One of my favorite ways to pamper myself is to go to my local nail salon for a gel manicure. And while I love the way it lasts on my nails for several weeks, I have never liked the removal process. In fact, I became concerned about a year ago with the technique my local salon was using to remove the gel. Since it is a very large salon, I figured their procedure was either to save time and/or money. While it is a common practice to lightly sand the top coat of the gel so the acetone can break through to start dissolving the product from the nail, my salon manicurists would often grab their Dremel nail sanding tool and begin grinding through layers of my polish. More than once, I had to stop a manicurist because they used the sanding tool to remove almost all of the gel from my nail and even touched into the outer surface of my nail bed. It was then that I started researching on how to do this myself because I decided I no longer wanted to pay $10 for nail removal that was ALSO potentially damaging my nails.
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This is how I remove my gel nails. I choose a day and time where I am not rushed so that I can take special care with my nails and allow time to also condition them after the removal is done.
If you would like to try this method as well, these are the products you will need:
- Cotton Balls (jumbo plus size)
- Nail Foil Wraps (you can use regular aluminum foil, but precut, thinner foils make this so much easier!)
- Nail File (I love this curved style! – and I only use it for this process.)
- Orangewood Sticks
- Cuticle Softener & Remover
- Cuticle Oil
- Hand Therapy Cream
(Note: If you are trying this for the first time and want to bundle some of the items you will need, you can also start with a Gel Removal Kit.)
Follow these steps:
2. Use the coarse side of the nail file (coarse grit 100) – that is the larger & rougher side of a 2-sided nail file. Very gently, you will want to sand away just a bit of the gel manicure polish. Make sure that you do not sand down to your finger nail bed.
3. Tear or cut the jumbo cotton balls into half and soak with acetone. I use a glass dish for this purpose, but if you opt for the Gel Removal Kit, it has a soaking bowl included.
4. Some people will tell you to soak your nails in a dish or bowl of acetone first to help soften the polish. I personally don’t do this because I try to limit how much acetone I have in contact with my nails since it can be very drying to the nail bed. Therefore, this step is a personal preference and optional for you, as well.
6. After 20-30 minutes, you can open the foil wrap to see if the polish is ready to come off. Sometimes it will start lifting, but sometimes you need to use the orangewood stick to gently move it or scrape it away. (Note: Gel polish left on for more than 2 weeks may take longer and be harder to remove. Just be patient.)
7. For stubborn gel polish, you can use a new cotton ball soaked in acetone to go over the area again, or repeat the cotton ball and nail foil wrap process and/or use an orangewood stick to chip away any remaining nail polish.
8. Once gel polish is removed, make sure you remove any remaining traces with a cotton ball soaked in acetone.
When finished removing the gel polish, make sure to care for your nails so they have a chance to recover. I like to use a Cuticle Softener and Remover and then I gently push back cuticles with a clean orangewood stick. I also use Cuticle Oil on all of my cuticles to make sure to condition them since acetone can be extremely drying to the sensitive skin around the nails. Likewise, a follow up application of a Hand Therapy Cream will help the skin lock in moisture after using acetone on the nails. (Note: You can apply Petroleum Jelly around the skin that surrounds each nail prior to using acetone if you want to minimize the drying effect of acetone on your skin, as well.)
I always give my nails at least a 6-month break in between gel manicure applications so that my nails can recover and regain strength since it can weaken and thin the nails with repeated applications over time. Opi also has some great products like Opi Gel Break to help your nails recover in between gel polish manicures.
Have you tried removing your own gel polish before? Try this method next time you need to remove your gel and leave me a comment to let me know how it worked for you!