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How to Safely Remove a Gel Manicure at Home


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“It can be pretty satisfying to pick off a gel manicure,” admits Rita Pinto, founder of the downtown cool-girl nail spot Vanity Projects. “But it’s really bad for your nails.”

“It can be pretty satisfying to pick off a gel manicure,” admits Rita Pinto, founder of the downtown cool-girl nail spot Vanity Projects. “But it’s really bad for your nails.” If you had a coat of shellac applied before the #stayhome mandate, chances are that now, a few weeks later, your digits are looking a little less polished. Should you be faced with a set of gels that won’t budge, look no further for expert advice. “Let’s think long-term here,” explains the pro, before offering a few foolproof steps for proper gel polish removal.

When Is it Time to Remove Gel Polish?

“Before COVID-19 I would have suggested every two weeks,” says Pinto. “Now I would suggest people leave them on as long as they are looking healthy.” A bit of regrowth at the cuticle is alright, “but I’d limit the manicure to one month to be safe.” Should the polish chip or lift during those initial two weeks, Pinto recommends removing the gel immediately, since moisture and water can get trapped under the nail, leading to a possible infection. “When you peel off your gel, even when you pry it off in entirety with a subway card, there is always a layer of the nail that goes with it,” she says.

Prep the Nail

Before getting down to business, Pinto recommends washing hands with warm water and soap. Then, find a clean space to work with plenty of light. Before any polish is removed, “use a nail clipper to cut nails down to your desired length,” she says, and file down any remaining uneven edges. Finally, “buff out the top layer of polish with a coarse file,” since it will make the removal process a bit easier.

Soak and Sit

Pinto suggests cutting kitchen-ready aluminum foil into small squares and dunking a cotton ball in 100% acetone. Then, to soften the polish, wrap each nail with the soaked pad and the tinfoil, creating a cocooned space for the gel to dissolve. Now, for the most important step: relax! Take 10 minutes for yourself (and your nails) to meditate, watch Netflix, or FaceTime a friend.

Onyx Professional Nail Polish Remover, 100% Pure Acetone

Gently Remove the Polish

“With a twisting motion, pull the foil square from the fingernail,” Pinto says. Then, using a cuticle tool or small wood pick, gently push off the excess gel. But don’t force it: if the polish does not come off right away, you may need to rewrap the nail and allow the acetone to penetrate for a few more minutes. When all of the polish is removed, move a nail buffer over your set to make sure the surface is even.


Post-acetone bath, your nails will likely need a bit of TLC. To erase dry patches, coat cuticles with a dab of hydrating serum or vitamin-E-packed oil and consider swiping on a strengthening top coat—Pinto recommends NailTek’s hardworking formula, which is used in her salon. Then, should you be in the mood for a D.I.Y. manicure, check out Vogue’s guide to painting your own nails.

Source: vogue BY JENNA RENNERT

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