We’re no strangers to the long-lasting, iron-clad polish that sticks around longer than the regular stuff. But, however well-versed we may be in gel nails, DIY removal techniques (i.e. peeling them off ourselves) have unsurprisingly left our digits battered and brittle.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Peel: “The biggest and worst mistake is peeling and scraping gel off incorrectly—this can be extremely harmful,” said the pros at Enamel Diction. Think of it like this: the cells of your nails are like the tiles on a roof. If you start aggressively pulling the polish off, you are not only removing the gel, but also the top layers of these delicate cells, elaborated the pros.
Timing Is Everything: As a rule of thumb, you can get two gel manicures back-to-back, but should intersperse that with a regular mani on the third week, going back to gel on the fourth. Know that when it comes to removing your gel mani, it should be done at the 14-day mark because “the longer you wear a soak-off gel, the harder the product becomes to remove,” advised Enamel Diction.
Make Sure You Have the Right Tools: While having your gel manicure professionally removed is optimal, with a little patience you can achieve the same, non-damaging results at home. To make it happen, you’ll need acetone, cotton balls, foil and a wood nail stick.
Maximum Strength Acetone Is a Must: As for the acetone, “no need to spend double the amount on a brand name that states it’s specifically for gel removal,” said the pros. Just make sure that it’s labeled as maximum strength and that it doesn’t say non-acetone.
Protect Your Cuticles: Creating a barrier between your cuticles and the acetone is key. For the job, Enamel Diction recommended using Vaseline or Aquaphor. Since you must cover your entire nail bed with acetone-soaked cotton to ensure that the gel is removed properly, that barrier layer will help from ravaging and drying out delicate cuticles during the process, they explained.
Let It Soak: To soak the nail, assign one cotton ball per nail, completely dosing it in acetone. Once wet, grab pieces of foil and tightly wrap around nail bed, with the cotton ball situated directly on top of the nail. How long you let it sit will depend. “It might take 20, 30 or even 40 minutes to dissolve the gel properly,” said the Enamel Diction manicurists. If the nail has soaked properly for a good amount of time, you should easily be able to wipe off the gel with firm finger-pressure only. If the gel is still being stubborn after this time, grab your wood tool and scrape the spot very gently.
Moisturize Nails: Once all of the gel has been removed, “the nail beds will look dry and brittle at first so make sure to properly moisturize with a nail oil,” recommended the experts. Another way to revive nails post-gel is to take a timeout for an overnight, hydration treatment. “Apply a healthy amount of Vaseline or Aquaphor to your cuticles and gently rub it into your nail beds right before you go to bed,” shared the pros.