How to Remove Your Gel Manicure at Home (and Not Wreck Your Nails)

posted: 05/02/16
by: Amanda Mushro
woman red nails manicure

A good gel manicure looks amazing on your nails and has a chip-resistant coating that is perfect for people like me who can't make it out of the nail salon without smudging my polish. While most nail salons recommend you come to them to remove the gel from your nails, our busy calendars and wallets don't always allow for that. But if you've tried to remove your own gel manicure, you know it can can, um, get messy. And, done incorrectly, it can leave your nails looking and feeling awful. There has to be a better way, right?

So the next time you are switching your fire engine red gel polish for a pretty in pink color, here's how you can safely remove your gel polish without ruining your nails.


Even if your gel manicure is holding up, you should only leave the polish on for two weeks. After this point, the polish has to be removed because your nails will become dehydrated and start to thin, and it damages your nail bed.

Prep work

Cut small squares of tin foil, soak cotton balls in acetone, and cover the space you'll be doing your nails with paper towels for easy clean up

Grab the nail file

Start by using a coarse nail file to gently sand down the top layer of gel. Remember, you are only taking off the shine, not the polish.

Moisturize before

Using a thick lotion, coat the skin surrounding your nails and fingertips to protect your skin from drying out from the polish remover.

Start wrapping

Place an acetone-soaked cotton ball on your nail and wrap a piece of foil around your fingertip to secure the cotton ball in place. Repeat on your entire hand and let the acetone sit for 15 minutes. Don't try to take it off before!

Get the leftovers

Pull the foil off and cleanup any leftover polish with the cotton ball. If the gel is being stubborn use a manicure stick to gently remove the remaining gel or rewrap it with a new soaked cotton ball and foil. Don't try scratching or scraping the gel off. This will only damage your nails.


Repeat these steps for your other hand and before reapplying polish, give your nails a soak in coconut oil for five minutes, rubbing oil into your cuticles and nail bed to rehydrate.