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Experts Share Their Tips on How to Safely Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home

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Gel nail polish removal is an easy task for every nail professional. It is tempting to try to remove gel polish at home by picking it up, ripping it, or biting off. For the love of beautiful nail art, please do not do this.

People complain that gels have damaged their nails. In reality, it is the frowned-upon process of peeling that is to blame. You are also removing layers of the nail plates every time you remove your gel nail polish. Although this may seem harmless, your nails will become weaker and less resistant over time. It can take several months for your nails’ to heal from this kind of damage. If that’s not enough, it can also impact how beautiful your next gel manicure will look.

Let’s be honest, it’s always best to visit a professional (preferably the one who did the gel treatment) to remove your gels. Your nail technician will know how to do it right, have the tools and no shade to do it, but he or she will be more patient than you to complete the task safely.

We get it. Sometimes life happens. There’s no way to go to the salon and not be able to do it yourself. However, there are ways you can make sure your nails don’t get damaged or your nail tech in a downward spiral.

Here’s how to remove gel polish at home. This will save your nails and your relationship.

What is a gel manicure?

Michelle Humphrey, celebrity manicurist and session stylist says that gel manicures use gel polish. It is applied to the nail plate with either an LED or UV lamp. This usually includes a base coat, two colors and a top coat. The gel polish is then dried under a UV/LED light. This is what sets the gel polish. Metta Francis, a nail technician, explains that gel polish will not set or stick to natural nails without this step. Humphrey says gel manicures are more durable than regular polish, and can last several weeks without chipping.

Gels can sometimes be called “shellac”, but they are not always interchangeable. Shellac is trademarked by CND, creators of gel technology. It can be compared to “jacuzzi” or “hot tub”, the former being a trademarked brand name, and the latter referring to a product type.

Gel Polish Manicure Benefits

Gel manicures have many benefits, so many that they’ve changed manicures. Gel manicures last longer than regular nail polish manicures, which is the first benefit.

“It stays fresh and shines beautifully during wear. It doesn’t get dull or scratched over time and will not chip until the next manicure if it is well maintained and taken care of,” Francis explains. She adds that gel manicures can protect natural nails and provide a stronger layer (as opposed to nail polish). This can help natural nails grow by protecting them.

Humphrey agrees. “They help to grow natural nails and can be used to help nail biters quit their habit of biting.” Gels are great for people who don’t want to wait until their nails dry completely after they leave the salon.

How do you remove a gel nail polish?

Humphrey suggests that you gather all your tools: a buffer, acetone or gel remover and cotton. Also cuticle oil.

Step 1: Protect your surfaces

Humphrey advises that you protect your surfaces before you begin any actual removal. Gel remover can strip varnish and coatings from surfaces, so be careful. A towel and a paper towel can be used on top of an old mat. This way, you can be sure that your coffee or dining table will not be destroyed forever if you spill.

Step 2: Buff

The first step is critical to a successful removal. Grab your nail file — Humphrey suggests a 180 grit for this task — and start filing away the gel top coat. Make sure to remove any shine. This will break the gel seal and allow the acetone to begin breaking down the cured coat. Humphrey says that if you skip this step, you will find the removal difficult if not impossible. Francis says that gel polish top coats can be so tough, that if they aren’t filed or buffed before applying, they won’t move.

Step 3: Protect your skin, cuticles and nails

This is not essential for removal, but it helps with drying from the Acetone. Humphrey states that cuticle oil can be applied to the skin around the nail to aid in dehydration. She adds that it doesn’t slow down or inhibit removal. It just makes the process less drying, as pure Acetone can be very harsh. You “gels ruin my nail” crew, are you missing this step or not?

Step 4: Let them soak off

Next comes the actual soak off. Humphrey says, “Soak a square of cotton (or a ball cut to size) in acetone. Then place the cotton on the nail. Wrap the foil around the nail as tight as you can.” This should be left for about 10 minutes.

It is vital to fully saturate the cotton round, as it can dry out. It can be difficult to apply all the cotton to your fingers at once. Instead, try five at a stretch.

Step 5: Now watch the gel fall off

After you have removed the foil, your gel should appear to be literally flaking off. Humphrey says to gently push any gel out with your orange wood stick, or cuticle pusher. The pressure shouldn’t be too much. She says, “Rewrap if necessary and continue to do so if the gel is not completely removed — don’t force any product off of the nail plate as it will cause damage.”

Step 6: Rehydrate

Humphrey suggests that you remove all gel from your nails by gently buffing them with a soft buffer (220 grit is ideal) and applying lots of cuticle oil. I recommend Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil and Essie Apricot Nail Oil. Hand creams are also recommended to hydrate.

Famous Names Dadi-Oil is a favorite of Francis because it has no greasy residue. Susanne Kaufmann’s Hand Cream is a favorite for its rich, moisturizing texture and absorbs immediately.

Humphrey says that the process will take between 30-45 minutes for each hand. So get your favorite Netflix series on and you won’t be tempted not to unwrap your gift early or force gel off of your nails.

These steps will help you remove gel polish at your home without any damage. Humphrey says patience is key. She adds that you should not force or peel gel off the nail plate. This can cause damage. Humphrey says that DIY gel application is not recommended if you’re not trained. “Due to the risk for developing an allergic reaction over the course of time,” she states.

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