How to Remove Gel Nails, or Why You Shouldn’t Remove them at Home

How to Remove Gel Polish
  • How to Remove Gel Polish

    First, they’re sweet, then they’re sour.

    This is a typical attitude that many clients have regarding gel nail polish. They love the shiny, long-lasting look, but hate the damage that gels can cause to their nails. What you may not know is that gel polish is not the culprit here. So who or what is to blame? Is gel nail polish safe? Chances are, it’s the removal process. But fear not, there is light at the end of this dry, damaged tunnel.

    As clients, we place our trust in nail technicians to provide us with a service that we cannot (or, let’s be honest, don’t want to) perform ourselves. Unfortunately, some nail techs take advantage of the fact that clients don’t know how to perform that service properly, and the result is a speedy gel removal session that leaves their nails dry, brittle, and much worse off than they started. This type of quick-turnaround service has led to the myth that gel nails are harmful.

    Now you find yourself playing the game of wondering how to remove gel nail polish and end up with healthy nails. As a client, the best thing you can do is educate yourself as much as you can about the removal process. It’s a process so easy, you could do it at home. Should you? Probably not.

    Can you use nail varnish remover on gel nails? Gel nail polish removal is a process that should be performed by someone who’s done it countless times. Although it’s tempting to remove them yourself (side note: please don’t ever peel them), you risk damaging your nails even more. So now you’re in a catch-22: gel removal should be done by pros, but occasionally the pros get it wrong.

    1. Gel Polish Removal process


      Gel nail polish should be removed with either a hand or electric file. The caveat here is how much polish to remove. Neither file should touch a natural nail. Ever. It’s unnecessary and causes damage that won’t disappear until your nails grow it out. Removing gel entirely with a file is a risk your technician and your natural nails never need to take.

      Our OPI Professionals Service Education courses on OPI GelColor include proper application techniques, removal techniques, and more!

    2. Step 1: File off the top coat

      1. File off the top coat (once the shiny part is removed there is no need for more filling).

    3. Step 2: Soak with acetone

      2. Take a piece of cotton soaked in pure acetone and place it over the nail.

    4. Step 3: Wrap in foil and wait

      3. Wrap the nail in aluminum foil.

    5. Gel Polish Removal process: what the removal should look like

      4. Soak for 11-13 minutes (the time may vary, but 12 minutes is average removal time).

      The polish you removed should look like this:

    6. You’ll notice the nail is dry due to the acetone, but there are no white spots or unevenness, which are signs of damage done to the nail.

      I would like to stress that at the end of the day, this is one nail tech's opinion of how to safely remove your gel nail polish. Finding a nail tech you trust is not easy, so if you have one then cherish them. There are nail pros out there who can safely remove your gels otherwise, but if you notice any type of damage from gels (that you did not peel yourself) it’s likely that the removal process is to blame.

      The best thing I can recommend is to play Goldilocks and find a nail tech who removes gels as shown above until you find one who’s just right. Once you find the salon and technician for you, stick with them, and when in doubt, tip 20%. That will make sure your gel tips always come off perfectly.


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    Written by Bana Jarjour -