How to Remove Gel Nails at Home

How to Safely Remove Gel Nail Polish at Home
  • How to Safely Remove Gel Nail Polish at Home

    No matter what is going on in the world or in your life, we hope everyone is staying safe and sound at home. As we learn how to navigate this difficult time, it is important for us to support you no matter what your situation may be. This post is one in a series to help you take care of yourself at home, while also adding a bright spot to your days ahead with a little splash of color.

    Whether you're social distancing or your mani has just grown out, you probably want to know “How do I remove gel nails at home?” This can seem daunting, so we created a step-by-step guide with the help of one of our OPI Educators, Sigourney Nunez.

    Below, she detailed how you can safely remove your gel nails from the comfort of your own couch, just make sure you follow each step carefully to ensure you don’t cause any damage to your nails. 

    1. Supplies for Gel Removal

      - Manicure brush
      - Cotton balls or cotton pads (cut into halves or thirds)
      Acetone-based nail polish remover (if you do not have this at home, scroll down to the last step of the tutorial to see an alternative technique)
      - Aluminum foil cut into squares
      - A nail file
      - Reusable, or orange wood, cuticle stick
      - Rubbing alcohol 
      Cuticle Oil
      Nail Envy or another type of nail strengthening solution - we recommend you have this at hand before attempting to remove gel 

      NOTE: If you do not have everything on hand, try reaching out to your local salon or nail technician via Instagram, phone, or email, and ask if they’re able to put together a small gel nail polish removal rescue kit to send your way.

      SHOP Manicure Prep Kit

      View the full DIY tutorial here on IGTV or follow the steps by steps below:

    2. Remove Shine
      Use a nail file to break the seal on each nail's free edge and side walls. The key here is to remove as much of the shine as you can, but to not file down to your natural nail. Light pressure is ideal!
    3. How to Remove a Gel Mani at home
      Fully saturate a cotton ball with nail polish remover, place it directly on top of the nail ensuring the entire nail gets covered, then wrap both the cotton ball and the nail in your foil square.
    4. How to Remove a Gel Polish Mani at home
      Allow to soak for at least 15-20 minutes. For added heat, you can wrap hands in a towel, just make sure you’ve turned your favorite Netflix show on beforehand. As tempting as it might be, make sure you don’t peek! Let the remover do its thing and allow for enough time to break down the gel.
    5. How to Remove a Gel Polish Mani at home

      After approximately 15 minutes, start by gently pressing and twisting the foil and cotton off of each nail, working with one nail at a time. The cotton ball or pad should have a fair amount of gel residue attached to it.

    6. How to Remove a Gel Polish Mani at home

      Take a cuticle stick and gently push the remaining gel residue off of each nail, working from the cuticle area towards the free edge.

    7. How to Remove a Gel Polish Mani at home

      For any nails with remaining residue after removing with the cuticle stick, repeat steps 2-5. Once all residue is fully removed, lightly cleanse the nail surface with a cotton ball (or pad) and rubbing alcohol. Be sure to apply cuticle oil to keep nails protected and moisturized!

      SHOP Nail & Cuticle Oil

    8. How to Remove a Gel Polish Mani at home

      Improper removal can definitely cause nail damage, ouch! That’s why we suggest adding your favorite nail strengthener like OPI Nail Envy as a final step to ensure your nails stay as healthy as possible...until we can all get back into our favorite salons.


      SHOP Nail Envy

    9. How to Remove a Gel Polish Mani at home

      If you don’t have access to acetone nail polish remover, we have an alternative solution that can work in the interim. While we don’t recommend this as an everyday technique because it can thin your nails, what you can do is grab a medium-grit nail file to remove the shine and the color layers. Once you’ve reached the base coat, switch over to a buffer to smooth everything out. Remove any dust with a manicuring brush and wipe away with alcohol and a cotton pad. Be sure to bring moisture back into your nails with cuticle oil as a final step.

      Have questions or want to show off your expertise? Reach out and thank OPI Educator Sigourney Nunez (@nailartbysig) by following her on Instagram for more tips and inspirational nail art.


    10. How to Rock Your Gel Mani

      Not quite ready to remove your GelColor manicure? Read our blog Ways to Shorten Your Gel Nails and Rock Your Grown Out Manicure. This features helpful DIY information from @missrosanne on shortening gel nail polish manicures, and creative DIY nail art techniques to help disguise grow out.

    11. OPI Pro Julie Le
      A note to our OPI Professionals :

      During uncertain times, we know you’re looking for ways to connect with clients. We encourage you to share this post to alleviate any concerns they’re having and offer some much-needed guidance while they’re at home caring for their own nails.


      If you still have access to your salon or professional products, OPI educator Julie Le suggests making at-home removal kits and DIY pedi kits for clients (she sold hers for $10) to make a little extra income. If you can’t ship these, maybe some of you will have an opportunity to drop them off at your clients’ door, ensuring you practice social distancing.

      Lastly, we believe it’s important to not lose our sense of community while we’re all at home, so we encourage you to keep in touch on social @OPI and  @opi_professionals. We want to continue to find ways to connect with you, so reach out when you have questions or simply just want to share something colorful you created. If you’re looking for more inspiration, you can also head to our OPI YouTube channel, or visit us online at

      We hope we can continue to brighten your world one color at a time. Take care.

    Written by OPI -