How to remove gel nail polish

Gel Nail Polish is different from regular nail polish because it is essentially used to strengthen the top layer of your natural nail or to increase the length of your nails. There are two variants of gel nail polish – soft gel and hard gel. Both have different properties and show different results when applied over the nails. Soft gel polish is applied in a similar manner to regular nail polish. The only difference is that gel polish provides a more sturdy and shiny finish than normal nail polish. The gels used in this process give an artificial coating to the nails which protects them from chipping, cracking or peeling for at least a couple of weeks. Soft gel polish cannot be used for making nail extensions as they are unable to hold their shape without some support from the nails.

Hard gel polish on the other hand is mainly used for making nail extensions. After its application, the hard gel is cured under UV light to make it stronger and tougher so that it can retain its shape and length. Decoration of the nails is generally done after the extensions are made. Gel nail polish should not be confused with acrylic nails which are easily available in any cosmetic store and have been around for decades. Acrylic nails are made by mixing a liquid monomer and polymer powder which makes them extra durable. Acrylic nails can be used for extensive day to day use whereas gel nail polish is mainly used for special occasions and light usage. These nails will break easily if you are tough on your nails and do a lot of work with your hands.

General Procedure to Remove Gel Nail Polish

Gel nail polish uses special gels and nail lacquer that is set on your nails and then hardened using UV light. This process makes the polish really durable making it last anywhere from 10 days to 3 weeks. The process of applying gel polish is quite complicated and should always be done at a salon but removing the polish is easy and can be done at home as well. Follow these steps to remove gel nail polish.

Materials Required: Acetone, Cotton ball, aluminium foil strips, nail file and nail buffer.


  1. Scuff your nails using a nail file so that the upper layer of gel is removed a little. This will allow the acetone to seep deeper into the nails.
  2. Pour the acetone into a small bowl or cup.
  3. Put some cotton balls in the bowl so that they can soak up the acetone.
  4. Squeeze the extra acetone from the cotton balls and place them on your nail.
  5. Using a thin strip of aluminium foil, wrap the cotton ball over the nail so that it stays in that position. Wrapping the balls will provide extra heat which will further help in removing the polish.
  6. Repeat the above steps for all ten fingers or one hand at a time.
  7. Let the foil stay on your finger for at least 10 minutes before sliding it off the tip.
  8. Use a wooden orange stick or ice-cream stick to remove the polish. Try to avoid using your nails for this step.
  9. If the polish is not coming off easily then let the foil stay for another 5 minutes before repeating the above step.
  10. Wash your hands and nails thoroughly after this process so that there are no traces of acetone left on your skin. You can also buff your nails to further remove the remaining traces of acetone.

DIY Recipes for Removing Gel Nail Polish


Ingredients Required: Lemon, Lukewarm water, Cotton balls


  1. Place your fingers in a bowl of lukewarm water for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Cut the lemon into thin slices and rub it over your nails for some time. 
  3. Using cotton balls (preferably soaked in lime juice) try to remove the gel layer slowly.
  4. Soak your fingers for another 5 minutes if the gel doesn’t come off easily.
  5. Gel nail polish has a harsh effect on your nails so use a moisturizer or nail oil after the process to keep your nails healthy.


Ingredients Required: Vinegar, Warm water, Cotton Balls, Nail file

Vinegar is a suitable alternative for acetone and can easily be found in grocery stores.


  1. Graze your nails using a nail file until the topmost layer of the gel polish is removed.
  2. Soak your fingers in a bowl of warm water for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Soak some cotton balls in the vinegar.
  4. Gently rub the balls on your nails for some time and then hold them against your nails for 30 seconds.
  5. Vinegar dissolves the nail enamel and removes the traces of polish.
  6. Repeat the process if there are several coats of polish on your nails.
  7. Again, use a moisturizer or nail oil after the process.


Ingredients Required: Rubbing Alcohol, Cotton balls, lukewarm water

Rubbing alcohol is not as strong as regular alcohol which you drink.


  1. Soak your nails in lukewarm water for ten minutes.
  2. Rub your nails with cotton balls soaked in rubbing alcohol until the coats start coming off.
  3. Use a moisturizer after the process.
  4. If you can’t find rubbing alcohol then you can add some water to the regular alcohol to make a less concentrated solution.


Ingredients Required: Deodorant Spray, Cotton Ball


  1. Spray the deodorant on your nails keeping the nozzle very close to the nails.
  2. Quickly rub the cotton ball on your nail to remove the gel polish.
  3. Repeat this process until all the gel is removed from your nails.
  4. Deodorant contains a mixture of alcohol and acetone which makes it a very effective home solution to remove gel nail polish easily.

Hand Sanitizer

Ingredients Required: Hand Sanitizer, Cotton Balls


  1. Squirt a little hand sanitiser directly on your nails.
  2. Immediately rub the sanitiser with a cotton ball.
  3. Wash your hands when all the sanitiser gets vanished from the nails.
  4. Repeat the above steps 2-3 times so that the gel starts coming off.
  5. Once the gel starts fading rub the nails with dry cotton balls repeatedly until all the gel is removed.

Nail Polish

Ingredients Required: Nail Polish, Paper Towel


  1. Use a slow drying nail polish for this process.
  2. Apply a layer of nail polish over the gel and wipe it off immediately using a paper towel. Solvents in a slow drying nail polish soften the gel underneath them making it easier to wipe them off.
  3. You may need to repeat this process several times.


Ingredients Required: Toothpaste, toothbrush


  1. Apply a small dollop of toothpaste on every nail.
  2. Rub the toothpaste with an old toothbrush thoroughly until the gel starts coming off.
  3. It is recommended to use white toothpaste as they don’t leave any residual colour on the nails and the gel type toothpaste is not that effective.

Body/Hair Spray

Ingredients Required: Body spray/ Hair Spray, Cotton balls


  1. Just like deodorants, spray a little body spray (or hair spray) on your nails keeping the nozzle very close to the nails.
  2. Immediately rub the nails using a cotton ball.
  3. You can repeat the step according to the layers of gel polish applied.

Double Boiler

Ingredients Required: Acetone nail polish remover, warm water, nail file, an orange stick


  1. Take two bowls, one smaller than the other.
  2. Fill the bigger bowl with hot water and the smaller one with acetone nail polish remover.
  3. Keep the small bowl in the bigger bowl so that the acetone starts warming up.
  4. Buff your nails a little using a nail file.
  5. Soak the nails in the acetone for 10 minutes or when you can see the coating come off a little.
  6. Take your fingers out of the acetone and peel the remaining polish using an orange stick.

Over-The-Counter Products for Removing Gel Nail Polish

  • OPI Expert Touch Lacquer Remover ($ 8.95 for 120ml bottle).

This is one of the fastest removers on the market. It contains kelp, grape seed oil and aloe. Best for removing glitter but leaves a slight acetone smell.

  • Mineral Fusion Nail Polish Remover ($ 9.07 for 177ml bottle).

It has a mango smell in it and does not contain any acetone. It can leave the hands a little greasy and dried.

  • Onyx Professional Soak Off Coconut Scented Remover ($ 3.47 for 473ml bottle).

It is one of the cheapest options with professional strength and a coconut smell. It contains grape seed oil and Vitamin E.

  • Dr.’s Remedy Non-Acetone Enriched Nail Polish Remover ($ 13.95 for 124ml bottle).

This is recommended by Doctors because it does not contain any acetone and is anti-fungal also. It has a weird smell though owing to the chemical used.

  • Nailtiques Non-Acetone Remover with Aloe Vera ($ 8 for 177ml bottle).

It contains Aloe Vera and conditioners which are beneficial for the nails. It ranks among the highest-rated nail polish removers for gel nail polishes.

  • Zoya Remove Plus ($ 10 for 237ml bottle).

Although it leaves a mild acetone smell on the hands, this remover is a total value-for-money due to its quantity and natural ingredients used. It is also spill-free.

  • Gabriel Cosmetics Nail Polish Remover Pads ($ 11.37 for 20 cotton pads).

Best for people who are travelling and for the environment also. It contains 20 cotton pads soaked with remover liquid made up of lemon extracts and Aloe Vera. One pad is enough to take care of all 10 fingers.

  • Pure Body Natural Nail Polish Remover ($ 13.95 for 120ml bottle).

The best thing about this product is that it is totally safe for small children and pregnant women. The only drawback would be its quantity given the price. 

Precautions for Gel Nail Polish

  • Use diluted acetone.

Acetone is a very hard acid and can prove dangerous for the skin if used in large quantities of strong concentration. Consult your doctor or a salon before applying store-bought acetone on your nails. If the acid is not diluted enough then it can corrode your nails.

  • Know when to remove the gel polish.

The idea of donning the perfect nails can be very tempting but you should never leave the gel polish on your nails longer than necessary. Gel polish creates a cover over your natural nails cutting them out from the atmosphere. Extended usage of gel polish can turn your nails white and weak. Also, your nails will start smelling if keep the gel cover on. Try to remove the polish after two weeks or so.

  • Don’t overuse the process.

Although the nails are generally dead, the nail beds and cuticles are not. Removing the Gel polish process requires the use of many toxic components like acetone and high concentrated alcohol which are fully capable of permanently damaging your nails. Try to leave some breathing or relaxation period of time between successive gel application and removal sessions so that the nails can come back to their original health.

Myths and Facts

Myth Fact
Special removers are needed for Gel Nail Polish Although the application of gel nail polish is different from normal manicures, the removal is not that different in the concept. A regular nail polish remover is capable of removing the gel polish given that it has a little amount of acetone in it. It will just take a little extra time and effort to fully remove the polish.


  • Are Gel Nails right for everyone?

Gel nail polish depends on how healthy your nails are. If your nail beds and cuticles are perfectly healthy then you can apply a gel nail polish anytime. However, people with damaged nails or those who do most of their work using their hands like typing a lot should not use gel nail polish as it won’t last long enough.

  • Can I apply a base coat of regular nail polish before undergoing the gel nail procedure?

There is no harm in applying a base coat of regular polish before the gel polish. It doesn’t affect the final product in any way. In fact, it makes it easier for you to remove the gel polish once its time is up.

  • Can I do gel nail polish at home?

You can if you have a UV or LED lamp available at home. The products can easily be found online or in a cosmetic store, what’s important is the lamp because they cure the gel on your nail giving it the known look and finish. Be careful while using the UV lamp though, you wouldn’t want to expose your nails for too long to UV light.

  • What to do if my gel polish starts separating before expected?

This can happen when gel polish is not stored according to the directions or the polish is nearing its expiry date. It is easy to fix this situation. Just use any paint shaker like Robart Paint Shaker and strap your gel polish in it for 30 seconds. The polish should mix up nicely and will be ready for use.

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