How to Remove Your Gel Manicure While Stuck at Home

The owners of DC nail salon group Nailsaloon share their go-to tips.

Photo via iStock.
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If you were one of the wise ones who got a gel manicure before the pandemic closed all non-essential businesses, your nails are probably just grown out enough now to start annoying you.

Removing a gel manicure at home can be tricky, though, so we reached out to the owners of DC nail salon group Nailsaloon Andréa Vieira and Claudia Diamante for their tips. The duo recommends being patient and gentle while following these steps so as to minimize damage to your nails. The good news? You probably have a lot of time on your hands (har har), and much of this can be done while bingeing Netflix or on a Zoom call.

1. File

Use a nail file on the tops of your nails to break the first layer of the gel polish, says the duo. You’ll want to do this gently, as you’re only removing the top clear coat right now. You’ll soak the actual color off later.

2. Coat

To get your fingers ready to soak, apply a generous amount of lotion or oil to your fingers, say Vieira and Diamante. Make sure you moisturize your cuticles, too.

3. Soak

There are two ways you can approach this step, say Vieira and Diamante. The first is to fill a glass bowl with acetone or nail polish remover, place that bowl in a larger bowl of hot water to warm the acetone or remover, and soak your nails for 10 minutes. While doing this, the duo recommends wearing a face covering (like the CDC-recommended ones) to protect yourself from acetone fumes.

The other method is to soak 10 cotton balls in either acetone or nail polish remover, affix each cotton ball to a finger by wrapping it in aluminum foil, and pushing down on the foil to ensure the soaked cotton ball is touching your nails. Keep these on for 15 minutes.

4. Removal

After you soak your hands or remove the cotton balls, you should rinse your hands with water and dry them, say Vieira and Diamante. Then take a wooden stick—be it a chopstick, a pencil cut in half for a flat edge, or a bamboo utensil—and gently scrape off the polish from each nail. It’s important to do this slowly and to not use too much pressure, says the duo.

If the polish does not come easily off a nail, soak it again, and you can use a nail buffer to gently remove any tiny flecks of polish that are left. Also, whatever you do, don’t use a metal tool to scrape off the polish, say Vieira and Diamante—leave that to the professional nail technicians.

5. Moisturize

Grab an oil from your kitchen, such as canola, coconut, avocado, or olive oil, and massage a teaspoon of it into your hands. Make sure to pay special attention to the tips of your fingers and your nails, say Vieira and Diamante. Do this for as long as possible, and then rinse your hands with warm water (do not use soap). Apply lotion to your hands while they’re still damp.

Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Home & Features Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She’s written for The Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Del Ray.