Is It Safe to Remove a Gel Manicure at Home?

Short answer: Yes. But it will take time, patience, and this manicurist-approved technique.

Get a gel manicure, they said. It'll be pretty, they said. They may have been right about the pretty part, but removing gels can be annoying if you don't want to go back into a salon to have it done professionally. That's why we turned to a professional for advice and asked Sarah Gibson Tuttle, the founder and CEO of Olive & June, to share the best way to safely remove gel nail polish at home. The key step? Patience. You'll also need a nail file, acetone, aluminum foil, and a hot towel before you begin.

woman with gel manicure
Getty / iprogressman

How to remove gel nail polish at home.

Stick to Tuttle's step-by-step tips for easy, safe gel removal. First, place cotton balls in acetone for a good soak. As they absorb the remover, file the surface of your nails (just a bit!) to break the top coat seal. Then, place the acetone-soaked cotton balls on the surface of each nail; wrap each cotton ball-topped finger with tin foil. And then you wait patiently—you want to give the acetone 10 to 15 minutes for the gels to become saturated and lift off entirely. "I recommend removal while you're FaceTiming a friend or watching TV, so you're not tempted to damage your nails by rushing. No harsh removal or picking, please!" says Tuttle.

Looking to (safely) expedite the process? Have that hot towel at the ready; wrap the towel around your hands as they soak to speed up removal.

Accept that gel manicures might not be for you.

Using a long-lasting nail polish formula can be a great alternative to gels with less hassle around removal. Because these polishes have a base coat in them, you can get away with fewer layers of polish, minimizing potential chipping. "Gels are super long-lasting, but some polish formulas are, too. This is exactly why we made a longer-lasting polish at Olive & June—we had clients wanting the wearability of gel, in an easy-to-remove polish formula," explains Tuttle.

Apply a top coat regularly to keep regular polish glossy.

"Another tip for getting that freshly manicured, always glossy look is to apply a thin coat of top coat every other day. This will protect the color, finish, and extend the life of your manicure, because it acts as a layer of defense against everything your hands come in contact with," Tuttle concludes.

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