How to Remove Gel Polish at Home Without Ruining Your Nails

You're definitely not alone if you've been wondering how to remove gel nail polish at home. Since nail salons started closing over social distancing concerns, my social media has been flooded with people sharing their grown-out manicures, lamenting the fact that it could be a month or two until they can get back in the salon. While there's a way to extend the life of your gel mani, at some point you're going to have to remove it completely.

But that doesn't mean you should just go ahead and peel off your old polish. When it comes to removing gel nails at home, technique is key. “A common misconception about gel is that it damages your nails, which isn't true," says nail artist Mazz Hanna. "It's often the removal process that can be damaging." To prevent that damage and to keep nails healthy and strong, make sure you're following the proper technique, which will keep your cuticles and nail plate protected.

We asked Hanna and Sigourney Nuñez, OPI's North American education manager, to give us their best tips for how to remove gel nail polish at home with no damage, and they broke down two easy ways. Read on for their expert advice.

Method 1: Soak Off Your Gels

Hanna's process requires minimal materials that you probably already have on hand. Follow her steps below for clean nails in a few minutes flat.

Step 1: Gather your materials

You'll need a small towel to protect your table, cuticle oil, a glass bowl, an acetone nail polish remover, a nail file, a cuticle pusher, and a buffer.

Step 2: Create your at-home salon space

Get yourself organized by laying out your towel and setting out all your tools. Hanna recommends placing a paper towel over your work area to collect the gel as you scrape it off.

Step 3: Break the gel seal with a file

"To do this, simply use your nail file to remove the top layer of gel from your nail plate and free edge," says Hanna. "The more you remove during this step the less time you will have to soak your nails. Be sure to use the side of the file with a harsher grit for this step."

Step 4: Protect your cuticle and soak nails

Fill your glass bowl with about an inch of acetone nail polish remover. Hanna recommends Orly Genius Remover "because it doesn't smell offensive, removes gel quickly, and is gentle." Before soaking your nails, generously apply cuticle oil to the entire tip of your finger to keep your nails protected and hydrated. Then, place your fingertips in the remover for about five minutes, or until you notice the gel already beginning to curl up and lift.

Step 5: Begin gently removing gel

Use your cuticle pusher to gently (keyword gently) scrape the gel off your nails. "If there's any resistance, place your fingertips back into the acetone for another minute or two and then try again," says Hanna. "Repeat this process until the gel is completely removed."

Step 6: Buff and moisturize nails and cuticles

Once the gel is completely removed, use a buffer to smooth your nail plate. Generously apply cuticle oil, and massage into your nails to nourish them.

Red Carpet Manicure Erase Gel Nail Polish Remover

Mazz Hanna Cuticle Oil

Revlon Shape 'N' Buff File & Buffer

Flowery Pushit Pro Pusher/Cleaner

Method 2: Wrap Your Nails in Acetone-Soaked Cotton and Foil

Nuñez's preferred method uses a few more materials, but leaves your hands a little more free than the soak method.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

You'll need cotton rounds or cotton balls, acetone nail polish remover, aluminum foil, a nail file, cuticle oil, a manicuring brush, scissors, and a cuticle stick.

Step 2: Prep the foil and cotton

Cut your foil into small squares that will fit around the tip of your finger, then cut your cotton pads or balls into pieces that are big enough to cover your entire nail.

Step 3: Break the seal

Same as the method above, remove the top layer of the gel polish with the nail file using light pressure. Start with the tip of your nail all the way down, then file the top of your nail, and use the manicuring brush to wipe off excess dust.

Step 4: Apply cotton and foil

Soak the cotton pads in remover, and then place them on your nails, making sure to cover your entire nail. Wrap the tip of your finger and the cotton pad in foil, and fold over the tip to lock in place. Repeat on all fingers, leave on for 15 to 20 minutes.

Step 5: Remove the polish

Going nail by nail, rub the foil and cotton back and forth a few times, and gently pull it off. Most of the polish should come with it. Then gently scrape off the rest with the cuticle stick. Repeat for each nail.

Step 6: Clean and nourish

Wipe away any residue with alcohol and a cotton ball, and then generously apply a nail and cuticle oil.

Red Carpet Manicure Erase Gel Nail Polish Remover

Diamond Cosmetics Wide Board Grinder

OPI ProSpa Nail & Cuticle Oil

ULTA Manicure Sticks

Bella Cacciatore is the beauty associate at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @bellacacciatore_.

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