How to remove your gel manicure at home

Here’s how to do a DIY gel manicure removal, without ruining your nails. 

There are few things that spark joy quite like a fresh set of claws that will last for weeks without chipping. Indeed, gel and SNS manicures are revolutionary, the whole removal process, however, is a different story. 


Undoubtedly, the best port of call is getting your nail technician to remove it for you to avoid damage, but now that we are confined to our own homes, it might be time for a DIY. 


While it’s not normally advised to take it into your own hands, these are extreme circumstances, and if you follow this expert guide, your nails will be safe as houses. 


What you need: 

  • Coarse nail file or 4-way buffing block
  • Acetone or nail polish remover
  • Cotton balls
  • Foil - cut into small rectangles
  • Cuticle oil or vaseline to protect the skin

Step one: Protect the skin

Acetone can be a harsh chemical on the skin, so to shield the skin apply a light layer of cuticle oil, cream or vaseline to create a protective barrier. 


Step two: Buff the nails

If you’ve had your gel removed professionally before, you’ll be familiar with this step. The point here is to break up the top layer of gel to help the acetone penetrate. You don’t need to file right down, just enough so that you’ve removed the shine. 


Step three: Soak cotton balls in acetone

Next, soak small pieces of cotton in acetone and place it on top of the nail. Nail polish remover will do if you don’t have access to anything else, but it’s diluted so this will take much longer. 


Step four: Secure the cotton with aluminium foil

Cut a roll of tin foil into small squares and wrap each finger to secure the cotton ball in place. If you don’t have access to foil, grab two bowls from the kitchen, one slightly larger than the other. Fill the larger bowl with warm water and place the smaller bowl inside like a double-boiler, and pour some acetone into the smaller bowl. Allow to heat for a minute or two and then place your hand inside the acetone and allow the gel to gradually soak off. 


Step five: Wait for 10 to 15 minutes

Cue up your favourite show and let the acetone do its job. When it’s ready you should see the corners beginning to come loose. If you’re using foils, they should slide off with the cotton ball when you remove it. If small residue remains, try using an orangewood stick (or something similar) to scrape the softened gel off. Your thumbnail might even do the trick. 


If it’s being stubborn, give it another five minutes and try again. And once we are back to normality, book in to have your gel mani reapplied at the Art of Nails.