Gel nails are a fabulous way to enjoy those shiny, glossy, picture-perfect nails for weeks on end! However, the downside can often be removing them. The temptation for many is to pick or peel off their gel nails, particularly if the nails start to chip or peel naturally. However, this is just asking for trouble! Picking at or scraping off your gel nails will cause damage to your nail bed, meaning your gels or acrylics are far less likely to stand the test of time next time you have them done. Definitely not worth it, we think you’ll agree.

So, how do you safely remove gel nails? We know many salons and professionals offer gel nail removal, but what about those times when you want to remove your gel polish at home between visits? Join us here at Nail Nails, as we talk you through how to safely remove gel nail polish at home. 

How to remove gel nail polish at home

There are a number of methods you can try to safely remove gel polish in the comfort of your own home – they simply require a little patience and time. Today we’re going to be looking at the two most common methods for removing gel nails at home: the soak off method and the foils method.

Top tip: Before trying either of these methods, apply a little Vaseline (cuticle oil and rich hand creams work too!) to the skin around your nails. This will stop your skin from drying out when in contact with acetone. 

How to soak off gel polish

The first method is the simplest – soaking your nails in a bowl of acetone. To carry out this method:

  • Before beginning, buff the surface of your nails gently to help loosen up and remove the glossy top coat. Don’t file too much – the aim is to remove the protective upper layer rather than buff too far into the gel polish. Once your nails are looking a little more matte, you can begin.
  • Fill a larger bowl with warm (but not boiling) water.
  • Place a smaller bowl, containing acetone, inside the larger bowl, allowing the surrounding warm water to gently heat the acetone for a couple of minutes. Don’t use boiling water and definitely don’t try to heat the acetone directly, as it is a highly flammable liquid.
  • Place your nails into the acetone solution for around 15 minutes. 
  • Once your 15 minutes are up, you should notice the gel becoming loose around the edges. You can then use an orangewood stick to help remove this loosened gel. Be gentle, and never scrape at your nails as you will damage them. If the gel isn’t removing easily, place your nails back into the solution for a further 5 minutes then repeat until you can easily remove the gel. 

How to remove gel polish with foils 

If you don’t fancy the limitations of sitting with your fingernails in a bowl of acetone, you could alternatively try the foils method. 

  • Again, begin by gently buffing the surface of the nail to remove the glossy top coat.
  • Take a cotton wool ball and soak it in acetone. Place this covering your nail, and use a small amount of foil to wrap around the nail and secure the foil in place. This method works better with cotton wool balls than it does with pads, as pads tend to dry out too quickly to fully soak the nails.
  • Repeat this method on each finger, so each nail is soaking in acetone.
  • Leave for around 15 minutes, after which you should be able to simply slide off the cotton wool ball along with the gel. Try on one finger first and, if you find the gel is not removing easily, reapply the foils for a further 5 minutes. You can leave the foils on for up to 30 minutes if needed.
  • Once you’ve removed the bulk of the gel, you can use another cotton wool ball and acetone to work at removing any residue. Don’t be tempted to scrape or pick off the remaining polish, as you will damage your nails. 

Top tips for safely removing gel nail polish

  • Ideally, you should wait until your gel nails are already beginning to naturally chip or peel, as they will be much easier to remove. 
  • Never peel off, scrape or bite gel from your nails. Yes, this method may be quick, but you can remove the top layer of the nail in the process, leaving them weak, textured and patchy. Patience is key – the safest methods may take longer, but you’ll thank yourself in the long term. 
  • After removal, soak your natural nails in coconut oil for five minutes and apply cuticle oil to your nails. Make sure you’re also regularly moisturising your hands and nails to keep your skin soft, strong and healthy.
  • Let your nails breathe after removing gel polish. If you can bear to, wait until at least the next day to reapply polish. 


And there you have it – all the tips you need to safely remove gel nails at home! For all the products you need to keep your hands and nails healthy throughout the process, be sure to explore the Prep & Aftercare range at Naio Nails. Or, for working on your next masterpiece, take a look around our full collection of gel polishes.

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