back-to-back.”

How often should you redo gel nails? ›

Most gel clients can easily go 3-4 weeks between fills. However, it can be beneficial to start out with 2-week intervals until you see how she is adapting to her nails. As time progresses the intervals can be extended to 3 or 4 weeks. The key is consistency and regularly scheduled appointments.

What can I use instead of acetone? ›

  • Rubbing Alcohol. According to Boyce, rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer are two of the best ways to remove polish without needing an acetate remover. ...
  • Vinegar and Orange Juice. ...
  • Lemon. ...
  • Hairspray. ...
  • Soy-Based Removers. ...
  • Post-Removal Care.
6 May 2021

Can you remove gel polish without acetone? ›

Remover: You have a few replacement options to use instead of acetone. Hand sanitizers, hydrogen peroxide, and cuticle oil are some of the most popular and effective methods. You can also try a kitchen oil like olive oil. If you have nothing else on hand, warm, soapy water or vinegar can be used to remove gel nails.

What naturally removes nail polish? ›

Lemon and vinegar: Pour two tablespoons of lemon juice in a bowl, then top it off with distilled white vinegar, deep enough to submerge your nails. Soak for five minutes, then wipe away the polish with a soft cloth.

How do salons soak off gel nails? ›

As long as you file the top layer so your nails are no longer shiny, the acetone can soak through and penetrate the gel to help remove the rest of the polish off. To start the removal process, you want to soak a cotton ball in acetone and saturate the nail for about five to ten minutes.

How do you remove gel polish naturally? ›

Soak it Off

Fill a bowl with warm water, dish soap, and salt. Submerge your nails in this mixture for 15-20 minutes. Once the time is up, dry your hands and you should notice the polish starting to come off. This is also the best way to remove nail polish from your skin when you do not have acetone at home.

What's Soak Off gel polish? ›

ASP Soak-Off Gel Polish is a 100% pure gel formula that applies like polish giving you a high shine gel manicure that lasts up to two weeks. ASP Soak-Off Gel Polish can be cured under an LED or UV lamp and Soaks Off with acetone.

Why is my gel polish so easy to peel off? ›

If your nails have too much moisture or oil on them, the polish peels off much sooner than it should. To prevent this, you can try cleaning your nails with alcohol pads or nail polish remover before applying the polish. You can also try applying a base coat or buffing your nails first.

How do you get hard gel off at home? ›

Removal is simple. Just soak your fingers in pure acetone for about 20 minutes. “If you just sit there long enough, you'll see the dip lift off,” Ms. Logan said. “Dip nails are just powder and glue.

Can gel polish be removed by water? ›

Unfortunately, removing gel polish without acetone is a little tricky, but it can still be done. To start, soak your nails in warm water, this will help to loosen up the polish a little and hopefully result in an easier removal. While your nails are wet, use a cuticle stick to start lifting up the polish.

How can I get gel polish off without a UV light? ›

Spray just-painted nails with canola oil cooking spray.

Leave the oil to dry for several hours, then wash your hands once the polish has hardened. Cooking spray can help cure the top layer of your gel polish faster while moisturizing your cuticles as well.

How do professionals remove gel nails? ›

Your nail technician will use a file to ~gently~ buff your nails. This isn't to scrub the polish off – it just adds a bit of texture to the shiny surface so that the nail polish remover can do its thing. Each cotton pad will be dipped in the acetone and wrapped around each nail.

How do you soak your nails off without acetone? ›

All you have to do is grab a bowl and fill it with warm water. It may help to add a few drops of hand soap or dish soap. Once again, trim your nails and buff them, cutting them as short as possible without causing any harm. Then, put your nails in the bowl and allow them to soak for up to 40 minutes.

Why won't my gel nails soak off? ›

"The same way gel cures under a UV light, it also cures with exposure to natural UV rays from the sun," Ruffino explained. So the longer you wear a manicure (and thus, the more daylight it's exposed to), the more the polish hardens onto your nail. This makes the gel more challenging to remove.

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