Nail Polish Removal

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish

Editor choice

Disclaimer: Not an expert just a nail polish aficionado and DIY lover. The contents of this article are strictly for informational purposes and not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Due to varying skin types and allergies, there is no one size fits all approach for how to remove gel nail polish. Some of the techniques listed below may produce adverse effects in certain skin types. Understand that attempting to remove your gel nail polish on your own will likely lead to adverse effects and doing so is at your own risk. Please consult a dermatologist, general physician, or nail technician before attempting any of the techniques listed in this article. If you are uncertain about which course of action to take, it is best to visit a nail technician. Though it may save you money to remove your gel nail polish at home, nail technicians are extensively trained professionals with a complex understanding of different nail products and their effects on the skin.

Many women know the satisfaction that comes from a fresh manicure; your nails are well-sculpted, neat, and perfectly polished in the shade of your choice. A good manicure can make you feel like a hand model. However, it is difficult to make that fresh, perfectly-polished look last for very long with traditional manicures. Daily activities such as typing, housework, and even washing your hands can cause your nail polish to chip and peel. In a matter of days, instead of looking like a hand model, you could end up looking like a woman who has never so much as seen a nail salon in their life.

Fortunately, the advent of gel nail polish has helped to curb some of the traditional downsides of getting a manicure. Gel nail polish, or shellac, produces an effect similar to the acrylic nails many women used in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Gel polish manicures or shellac manicures provide the same freshly polished look of a traditional manicure, but have a thick layer of protection that allows for nails to retain their look for up to three weeks. Gel nail polish prevents chipping, cracking, flaking, or peeling of the nail color, and also helps to protect actual nails against breakage.

USDA Bio-certified 100% Natural Nail Polish Remover (Acetone-free)

Made with plant-based ingredients, this 100% natural removal solution is the fastest and safest way to say goodbye to your old nail polish!

The downside of a material such as gel nail polish is that it can often work too well. While this special gel can protect nails from chipping or breaking, it can often be difficult to know how to take off gel nail polish without causing damage to the nail below. According to Dr. Susan Taylor, the buffing done to nails prior to applying the gel polish and soaking methods used to remove the polish may cause weakening of the natural nail below. However, the answer may lie in the type of gel nail polish you are using. Different brands use different methods for the preparation and application of their particular gel polish. Read on for the different methods used by common brands and to learn how to remove gel nail polish and how to remove gel nail polish at home.

How Do You Remove Gel Nail Polish: Information by Brand

Listed below are some common nail care brands that also produce gel nail polishes in varying colors. Read on to learn how to apply these gel polishes and how to remove gel nail polish at home.

OPI Axxium Soak-Off Gel Nail Polishes:

OPI has always been an innovator in nail care and color. The brand was one of the first to develop gel nail polish that could be applied and removed by consumers themselves, without a visit to the nail salon. The line produces well over 150 different gel nail polish colors and the polish can be applied like traditional nail polish, then UV cured in order to create the gel polish effect. In order to remove the Axxium Gel Nail Polish, OPI recommends that users soak off the nail polish using nail polish remover, and assures that simply by soaking, users can remove all three layers of polish—including a base coat—within thirty minutes.

? Click Here for Removal Instructions for OPI Axxium Soak-Off Gel Nail Polish!

CND Essential Solar Oil Nail and Cuticle Conditioner

Don’t underestimate the damage of nail polish removal! Treat your nails to a little bit of love with this conditioning oil treatment.

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel:

Sally Hansen’s Miracle Gel is a unique product because their gel polish requires only two steps, and does not require a UV light in order to cure and seal in the gel effect. Users only need to apply two coats of their favorite Miracle Gel color and just one coat of the Miracle Gel top coat to produce salon quality gel color that lasts up to two weeks. Additionally, Sally Hansen Miracle Gel nail polish users do not have to worry about how to take off gel nail polish because this brand assures its customers that either acetone or non-acetone based nail polish removers can remove the gel polish with little effort. This is what was posted from their website.

? Click here for Removal Instructions for Sally Hansen Miracle Gel!

CND Shellac:

CND Shellac is a professional-grade gel nail polish system that can last up to fourteen days when applied properly. The system requires specialized base coats, colors, and top coats and must be cured using a UV light, also included in the system. Users do not have to soak their nails or chip away at the gel in order to remove the color, CND shellac also sells a specialized wrapping system that removes gel color and restores nails to their original state after. The followings instructions were provided by Shellac, but please contact them directly to verify the information yourselves to ensure that it is still up to date. I have posted it for discussion purposes only

? Click here for Removal Instructions for CND Shellac Nail Polish!

MAKARTT® 200Pcs/Box Gel Polish Removal Wraps

Get your gel nail polish off efficiently and effectively with these removal wraps! Comes with foil wraps and cotton pads.

Gelish Soak–Off Gel Polish:

Gelish Soak-Off Gel Polish is an at-home gel polish system that produces salon-quality results. The system is designed for either professional or at-home use and can be applied with either a UV or LED light. The polish goes on like traditional nail polish and the gel effect is activated within 3 minutes using a UV light, or 30 seconds using an LED light. Instructions for how to remove gel nail polish at home using the Gelish system state that the polish can be removed by simply soaking polished nails in nail polish remover for 10 minutes. The following instructions were provided by Gelish, but please contact them to verify that the Gelish nail polish removal instructions are up to date and accurate. The image is posted below for discussion purposes only.

? Click here for removal instructions for Gelish Soak-Off Gel Polish!

Gelaze by China Glaze:

Frequent visitors to nail salons or nail technicians will easily recognize the China Glaze brand name. Already a ubiquitous brand in nail care circles, the company has now extended its reach to include gel nail polish. The Gelaze system by China Glaze is perhaps one of the more complex systems and should be performed by a professional nail technician with knowledge about gel nail polish and shellac. The process begins by having a nail technician perform a dry manicure, then filing the nail with a 240 grit file and rubbing the top of the nail with alcohol to remove any moisture. A nail technician will then apply Gelaze’s two in one gel and base polish to the nail and place the nail under an LED lamp for thirty seconds or under a UV light for two minutes. After being removed from the light curing system, a technician will wipe nails with a pre-soaked gel cleanser pad to remove any excess gel.

Orange Wood Stick Cuticle Pusher

Achieve the perfect cuticles with these natural orange wood sticks- perfect for gently pushing back cuticles and cleaning! Comes in a pack of 100.

Instructions for how to remove gel nail polish from Gelaze are almost as complex as instructions for applying the gel polish, and thus should be performed by a professional nail technician as well. First, the seal of the gel polish should be broken using a nail file. Next, the nail must be saturated with Gelaze gel polish remover, and wrapped in specialized Gelaze remover wraps which are wrapped securely around nails for up to ten minutes. After ten minutes have passed, the nail technician will then remove the wrap and scrape off any remaining polish or gel residue with an orangewood stick.

? Click here for removal instructions on Gelaze by China Glaze!

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish at Home

As listed above, there are various methods for applying and removing gel nail polish, and depending on the brand, these gel polishes can be applied and be removed either at home or with the help of a professional nail technician. While it is recommended that you consult a professional nail technician to remove your gel manicure at least for the first few times you need to remove the gel, it is not difficult to learn how to remove gel nail polish at home.

The first thing to keep in mind is to read the instructions provided. There are many brands that produce commercially available gel polish systems (such as those listed above). All of these brands, in addition to providing instructions on how to apply their gel polish, also provide instructions on how to remove gel nail polish at home. Following these instructions will likely give you success on the first try. However, if you are not having success removing the gel polish on your own, it is best to consult a nail technician who can perform the job for you if necessary. Trust us; paying the extra money and having a professional remove your gel manicure will be well worth the cost if it can save your nails from serious damage and breakage.

The next thing to keep in mind is that the internet offers a wealth of resources for those trying to learn how to take off gel nail polish on their own. Articles such as this one or blog posts from popular stylists also provide instructions on how to remove gel nail polish. Doing your research and following the techniques offered in these posts can help you to safely and completely remove your gel nail polish.

Onyx Professional 100% Acetone Remover

This powerful solvent helps removes artificial nails and nail polish easily. For quicker results, try the 100% Acetone Remover by Onyx!

In general, there are only three materials needed to remove your gel nail polish in the comfort of your home. These materials are: nail-wipes, nail polish remover (acetone-based nail polish remover works best; for instructions on how to remove gel nail polish without acetone, read on below), and foil.

Step 1: Soak cotton balls in acetone until they are completely moist.

Step 2: Apply an acetone-soaked cotton ball to the top of each nail.

Step 3: Wrap each nail that has an acetone-soaked cotton ball on top with aluminum foil (make sure that the aluminum is wrapped securely over each nail)

Step 4: Leave aluminum foil wraps on nails for ten minutes

Step 5: Remove the foil and cotton ball from nails

Step 6: At this point, the gel polish should be pliable enough that you can simply peel it off

Step 7: File nails to desires smoothness

Following these seven steps, you can safely remove your gel nail polish at home. However, we do recommend only doing this if you have worn and removed gel nail polish in the past. Additionally, if you are currently wearing a gel nail polish whose instructions state that you can remove the polish using only nail polish remover, do not use the foil wrapping technique as extended exposure to acetone can severely damage the natural nail.

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish Without Acetone

Removing gel nail polish without acetone can be more difficult than using pure acetone; however, it is possible to do so. There are two main techniques which can be used to remove gel nail polish without acetone. These techniques include the foil wrap method and the bowl method. Both of these methods can be done using acetone as well, but the length of time for non-acetone removal will be longer.

The Wrap Method

Step 1: Use a 240 grit file to rub the surface of the nail

Step 2: Mix non-acetone nail polish remover with warm water in a bowl

Step 3: Use cotton balls, cotton pads, or gauze to soak up the diluted nail polish remover

Step 4: Apply the remover-soaked cotton balls, pads, or gauze to the surface of each nail

Step 5: Wrap each nail in foil

Step 6: Leave the foil for thirty minutes, repeatedly removing the foil and using a cuticle pusher to check that the product has been completely removed

Step 7: After thirty minutes have passed, remove the foil and use the cuticle pusher and file to remove any product that is still leftover

This method is very similar to the wrap method that requires acetone to remove gel nail polish, however with non-acetone nail polish remover the process takes up to three times longer. Another method that can be used to remove gel nail polish without acetone is the bowl method.

Lint-Free Nail Polish Remover Nail Wipes

Tired of having lint stuck to your nails? These lint-free nail wipes are a great alternative to cotton balls- soft, absorbent and perfect for nail polish removal!

The Bowl Method

Step 1: File nails using 240 grit file in order to prepare the nail for soaking

Step 2: In a bowl, mix warm water with non-acetone nail polish removal ensuring that you have enough water to soak your fingertips

Step 3: Place fingers inside of the bowl and cover with a towel. Leave the towel in place for 20-30 minutes

Step 4: Remove fingers from the bowl and pat dry using a towel

Step 5: Using a cuticle pusher peel and remove the remaining product

For women who have worn acrylic nail tips in the past, the bowl method will be a familiar method for removing artificial nails and nail gels. However, by using non-acetone nail polish remover, there will be less damage done to the natural nail that is below the gel.

Why You Should Aim to Remove Your Gel Nail Polish

Gel nail polish is ideal for most women because of its convenience and durability. However, continually applying and wearing gel nail polish can be potentially damaging to the nails and skin around the nails. Some dangers that can arise from continual gel polish include:

  • Dry, brittle nails from continued application and removal of gel nail polish, particularly the prolonged exposure to acetone.
  • It can become difficult to notice any infections or damage to the nail below the polish because the layer of gel polish is so thick.
  • Application of gel polish requires prolonged exposure to a UV light, which can ultimately result in an increased cancer risk because of the damaging UV rays.
  • Wearing your gel manicure for an extended period of time can cause your nails to chip and crack beneath the polish, making it difficult for nails to regrow.
  • Extended exposure to acetone, nail polish remover, and other harsh chemicals in a nail salon or at home can potentially lead to health problems.

While avoiding gel nail polish altogether is the only way to avoid all of the dangers associated with the use of gel nail polish, there are various other precautions that can be taken to prevent some of the dangers of using gel nail polish.

  • Take intermittent breaks between gel polish manicures and use only traditional nail polish or go polish-free for an au naturel look. This will allow your nails a chance to breathe and repair in between the harsh gel nail polish process.
  • When applying a gel manicure in a nail salon or at home, use broad spectrum sunscreen on your hands in order to minimize the damage from the UV light.
  • Be certain that neither your or your nail technician are removing or destroying your nail’s cuticle as this will increase the risk of infection and damage to the nail.
  • After getting a gel nail polish manicure, moisturize your hands regularly using lotions and petroleum jelly. This will prevent the skin around the nail from drying out and causing further damage to the nails.
  • If you have any allergy to acetone, it is best to avoid gel manicures altogether because they require the nails to be dipped into acetone in order for the gel manicure to be removed.
  • When removing your gel nail polish, do not dip your whole hand or fingers into the acetone or nail polish remover; try to dip just the nails into the fluid.
  • Do not use tools to try and chip away your polish, instead use nail polish remover, acetone, or have a professional remove your gel nail polish.
  • If you are a frequent user of gel nail polish manicures, consider purchasing finger wraps in order to minimize damage to the skin around the nails.
  • If you notice any brittleness, soreness, or signs of infection, have your gel manicure removed and visit your dermatologist who can advise you further on whether or not gel manicures are for you.

To learn more about the potential dangers of gel nail polish manicures and how to prevent them, click here.

Some General Safety Information

As discussed before, removing gel nail polish at home involves the use of potentially hazardous materials, in particular, the use of acetone. Acetone is a commonly-used ingredient in nail polish removers because of its effectiveness in removing paint from the nails without immediate damage to the nail. However, it is important to keep in mind that the Centers for Disease Control lists acetone as a hazardous material because extended exposure to the material can potentially lead to damage in the skin and throughout the body. Read on for some facts about acetone and its potentially harmful effects on the body.

Facts and Dangers of Acetone:

  • Acetone is a naturally occurring chemical in the environment and can also be artificially created by industries. It can also be produced by the human body to breakdown fats and sugars for energy use.
  • While acetone is a naturally occurring chemical in the air, it can be detected through scent once it reaches 100-140 parts per million in the air. It can be detected in the air at 20 parts per million.
  • Because of small particles of acetone in the air, in plastics, in nail polish remover, in car exhaust and in other everyday objects, it is very likely that you are exposed to acetone on a daily basis. These small doses are rarely ever harmful and can easily be ingested or absorbed by the body.
  • Acetone is already a naturally occurring chemical in the body and daily exposure to small amounts of acetone is rarely harmful. Acetone in the body is quickly absorbed by the bloodstream and transported to various organs throughout the body including the lungs and liver. The liver uses the acetone to break down fats and sugars for energy to be used by the body. Any acetone that is absorbed by the liver but unused will eventually leave the body in the form of urine. Within three days of exposure to acetone, all excess amounts of the chemical will leave the body naturally.
  • Longer exposure to acetone will result in the body having greater difficulty releasing the chemical from the body.
  • Exposure to acetone in levels between 250 and 500 parts per billion can result in adverse side effects such as nausea, dizziness, irritation of the eyes and nose, and in extreme cases, unconsciousness. In cases where subjects swallowed acetone (roughly 2,500 milligrams), subjects experienced unconsciousness, tissue damage to the mouth, and a limp—the patient recovered from all of these symptoms over time.
  • There is limited information on whether or not extended exposure to acetone can result in skin cancer so it is best to exercise caution when using this potentially hazardous material.

Some Tips for Avoiding the Harmful Effects of Acetone:

As stated above, exposure to acetone, while not necessarily fatal, can be quite damaging to tissue in the body. It is best to exercise caution when using acetone. Below are some tips for minimizing acetone exposure when removing your gel nail polish:

  • Do not use acetone to remove your gel nail polish if you have never used acetone before. Please visit a nail technician who can remove the gel nail polish for you and instruct you on how to use acetone in the future.
  • If the gel nail polish you have used states that you can remove the gel nail polish using non-acetone nail polish remover, please use non-acetone nail polish remover before using acetone-based nail polish removers.
  • Wear a face mask whenever using acetone-based nail polish removers to remove your gel nail polish.
  • Rub Vaseline around the cuticles to create a buffer between the acetone and the skin.
  • Never expose the nails, skin, or airways to acetone longer than necessary.


In conclusion, this article was meant to provide guidelines on how to remove gel nail polish and how to remove gel nail polish at home. Gel nail polish is an ideal medium for women that enjoy a long-lasting, strong manicure that won’t chip or break the nails. Both applying and removing the gel can be quite difficult and it is best to speak to a medical professional and nail technician before attempting to get or remove a gel nail polish manicure. Medical health professionals such as dermatologists can offer advice about the dangers and health concerns that can arise from using gel nail polish. Nail technicians can offer a detailed explanation of the process of applying or removing a gel nail polish manicure.

When performing a gel manicure on your own, it is important to read all instructions as different brands recommend different methods for application and removal. Follow all instructions as stated in order to minimize your chances of having an adverse reaction to the gel nail polish. When removing gel nail polish, follow all instructions and do not use acetone unless otherwise stated. When using acetone to remove your gel nail polish, exercise caution such as wearing a face mask to protect yourself from inhalation of the dangerous chemical.

Share on Pinterest
Editor choice

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply