How Do You Get Off Gel Nails?

A gel manicure is an incredibly popular choice that uses a gel-based polish and requires a UV or LED light to cure and lock the polish onto your nails.

While regular nail polish often only lasts a few days without chipping, gel nail polish can remain chip-free for weeks. However, if you’re new to the world of gel nails you might be curious to know: how do you get off gel nails?

In this article, I explore how you remove gel nails, including whether you can remove gel nail polish with regular nail polish remover.

How do you get off gel nails?

Gel nails tend to last for around two to three weeks before you’ll need to get them removed. That being said, when your gel nails have become chipped, it can be tempting to pick and peel off your gel nail polish. Despite its popularity, gel nail polish is notoriously difficult to remove.

The best option to remove gel nails is to get them removed professionally at a salon. To loosen the gel that has been bonded to your nails, you will require an acetone soak.

However, the process of removing gels causes wear and tear to your nails, and going to the salon to have your gel nails removed by a well-experienced nail technician is the safest option. The health of your nails is the most important thing, and maintaining their health is fundamental if you wish to continue getting gel nails in the future.

However, if for some reason you are in a position where you need to remove the gels at home, there are a few things that you can try. That being said, the key to not damaging your nails is preparation.


  • Roughen the nail surface with a file – By using a good nail file, the goal is to remove the shine from the top layer, making it easier for the polish to be removed after soaking or applying nail polish remover.
  • Protect the cuticles and skin – You can also apply petroleum jelly to your cuticles and the surrounding skin beforehand to protect them from the harsh acetone.

Methods to try remove gel nails easier

Soak it off with acetone

  • Cut your aluminum foil into 10 medium-sized pieces. Each piece should be large enough to wrap around your finger while holding a small cotton ball against your fingernail.
  • After filing the top of your gel manicure to roughen the surface, fill a bowl with half a cup of acetone.
  • Soak each cotton ball in the bowl of acetone, and place it on your fingernail starting with your non-dominant hand. Use a piece of tinfoil to secure the cotton-soaked acetone to your nail. Repeat the process for every fingernail on that hand.
  • Sit back and relax, allowing your nails to soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • After 10 to 15 minutes have passed, it’s time to check your nails. Remove the foil from each finger, if they are ready the polish should begin to lift away from your nails. This should make it easy for you to gently scrape the polish from your nails with a cuticle stick.
  • Apply a small drop of cuticle oil to keep your nails and cuticles healthy and hydrated.
  • Repeat the process on your other hand.

How do you remove gel nail polish with regular nail polish remover?

A lot of nail polish removers contain acetone. Bearing this in mind, acetone-based nail polish removers can be effective for removing gel nails at home.

A guide on how to remove gel nail polish with regular nail polish remover

  • Begin by filling a small bowl with nail polish remover.
  • Dip your fingertips into the nail polish remover, and allow your nails to soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • After this time has passed, check your nails. The polish should begin to lift away from the nail, allowing you to gently buff off the polish.
  • After all of the polish has been removed, gently buff your nails to smooth the surface.
  • Apply a small amount of cuticle oil to your cuticles to keep them hydrated.

That being said, when it comes to removing your nail polish at home, the best product to use is 100% acetone and I would recommend this over nail polish remover.

It is important to note that while acetone is the most effective way of removing gel polish, it can be harsh on the skin, cuticles, and nails. Bearing this in mind, I recommend moisturizing your hands with lotion and your cuticles with cuticle oil to ensure that they remain as healthy as possible.

Does removing gel manicures damage your nails?

Gel manicures can cause wear and tear to the nail and can be particularly damaging without proper nail prep, application, and removal. 

The process of getting gel manicures regularly can damage your nails, particularly because the removal process can be harsh. Acetone is a solvent that significantly dries out the nail, leading to brittleness, splitting, and peeling. Bearing this in mind, manicures can lead to nail dehydration and therefore lead to your natural nails breaking more easily. This is especially true if you have naturally thin nails that are already prone to breakages.

To keep your nails in the best condition possible, I recommend that you allow your nails a break once you have removed your gels. The most important thing to do is to ensure that you’re taking good care of your natural nails with hydrating products while also spacing out your manicure appointments. 

Giving your nails a break from gel manicures allows them the time that they need to repair to remain strong and healthy. 

If you’re not sure, then the best option is to get your gel nails removed professionally at the salon. Pay attention to what they’re doing and see if you can emulate it yourself next time.

If you damage your nails, you’re going to have to wait a while before doing it again.