How to Remove Gel Nail Polish at Home Without Wrecking Your Nails

Use this DIY guide next time your nails are chipped AF and you can't get to the salon.

If you've ever gone weeks or even months (guilty) past your gel manicure expiration date and had to sport chipped nails in public, then you know just how ~blah~ it can look. If you can't find the time or cash to squeeze in an appointment at the nail salon to have a professional remove your gel nail polish, you might take matters into your own hands and opt for a quick and dirty fix, including picking or biting off the polish yourself.

While ripping off gel polish can be oddly satisfying, experts strongly discourage this method, since it can cause serious damage to your nails. "Any peeling of the polish has the potential to remove a layer of your nails, which results in peeling and those white blotchy marks you see on nails," says Eliana Gaviria, a nail technician at Haven Spa in New York. (

The good news? If a visit to the nail salon isn't in the cards, it's easy to learn how to remove gel nail polish at home—and without wrecking your nails or cuticles. Nervous? Don't be. Even celebrities have tried the DIY hack with a little patience and the right tools. Jourdan Dunn recently posted to her Instagram stories that she successfully removed her gel (even though it took her 40 minutes to do one nail LOL), and Shay Mitchell also mentioned in an Instagram post that she would soon be resorting to at-home gel removal during quarantine because of COVID-19.

Here, Gaviria offers tricks to master the process of removing gel nail polish, as well as the exact products you'll need for a seamless experience.

gel manicure removal jourdan dunn IG

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish

  1. First, you'll want to use a nail file to buff the top of your nail to break up the gel topcoat. Make sure you buff the entire nail—don't leave any polish untouched—it'll help the acetone penetrate the polish and make it easier to remove.
  2. Next, take a cotton ball and soak it with 100% acetone (not regular nail polish remover) and put it on your nail. Pro tip: You can also opt for a bottle of acetone that contains nourishing ingredients such as aloe vera, glycerin, and essential oils, which means the formula will be less harsh on your nail plate and bed, and help keep your nails from chipping, peeling, and breaking. Also, because acetone can smell *so* strong, be sure to work in a well-ventilated room or crack a window.
  3. Then, wrap the nail and cotton ball with aluminum foil and let the acetone-soaked cotton balls seep into your nail for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Once you remove the foil and cotton, use a metal nail pusher to gently scrape the gel nail polish off.
  5. If there's still some stubborn gel leftover post-removal, just use a buffer to smooth your nails out. Since acetone is pretty drying, you'll want to take some extra measures to care for and repair your hands. Apply cuticle oil to your nails and cuticles to keep the area moisturized.

All finished? Yay, give yourself a big pat on the back. If you're feeling accomplished and confident after successfully removing your gel and want to try your hand at an at-home mani, pick up one of these tough gel polishes, which will stand up to days at the office, intense workouts, and even home improvements. (

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