How to Remove Gel Polish at Home (and Not Wreck Your Nails in the Process)

how to remove gel polish at home hero

As much as we love treating ourselves to a good ol' gel manicure, we don't always like having to pay for two of them. (You know, the requisite manicure after the manicure just to remove the gel.) So for all you thrifty ladies out there, we got some pointers from Brittney Boyce, a gel extension specialist and consulting nail artist for ORLY for the safest way to remove gel polish at home.

What you need: A nail file, acetone nail polish remover, cotton balls (ones that you can pull apart), aluminum foil (or you can get foil wraps that come with a cotton pad on one side), a buffer and a cuticle pusher or orange wood stick.

Step 1: Take your file and lightly buff the top of each nail to remove about 50 percent of the gel color. This breaks up the outer layer of polish and allows the remover to seep in better. "Be careful not to over-file your nails. If it starts to hurt or burn, stop," advises Boyce.

Step 2: Soak the cotton in the remover and place it over the entire nail before wrapping your fingertip with aluminum foil to keep it in place. Repeat on each finger. "This lets the acetone do its job and loosen the gel without evaporating," says Boyce. Relax and let the magic happen for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 3: Slide the aluminum foil and cotton off one finger. The polish should be peeling up around the edges. (If not, wrap that baby up and let it soak longer.) Use your cuticle pusher to lightly lift off any remaining polish. It's OK to apply a little pressure, but try not to aggressively scrape the nail. Repeat on each finger.

Step 4: Once all your polish is off, gently buff away any final ridges left behind. Give your hands a good lather in the sink and finish up with a hydrating cuticle oil or heavy-duty hand lotion.

Voilà! A salon-worthy treatment without ever having to put on a bra.

How to Make Your Gel Manicure Last for a Full Month

Additional reporting by Jenny Jin.

susan waits
Susan Waits

Lousy baker, stellar shopping buddy

You can find Susan either blissfully buried in a pile of clothes or on a plane between L.A. and NYC.
read full bio