DIY Gel Nail Removal


So you followed my fabulous DIY Gel Nail tutorial and now it’s time to remove them.
By the way, if you need a good gel nail kit, this is an awesome one, plus it’s the best deal I’ve seen around for Gelish products. This one is also a good option if you want to use a different lamp.

If you paid attention and followed the instructions your nails should still be shiny and pretty much chip free, but now you have a bunch of grow out around the cuticle area. 
It’s time to remove your gels and put on a new set.
So just how do you remove them?
I’m glad you asked.
Almost all of the tutorials I’ve seen online tell you to that you need to wrap your nails in foil and acetone soaked cotton balls. While that method may work, it’s not for me. I tried it once after my first attempt at my own gels and I found it just too messy and wasteful with the foil and everything. 
Since I’m a nail tech I thought back to my days of doing acrylics, and I figured I’d just remove gels the same way I’d been soaking off acrylics for years. 
  • Pure acetone
  • A nail file
  • An orangewood stick
  • A small bowl or dish (still large enough to stick 1 hand in)
  • A medium sized bowl(optional)
  • Cuticle oil (not pictured) 
Use your file to lightly file/buff off just the very top coat of gel. Don’t want to press hard- be gentle and just remove the shine. You want to break the seal in the gel’s topcoat so that the acetone can really go to work.
 See? I didn’t file off any of the color. I just removed the shine on the top coat and roughed it up a little.
Grab the two bowls or dishes. The reason for the optional 2nd bowl is this- the small one will be filled with acetone and will be the bowl you will soak your nails in. The 2nd one will be filled with very warm tap water, and the bowl of acetone will sit inside the water bowl, like this:
The warm water in the outer bowl will help gently warm the acetone in the inner bowl, which will then help remove the gel faster. Please be aware: Acetone is extremely flammable, much like rubbing alcohol is. You cannot heat up acetone in a microwave or on the stove- this will cause a fire or explosion. Using the warm water is the only safe way to give the acetone a “little boost” in temperature when removing artificial nails. This is the same way I’ve been removing acrylics for years, only acrylics take a lot longer to soak off. 

Submerge your finger tips as comfortably as you can in the dish of acetone. Make sure all of the nails are completely covered with the liquid. Leave them soaking for about 10 minutes before you check on them. You might be tempted to peek early, but it’ll be much quicker if you just keep them soaking for the first 10 minutes without taking them out to look at them.

Remove your hand from the acetone. The gel should look like it’s started to peel up in places, like this:
{Yep, those are my Harry Potter tattoos. More on my tattoos here}
Stick your fingers back in the acetone and while the nail is submerged, use the end of the orangewood stick to gently try to scrape the gel off, starting by the cuticles and working your way down to the free edge. If the gel sloughs off easily you can continue to do this to each finger until all of the gel is removed.

If it’s not coming off easily or if you’re really having to work to get the gel off you may need to let them soak for a few more minutes, then try the orangewood stick again.

 Once all the gel is removed, your nails will probably look like this:
They may be in need of a trim, especially if your gel manicure lasted for a long time like mine did. They’ll also need some cuticle oil and a little mini manicure because the acetone is very drying. Slather them in some oil and give your cuticles some love. Then apply some really nice, moisturinzing hand lotion and you’ll be set.

Now that the old gel is off you’re free to apply a new set or polish your nails as usual.

March 2015
I recently started using NailMates for my soak-off process. You can read more about them in my blog post here, complete with instructions on how to use them and links to the website where you can purchase them. I highly recommend them!


Questions? Leave a comment below or send me an email!
This is not a sponsored post or paid review. All opinions are, as always, my own. I bought all of the products shown above and I in no way represent any of the brands I use in these tutorials.