How to Take Off Your Gel Manicure at Home

Your gel mani is finally starting to lose its luster and new nail growth is starting to sprout. But you don't have time to hit the salon to get it removed. The solution: Do it yourself. Here's how to safely take off gel polish at home -- without doing damage to your digits.


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Your gel manicure might have been put on by a pro, but it can be taken off by a nail-care novice -- if you're armed with the right tools and tricks, says Katie Cazorla, celebrity manicurist and star of TV Guide's The Nail Files. Here's a pro-approved, step-by-step guide to getting the gel off safely.

What You'll Need

  • Soft-grit file (good for buffing)
  • Hydrating cuticle oil
  • Acetone
  • Cotton balls
  • Aluminum foil cut into 10 small squares
  • Cuticle pusher

Find everything but the oil in the Red Manicure Gel Polish Removal Kit ($10; walgreens.com).

Step 1: Break the Seal

"Lightly rough up the shiny topcoat of nails with a 240-grit file," says celebrity manicurist Pattie Yankee. Breaking down the clear coat first will make it easier to remove the color.

Step 2: Nourish Nails

Acetone melts away the gel pigments, but it's extremely harsh on your skin. Apply cuticle oil around the nail before you start to serve as a protective barrier. "Your nails and skin won't get as dried out during the removal process," Yankee says.

Step 3: Wrap It Up

Instead of sticking your fingers in a bowl of drying acetone, saturate cotton balls with the solution and then press one directly against each nail. Wrap each fingertip with a small square of aluminum foil.

Step 4: Be Patient

Leave nails wrapped in foil for 10 to 15 minutes, then use a cuticle pusher to slough off the polish. "At that point, your polish should be soft and flake right off," says Candice Spziech, manicurist for Red Carpet Manicure. If you feel the need to scrape hard with the cuticle pusher, stop and wrap nails back up for another five minutes or so.

Step 5: Turn Up the Heat

Speed up the process by slipping on a pair of heated mitts, or even warming up the acetone before applying it to nails, Cazorla says. "Warmth makes the acetone penetrate the gel even better," she says. Try Conair True Glow Heated Beauty Mitts ($30; ulta.com).

Step 6: Take It One Nail at a Time

Work on one nail at a time, Cazorla says. "If you take all the foil off at once, the gel can actually harden back up on the nails you're not working on," she says.

Step 7: Replenish Moisture

Moisturize your dehydrated nail plate -- and the skin around it -- with a concentrated cuticle oil. We like Sally Hansen Vitamin E Nail & Cuticle Oil ($6; walmart.com). 

Learn how to apply a DIY gel manicure.

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