I have a love-hate relationship with gel manicures. Sure, they leave my nails shiny and chip-free for nearly two weeks, but who has time to go back to the salon to take the stuff off? While salons like to say that the only way you can remove a gel polish is, well, in a salon, they also charge an extra removal fee. Not cool.
That’s precisely why we did some digging to find out exactly how to outsmart your salon and remove a gel manicure at home. Check out our list of dos and donts below.
1. Don’t peel that gel! The second that tell-tale corner pops up at the tip of your nail, all you probably want to do is peel, peel, peel. If you follow your urge, you’ll also be peeling off the topmost layer of your nail, leaving you with very brittle, weak nails for weeks.
2. Gather your supplies. Most of the things you’ll need, you probably already have: aluminum foil, giant cotton balls, paper towels, a nail file and a small wooden manicure/pedicure stick. You’ll also need 100% pure acetone, because your favorite nail polish remover is way too gentle and will do virtually nothing to remove the gel nail polish. Also, be sure that you’re in a well-ventilated space–you’re dealing with acetone, after all.
3. Scrub it all off. Using a nail file, scrub the shiny top coat off the nail. The goal here is to expose the polish underneath, so it can be removed with the acetone afterwards.
4. Make a nail sandwich. Cut your aluminum into squares large enough to fit over your nails–2.5×3 inch squares work perfectly for me. Next, soak your jumbo cotton ball in the 100% acetone and place it on your nail, taking care to cover every inch of the nail (and as little of the skin around it as possible). Finally, wrap the aluminum foil around your fingers. Be sure to do this on one hand at a time–you’ll need one hand free to scape and remove the foil from the other.
5. Sit tight. While the waiting time varies depending on the color/person/brand, it’s typically safe to assume that your waiting time will be roughly fifteen minutes. Anything less, and you have to do it all over again. Anything more, and you’re basically giving your fingers an acetone bath.
6. Now, you can peel it off. The polish should be separated from your nail now, so use a wooden stick (or something less abrasive than a nail file, really) to peel it off. If it comes off in one piece, you’re Wonder Woman. If it doesn’t, you’re still Wonder Woman – you just have to scrape at it a bit for it to come off. If you feel like you’re scraping just a bit too much, soak it in acetone just a tad more to make it looser.
7. Make sure you get every bit. Using a nail file, scrub off any stray pieces. Finally, wash your hands in warm water and massage your fingertips with your favorite moisturizing lotion to spring some life back into them after the acetone.
8. Let them rest. This is totally optional, but I like to let my nails sit for a day or two after gel. Call me crazy, but I feel like airing them out does them a world of good (kind of like not wearing makeup for a few days).
Be sure to check out 11 facts you never knew about Sephora and the 6 apps every beauty love should download immediately.