This is how to remove gel nails at home without causing damage

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Lucy Partington
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How to remove shellac nail polish

The temptation to pick, peel or nibble off your gel manicure is real – but whatever you do, don’t do it. Here’s how to remove a gel manicure at home properly.

If you’re a nail salon regular, it’s likely you opt for gel or shellac instead of regular polish, given it’s far tougher and lasts around two to three weeks. The difference is that gel is cured by a UV lamp and needs to be removed in a salon using acetone. Attempt to peel gels off yourself and it’s likely you’ll peel the top layer of the nail along with it – leaving them feeling soft, bendy and brittle. 

Here, manicurist Metta Francis talks us through how to rid your nails of gel at home without causing unnecessary damage. Unfortunately, that’s a curtain call on picking or peeling your gel nail polish off, btw. 

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Step 1: scratch the surface

“Buff or file the surface of the polish to break the seal and to remove the topcoat so the remover can easily penetrate the gel. If the polish is particularly thick, file it down to about the thickness of your natural nail when it has polish on.”

Step 2: wrap up

“Tightly wrap each finger in an acetone-soaked cotton pad, and then cover in kitchen foil, making sure you fold the end of the foil back over the nail to help retain heat and speed up the removal process.” It’s best to do one hand at a time. You can also buy gel nail-removal kits easily online, which saves faffing around with foil if you’d prefer. 

Step 3: wait it out

“Wait 10 minutes then unwrap the foil. The gel polish should crumble off easily but if it doesn’t, use a wooden cuticle stick to gently rub the remaining polish off. If the polish is still stubborn, re-wrap and soak for a couple more minutes.”

Step 4: wipe away

“Once you’ve done all 10 fingers, remove any residue by scrubbing your nails with a cotton pad soaked in remover.”

Step 5: finishing touch

“Finally – and importantly – apply cuticle oil onto each finger and massage it in to help protect and rehydrate the nail.”

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Lucy Partington

Freelance beauty editor Lucy Partington is obsessed with all things skincare, collecting eyeshadow palettes that she'll probably never use, and is constantly on the hunt for the ultimate glowy foundation.