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

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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 nail 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. 

Step one: scratch the surface

“Buff or file the surface of the polish to break the seal and to remove the top coat 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 two: 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 three: 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 four: wipe away

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

Step five: finishing touch

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

Best at-home gel nail removal tools

  • Tweezerman Neon Hot Filemates

    Shop Tweezerman Neon Hot Filemates, £4.80 at Lookfantastic

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  • Superdrug Wooden Cuticle Sticks

    Shop Wooden Cuticle Sticks, 99p for 10 at Superdrug

    buy now

  • Jessica Phenomen Oil Intensive Moisturiser

    Shop Jessica Phenomen Oil Intensive Moisturiser, £11.28 at Lookfantastic

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  • Elegant Touch Soak ‘Em Off Remover Pads

    Shop Elegant Touch Soak ‘Em Off Remover Pads, £8.95 at ASOS

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Main image: Getty

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