Gel nail polish is a blessing most days. It stays put for two whole weeks (unlike our fickle, traditional polish that chips off when we breathe too hard), which saves us from a second trip to the nail salon and looks damn good all the while. But at the very, very end of its glory days, our gel polish suddenly becomes difficult to deal with, requiring special removal techniques before we coat our nails with another layer of polish. So before you pull or pick the gel polish right off of your nails instead of booking an appointment to get it professionally removed, keep reading — taking off your gel polish at home is a lot easier than you think.


We had a chance to speak with Skyy Hadley, celebrity manicurist and owner of As U Wish Nail Spa in Hoboken, NJ and Blink Beauty Boutique in Harlem, NY, to find out how to safely and effectively remove your gel nail polish at home. “The biggest difference with gel polish removal versus regular polish removal is the use of acetone,” Hadley explains. “In order to take off regular nail polish you can use an non-acetone nail polish remover, but for a gel manicure you have to use acetone. I’ve seen people pick and pull at their gel manicure trying to get them off themselves, but I would never recommend that as it can cause damage to your nail plate.”


How to Remove Gel Polish at Home, According to Skyy Hadley:


You’ll Need:

acetone remover

some cotton balls

aluminum foil (or preferably soak off nail polish caps/nail polish remover finger holders)

an orange stick


Option 1: Saturate Your Nails in Acetone

“I recommend this method as there is more control over how much your nails are exposed to the acetone. Simply take each finger and put a cotton ball over the nail and saturate with acetone, then wrap aluminum foil over the nail and cotton ball and let that sit on the nail until the polish dissolved and softens, then scrape off the excess polish with the orange stick. If the polish isn’t soft enough to remove, let the acetone sit on the nail a little longer.”


Option 2: Let Your Nails Soak in a Bowl of Acetone

“Another way to remove the polish is to let your fingers soak in a bowl of acetone until the polish softens, and then take the orange stick and scrape off the polish,” says Hadley. “This is not my preferred technique as it leaves nails too vulnerable to the acetone. It’s important to keep the health of the nail in mind, however it is another effective way to remove gel polish.”


Pro Tip: Don’t Leave Acetone on Your Nails for too Long

“One of the most common mistakes is leaving acetone on the nails too long,” says Hadley. “Doing this will cause the nail plate to dry out, cause the fingers to turn white and essentially strip away necessary natural oils.” Avoid this by removing the gel polish with an orange stick as soon as your gel polish is softened.


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