How to Remove a Gel Manicure

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Introduction: How to Remove a Gel Manicure


Gel manicures are all the rage these days.   Gelish and Shellac each offer the client long-lasting, chip-free manicures that promise to stay put for weeks at a time!  My experience with gel manicures was gravely disappointing.

The truth about gel manicures:
  • Gel manicures DO chip.  Mine lasted about three days.  Assuming that the polish had been applied incorrectly (it's quite a process, and involves setting under UV light!), I went back to have it redone.  The second gel manicure I received lasted about three days. 
  • They cost up to 3 times what a normal spa manicure does.  If they actually lasted three times as long, this *might* be worth the limited color selection available and the fact that:
  • You can only have your polish removed at a salon that offers gel manicures (until now!) and the process involves soaking your nails in acetone.  Often the removal process requires an additional fee as well!
Deciding this was all a little too ridiculous, I set out to see how I could remove the gel manicure I'd submitted my poor little nailbeds to on my own.  I even compared using acetone-based nail polish remover to using straight-up acetone.  I'm sorry to report that the nail polish remover just didn't cut it - even after 30 minutes of soaking.

Step 1: Materials

To remove your overpriced gel polish without incurring the expense of an additional salon visit, you will need the following:

Acetone (only the real stuff will do)
Cotton balls (or squares)
Aluminum foil

This is the working woman's solution to gel polish removal. I suppose if you have all day to sit around soaking your fingers in a bowl of acetone, that would probably work just as well, and you could bypass the need for cotton balls and tin foil. As it was, I still had work to do!

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Step 2: The Method


Soak the cotton balls in acetone. 

Apply one soaked cotton ball to each nail.

Wrap each nail in a small piece of aluminum foil to seal in place.

If you make little pointy tips on the end of each finger, you can continue to use a keyboard and get your business done!

Step 3: Comparisons


I did a few comparisons to see if I really could get away with using acetone-based nail polish remover instead of industrial strength acetone.  I also tested different soaking times with the acetone so I could provide you with the proper amount of time it takes to remove the bulk of the polish without overcooking your delicate nailbeds!

The image here shows you one finger after having soaked in acetone-based nail polish remover, and the other in acetone, each for 20 minutes.  The nail polish remover didn't seem to have much effect at all.

Step 4: Finishing

After about 20 minutes, check the effectiveness of your polish removal units.  Slide one of the acetone foil packets off of your nail while using the cotton inside to effectively wipe away the remaining polish.  If most of the polish is gone, you can remove the rest.  If not, reapply cotton and foil and check again in 5-10 minutes.

Even 30 minutes of this technique did not remove all of the polish cleanly, but it did loosen all of it.  I finished my manicure removal by scraping away the remains with the blunt edge of a plastic knife.  

As you can imagine, all of this torture, from the initial chemical polish, to the blast of UV light, to the final acetone soak, has left your nails in top condition!  (no it has not)  Be gentle with your nails from here on out.  Treat them with kindness and balms.  Promise them you will never do this to them again.  And don't get me started on those nail stickers that you seal on with heat either. . . because believe me, I've tried it.  I don't know why my nails haven't packed up and left me yet, but I promise to be kinder to them in the future.


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    40 Comments

    It is awesome that gel manicures can be removed from home. It can be potentially a pain to go out to remove shellac or gel nail polish, especially if you have done your own nails. It seems very convenient that the entire process can be completed within your own home. It is often hard for me to make it to the nail salon with my busy schedule, especially if I don't have a babysitter for my kids. It would be very convenient if I could complete the entire process while my kids are sitting in the living room watching a movie! http://www.gel-nails.com/led-nail-lamp.html

    I did the whole file my nails, 100% acetone, cotton things&tinfoil routine, left it on for 40 minutes and the gel polish won't come off! That advice is bogus.

    Apparently your nail salon has no idea whats going on! I finnish sheetrock for a living and i have my nails n everything,they keep there shine and have NEVER chipped! N i have them dun every 2-3 weeks

    If you want to check out my site it's jenifersjams05.jamberry.com it's life changing!!!

    The author clearly states in her article "And don't get me started on those nail stickers that you seal on with heat either. . . because believe me, I've tried it."

    Sounds like Jamberry to me..

    Sooooo, you can get these little plastic bottles (just for the nails) on Ebay or Amazon. You fill them with remover and stick your finger tips in them. While they look funny, they do work. Also, I found a great hint about glitter polish, which seems to stay with me for weeks after removing it with acetone remover. Just do a light basecoat of regular white glue, yes school glue. Let it dry. Then apply the glitter polish. When done with the look of them, just peel them off. Sometimes they do soak off if you are having a long bath or have your fingernails in water a lot, but still, at least the glitter isn't there for months. I have stopped buying glitter polish altogether. We want pretty nails, but ohhh the cost of having them.

    What a great tip for glitter nails! You should seriously make your own Instructable just on that.

    I just did gels at a salon and I'm not a fan. I tried jamberry trushine before and I love it!!! They have removal packets so much easier to take off.

    Mine lasted about 16 days. $22 for nIls over 2 weeks plus no chipping sounds great to me. I clean like crazy, I cook for my 3 kids, wash dishes and I do gardening so it was perfect for me. Getting them off was a slight pain but I did go to the salon and they take them off for free :)

    Thank you - great idea! I will definitely try this.