How to Remove Gel Nail Polish – Follow These Tips

Woman is checking her pink gel nail polish

Gel manicures are a beauty blessing with long-lasting iron clad polish that does not chip away for at least a fortnight. However, once the free edges come off from the cuticles, it takes every ounce of self-control not to rip them apart. Failure of this self-control can be dangerous to your nail beds. This DIY approach of how to remove gel nail polish will help you remove the gel without seriously wrecking your nails.

Having The Right Tools

Woman removing her gel nail polish

Image by Iva Balk from Pixabay

The biggest mistake you can do in gel manicures is removing the nail gel at home aggressively. The gel is fixed to the top layer of your nails. Hence, when you pull it off, you are in effect removing the delicate top layer that can leave your nails brittle and dry. However, this DIY how to remove gel nail polish guide ensures that your nails are not damaged. It is extremely important that you get the right tools while trying to remove a gel manicure at home.

​The following are the tools you will need.


Acetone is the major ingredient in almost all nail polish removers except the ones that are labeled as ‘non-acetone.’ You can either get a gel removal acetone or the regular maximum strength product. Gel removal products will cost more and do the same job as any maximum strength remover. It is important that you get at least 250 ml of this product as you will have to soak your fingernails in the substance.

Gel manicures are LED cured lacquer, and they attach themselves to your nail; the way tiles are fixed on the roof of a house. You need to ensure that the acetone you use is a maximum strength to get the job done effectively. Acetone is actually a solvent that liquefies the nail gel to convert it to a liquid state that allows for easy removal.


You will need to soak your fingertips in acetone. It is a powerful component with capabilities to dissolve plastic agents. It is important to create a barrier in order to protect the soft areas of your fingertips. You can prevent excess dryness by creating this barrier between the acetone and your fingernails. A thick layer of Vaseline or Aquaphor will protect your cuticles from utter devastation. You can also exchange Vaseline for cuticle oil or cream.

​Cotton Balls

​There are two approaches to the soaking method. You will either need cotton balls and foil strips or two bowls. Both methods achieve the same desired levels and affect the nail beds in the same way. The only difference is in the application. You would need 10 cotton balls that are just the right size to soak up acetone and stay on your fingernails.


​You will have to cut out strips of aluminum foil to ensure that the cotton balls stay in place on your fingernails.


​If you follow the second soaking method, then you would need two bowls that fit one inside the other. The internal bowl should be big enough for you to dip all ten fingernails at the same time.

​Wood Nail Stick

​Sometimes after the soaking method, you will find some stubborn bits of nail gel sticking to your nail surface. A wood stick helps in removing these chips of gel.

Nail File

You need this to remove the top layer of the gel. Many people skip this step of ‘how to remove gel nail polish’ guide. However, it is important that you file away the top layer to remove the gel nail polish effectively.

​The Soaking Method

Once you have all the right tools, you can begin with ‘how to remove gel nail polish’ guide’s step 2. This is when you will dissolve the gel nail polish, so it comes off easily. You can either use cotton balls to apply the acetone to your fingernails, or you can make use of the bowls to soak your fingernails in acetone.

In both approaches, it is important that you file away the topmost layer of the gel nail polish. You can use the coarse surface of your nail filer to get the trick done. It is critical that you do not push or use the file aggressively. This might cause you to harm your nail beds. Instead, use gentle strokes to sand away the shiny top coat. This will provide an effective soaking process and will allow the acetone to penetrate deep into the gel nail polish. Filing away the top layer of your gel nail polish will also allow for a quick removal.

​How To Remove Gel Nail Polish With Cotton Balls

If you frequently get gel manicures, then using cotton balls is the best approach to removing the gel nail polish. This approach ensures minimal wastage of acetone. Make sure that you remove the top layer with the help of a nail file. Use Vaseline, cuticle cream or cuticle oil to cover the soft areas around your nail bed. This will prevent any unnecessary damage to the sensitive areas around your nail. Then dip a cotton ball into acetone and place it on your fingernail. Cover the cotton ball with a strip of aluminum foil, so it stays in place.

It is important that you begin with the non-dominant hand in order to make the process easier for you. Start with the smallest finger and then make your way to the thumb. Repeat the wrapping on each nail until they are completely covered and allow them to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. The time you leave the cotton balls on your nails depends upon the strength of the acetone used. If this is your first time, then you might have to apply trial-and-error methods to find out the optimal time needed.

Remove the foil and then slide the cotton ball of your nail. The gel nail polish should slide right off with the cotton ball. It is important that you do not rub the acetone-dipped cotton ball on the surface of the nail as that might cause the gel to spread on your cuticles. If there is any residue left on the nail, use a wood nail stick to chip at it gently.

​How To Remove Gel Nail Polish With Acetone In A Bowl

The second approach is more effective and will yield faster results. It is also less cumbersome as compared with the cotton ball approach. However, there is tremendous wastage of acetone in this method; it is not recommended that you use this technique if you tend to remove gel manicures often at home. Start by making sure that the smaller bowl can fit inside the larger bowl.

Heat some water in the large bowl. Fill the small bowl with enough acetone to dip all 10 fingernails at once. Keep the small bowl in the large bowl to warm the acetone as you would in a double boiler. It is important that you do not use a microwave or use any other heat source to warm acetone as it is highly inflammable. Dip your fingers into the acetone and wait for it to soak into your nails completely. After 10 minutes, you will start to notice that the corners are starting to lift up. Keep steeping your nails in the acetone and use the wooden nail stick to chip away at the corners. You need to loosen the corners gently until the entire nail gel is completely removed.

It is important that you use a file to sand away the top layer of the nail polish before soaking them in acetone solution. It is also important that you use Vaseline or a cuticle cream to protect the soft tissues from harsh acetone.

​Hydrating Your Nails

Your nails will be brittle and extremely dry after this long acetone adventure. Hence, the last and an important step in ‘how to remove gel nail polish’ guide is to hydrate and moisturize your nails. Once you have removed the nail gel completely, wash your hands with a mild cleanser. Dry your hands and then dip it in a bowl full of coconut oil for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Coconut oil is an instant nourishing agent and is great for revitalizing your cuticles and nail beds.

You can even use nail oil or a nail strengthener to moisturize your nail beds deeply and rejuvenate them. It is very important that you massage each nail for at least 10 seconds with the nail oil or cream to hydrate them.


The steps mentioned in this ‘how to remove gel nail polish’ guide will help you remove your gel manicure completely at home in a safe and fairly simple manner. It is important to understand that gel nail polish is not like regular nail polish. You will not be able to remove it by chipping away at it or picking it. You might end up with indentations, brittle nails or spots and chips on your nails if you are aggressive. Instead, with a little acetone, you can easily and quickly remove it effectively without going to the salon.


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