Last Updated on July 15, 2022
Gel manicures might be the best thing since sliced bread. They’re long-lasting, dry in seconds, and can remain chip-free and shiny for weeks.
Fabulous nails that can keep up with a busy life and look amazing the whole time? Gel manicures seem like magic… until it’s time to remove them. The long removal process can make you wonder if two weeks of beautiful nails are worth taking them off with acetone which can leave your nails dry and brittle.
Before you start to rethink getting a gel manicure, read on to find other ways to remove them without using acetone.
See Also: Gel vs Acrylic vs SNS Nails
Table of Contents
The Downsides of Acetone
Acetone is a harsh chemical. Anything that can dissolve a plastic nail is going to have some effect on whatever it comes in contact with.
Acetone can make the skin around your nails dry and irritated making it easy to get hangnails. It can also wreak havoc on your nails leaving them weak, dry, brittle, and prone to breaking.
How to Remove Gel Polish Without Acetone
Method 1 – File and Buff It Off
If you are trying to remove nails without acetone or any other chemicals this is a good method. It is also a good way to start all removal methods if you want to speed it up.
First, you will take a nail file to file off the hard top coat of the gel polish. You will need one that has a coarser grit than a regular nail file. Look for one that is 180 grit. They are easy to buy online or at a beauty supply store.
The coarser grit makes it perfect for taking off the top coat of gel or shaping acrylic nails but is too strong for your natural nails. Because of this, you will need to go slowly so you only remove the gel polish and don’t start filing off the layers of your real nails.
Make sure to wipe away the dust as you go so you can see how close you are to the natural nail.
Once you start to see it, stop. Then use a file with a finer grit to buff off the remaining gel. Once the polish is gone, moisturize your nails with cuticle oil.
Related: 9 Types of Pedicures
Method 2 – Soak In Warm Soapy Water
For this method, you need to fill a bowl with warm to hot water. Not hot enough to burn you, but warm water will soften the gel polish much faster than cool water.
Then you will need to add a little soap to the bowl. The best soap to use is dish soap because it has strong detergents and will break down the bonds of the glue faster. But, you can use any soap, from hand soap to shampoo or body wash.
Place one or both hands in the bowl and let it soak for at least 20 minutes. Then take a wooden cuticle stick and gently push the gel nail off of the natural nail.
If it doesn’t come off easily, don’t pry it off. Being rough and prying it off will damage your natural nails. Simply soak it again until it comes off easily.
Once most of the nail is removed, you can buff off any leftover gel with a fine-grit nail file or nail buffer.
Method 3 – Regular Nail Polish Remover
While it will take much longer than using acetone, regular nail polish remover can work.
First, you will use a 180 grit nail file to buff away the outer layer of the gel polish. Be sure to go slowly so you don’t file all the way down to the natural nail.
Next, you’ll take a cotton pad and soak it in nail polish remover. Then, place it on the nail and wrap foil or plastic wrap around it to keep it on the nail. This not only holds the cotton pad in place but also keeps the polish remover from drying before it has done its magic.
After 15 minutes, unwrap one finger and use a cuticle stick to push away the loosened gel polish. It should flake off, so if it doesn’t, wrap it back up. You can add more polish to the cotton pad before you wrap it up if necessary.
Check again in another 10 minutes, and repeat until all the polish has flaked off.
Method 4 – Oil
This is a great method to use if your polish has already started to chip off. The type of oil you use doesn’t matter. It can be cuticle oil, skin care oil, or even olive oil from the pantry. As long as it’s safe to put on your skin, it can be used.
It also is a great method if you normally peel your gel polish. You will still get to peel it, but with this method, you won’t ruin your nails by doing so.
Using a cuticle stick, gently lift the edges of the chipped polish. You’re not trying to remove it, just to lift it up so you can apply some oil under the chip. This will start to break the glue’s bonds and it will loosen even more.
Repeat until the gel polish can easily be lifted from your natural nail. Finally, rub the oil that is left on your fingers into your nails and cuticles for a boost of moisture.
Method 5 – Gel Polish Remover
This is a great method for busy people since it is the fastest, and allows you to use your hands for typing or playing a game on your phone.
Gel polish removers are easily purchased online and in some beauty supply stores. They come in bottles just like nail polish and are very easy to use. All you really have to do is apply it over your gel manicure like you would a coat of nail polish.
It is a very thick gel that will stay on your nails even if you move your hands around, so feel free to get some work done on your computer or check up on social media. The polish remover will eat away at the gel polish and make it look bubbly and flakey on your nail.
It happens slowly, so you won’t have to deal with flakes all over the place. Once it has started to look like that, you can wipe it off with a tissue or gently remove it with a cuticle stick and reapply until all of the polish has been removed.
The gel nail polish remover will start to work within 5 to 10 minutes, but if you want to speed up the process you can prep the nails before putting on the first coat. Use a 180 grit file to remove the gel polish top coat before applying the remover.
Once the polish is off, wipe off the excess remover and wash your hands. Once dry, apply cuticle oil and rub it into the nails and cuticles.
How Do Nail Salons Remove Gel Polish?
Salons use acetone. This was the first method used to remove gel nail polish, and it stays the main method because it is relatively fast and inexpensive.
The first thing they will do is prep the nail using a file or the drill they use for acrylic nails to remove the top coat. Then they will place cotton soaked in acetone on each nail, securing it with foil to keep the pads in place and to keep the acetone from evaporating before it can dissolve the gel.
You’ll have to get comfortable and sit for 15 minutes or more while it gets to work. Then your nail technician will check on them and repeat if necessary until the gel is easy to remove with a cuticle pusher.
Acetone dries out both the skin and nails, so they will often follow the removal with some cuticle oil.
Read Also: How a Professional Pedicure is Done
No matter which method you choose, patience is the most important part of removing gel polish.
While all of the methods can be done at home, including using acetone as salons do, being gentle is key. Scraping too hard or leaving harsh chemicals on your nails for too long can damage them, leaving them weak, brittle, and prone to breaking.
Know that whichever method you choose, it is best to take your time and treat your delicate nails with care.