Removing nail gel polish

For anyone who has trouble making a normal manicure last more than three days, discovering the magic of gel nails (near-flawless for three weeks?!) can be life-changing.

But the worst part about gel nails is that moment when you need to take them off and you just can’t. Suddenly, you feel like you’re trapped in a gel nail prison. The options are basically stab and scrape and peel your fingernails with various objects for what feels like hours or head back to the salon to pay someone else to take them off. The worst!

So, I tested three methods to see if there was a better way. Spoiler alert: There is!

Method #1: The store-bought jar

You’ll need: Whatever product you pick up in the nail polish aisle at the drugstore.

Our Style editor Emily Sher did the honors here, swinging by her local drugstore to pick up one of the “over-the-counter” gel removal options for me to try. There are a lot of these products on the market, and the frustrating part is that you can’t know how they work until you get them home.

Twist, twist, twist!

This one was essentially an acetone-soaked sponge in a jar. The instructions told me to stick my finger in the jar and twist, implying that with this simple motion, my nail color would magically come off. So I twisted and twisted and twisted…

And, nothing. I tried so many times! There was no way the polish was coming off.

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The verdict: If you go this route, you’re taking a risk, and it’s likely not worth your time, money or energy. Pass.

Method #2: Aluminum foil wraps

You’ll need: Aluminum foil, a nail file, cotton balls and acetone nail polish remover.

The steps are pretty simple, and if you’ve ever gotten a gel manicure removed at the nail salon, this one will seem familiar because it’s typically what the nail techs do.

It’s just like how they do it in the salon.

First, buff your fingernails with a nail file, removing the shiny coating of the gel polish.

Then, soak a cotton ball in acetone until it’s saturated. Put the soaked cotton ball on top of your buffed nail, and wrap your finger in a small square of aluminum foil to keep the cotton ball in place. Repeat for all of your fingers.

Set a timer for 10 minutes.

Remove the foil wraps, and use the cotton ball to wipe off any leftover polish on your nails.

Finally, freedom for your fingertips!

The verdict: B+. The cotton ball soak left my fingers a disturbing shade of gray, but the polish had bubbled and puckered during the 10 minutes, so that was encouraging. The actual foil wrap process was extremely unwieldy and annoying, and it was difficult for me to do it on all my fingers. Plus, the cotton ball-swipe method to finish removing the polish didn’t really work, and that felt rough and kind of painful on my fingers. If you use something else, like an orange stick, to scrape off the leftover polish, this method is pretty effective.

Method #3: The double boiler

You’ll need: Two bowls, hot water, a nail file, acetone nail polish remover and an orange stick.

I love a double boiler when it comes to baking — hello, melted chocolate! — but I had no idea you could use it in any other context. Here’s how it works as a nail polish remover.

First, buff your nails with a nail file to remove that shiny polish finish.

The waiting game. TODAY

Then, fill a large bowl with hot water and place a smaller bowl inside. Pour acetone nail polish remover into that bowl. Soak your fingers in the small bowl for 10 minutes. Then, use an orange stick to push off the remaining polish.

This orange stick is magic.

The verdict: Success!!! This method was the hands-down winner. It was easy, it was clean, it was super cheap — no real supplies required — and it was *super* effective. The polish just pushed right off.

So, there you have it! Struggling with an old gel manicure? Avoid the urge to peel and get double boiling!

This article was published on Feb. 24, 2017.

Resist the urge to peel!

Ask any top nail technician and they’ll tell you that peeling off gel from your nails is one of the worst things you can do for their health and condition. Of course, we get that you may not have the time to make an appointment for in-salon removal – but that’s exactly why it’s important to know how to remove gel nail polish properly.

In fact, ensuring proper removal is one of the best ways to stop your nails from splitting and peeling.

‘Gel polish is a wonderful thing – the high shine glossy finish, having chip free nails for up to three weeks, all with no risk of smudging or having to factor in a drying time,’ says Lou Stokes, UK ambassador for ORLY. ‘However, it’s completely essential that the gel polish itself is removed very carefully.

It’s tempting to rip the whole thing off once those edges start to lift, but Lou stresses that doing so is a major no-no. ‘The lure to bite or peel off polish that has started to lift can be very tempting, but the damage you can do to your nails can last for months.’ Noted!

How to remove gel nail polish step-by-step

Step 1: ‘Lightly file over the top of the nail using an emery board. Breaking the surface of the Gel Polish allows the remover to penetrate the polish and work effectively.’

Step 2: ‘Cut a cotton pad in half, so you have a semi-circle and saturate with ORLY Genius Remover. This is perfect for removing nail varnish, gel polish and hybrids and contains a fantastic selection of conditioning agents including Eucalyptus, Peach and Green Tea extract to counter act any drying effect from acetone and leave your nails and cuticles in great condition.’

Step 3: ‘Place the pad over the top of the nail and wrap ORLY Gel FX Foil Remover Wrap around, so that the heat will act as a catalyst and help speed up removal time. To speed up the process, you can add further heat by placing hands on top of a water bottle or by simply just wrapping in a towel.’

Step 4: ‘After 10 minutes, unwrap one nail to ensure the polish has lifted from the nail. Using the ORLY Cuticle Pusher and Remover, remove all remaining product from the nail. Once all product has been removed, condition the nail with cuticle oil.

‘It’s best to remove the foil from one nail at a time, keeping the others wrapped whilst you work through. Once the foil has been removed and the gel polish is exposed, it will begin to re-harden.’

If your excuse has always been ‘I don’t have time to go to the salon!’, now there’s no excuse not to remove your gel nails properly.

TAKING off gel and acrylic nails roughly can result in long-lasting damage to nail beds – not to mention how unsightly the end result would be.

Here are the easiest and most gentle ways to remove your mani at home without causing any harm…

4 Failing to remove your fake nails safely could lead to your real nails cracking or flakingCredit: Getty Images

How can I remove my acrylic nails at home?

Acrylic nails are notoriously more difficult to remove – and it’s important to be careful if you are attempting to take them off without professional assistance.

These two methods involve lifting the falsies off your nails without using force or damaging your cuticles:

Use Acetone

  • Avoiding the nail bed, use a nail clipper to trim down your acrylics
  • If they’re too tricky to snip off, try filing them down
  • Carefully use a buffer to file the topcoat off your nails
  • Fill a small container with acetone
  • Apply petroleum jelly or Vaseline to the skin surrounding your nails to protect it
  • Dunk your hands in the acetone for 30 minutes
  • Use the nail buffer to remove any remaining acrylic residue
  • Moisturise your hands

4 If these gentle removal tips don’t work, it’s advisable to return to your local salonCredit: Getty Images

Apply nail polish remover and wrap in foil

  • Soak a ball of cotton wool in nail polish remover
  • Place a section on each of your nails
  • Cover with aluminium foil
  • Leave for around 20 minutes
  • Remove the aluminium foil
  • You should then be able to lift the false nails off

If your skin begins showing signs of irritation, it’s advisable to stop the removal process immediately.

In this instance, you may have to head back to the salon to get your acrylics taken off.

4 Gel nails are slightly easier to budge and you may be able to buff them offCredit: Getty Images

How can I remove my gel nails at home?

Gel nails tend to be easier to remove than acrylics.

Here are the most effective and least damaging ways to do it.

File off the gels

  • Use a large buffer to remove the topcoat off your nails
  • When this process is complete, get the difficult-to-reach areas with a smaller file
  • Make sure to apply a nail strengthener or conditioning treatment after buffing the polish off. This will strengthen the cuticle and prevent your nails from scratching and breaking.


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Use a gel nail polish remover

There are a number of different gel nail polish removers on the market.
SensatioNail Gel Polish Remover is a budget-friendly liquid that helps budge the long-lasting product.

SalonsDirect is another brand that sells a cheap remover for manicure-lovers.

Using the two acrylic nail removal methods should also be successful for getting your gel polish off.

4 To keep your nails looking as healthy as possible, never attempt to pick at themCredit: Getty Images

Why should I be careful taking off acrylic or gel nails?

If you peel off your false nails without using one of these methods, you risk scraping off the top layers of your delicate nails.

This can lead to breakages or unsightly white patches on your cuticles.

Scrubbing at your nails without caution could also lead to them becoming coarse, dry and flaky.

This affects the skin texture, making any future manicures look a lot less polished.

Try these quick and easy hacks for impressive nail art you can do on yourself

How To Remove Shellac Nails At Home

Removing CND Shellac nails at home is a breeze by following the step-by-step instruction below. You don’t need to go to a salon to have it removed.

With Shellac removal, there’s no filing and no damage to the nail bed making it safer to the nails. Compare this to gel polish that needs buffing on the nail plate to break the seal.

How to Remove Shellac Nails

What you need

  • Pure Acetone
  • CND Shellac Remover Wraps
  • Nail Wipes
  • Wood Cuticle Stick
  • Cuticle Oil


1. Take one shellac nail wrap and saturate the cotton pad with Pure Acetone.

2. Place the wrap under finger and fold the saturated pad over nail and wrap around finger ensuring a tight, snug fit. Secure wrap with adhesive tab. The CND logo should be on top of the nail. Leave wrap for 10 minutes.

3. With a twisting and wiping motion, slowly pull off the wrap from the nail.

4. This is how the nail looks after pulling the wrap. There is still a lot of residue.

5. Gently clean the nails from Shellac residue with a wood stick. Be careful not to scrape away the surface layers of the natural nail plate. Don’t use metal pusher as it will scrape the layer of the nail.

6. Wipe clean nail with lint-free nail wipe saturated with Acetone. Now the nail is clean and ready for another nail polish application. Or use and massage Cuticle Oil on nail if no nail polish will be applied.

Result & Tips

My nail was as clean as it was before application. CND Shellac removal is best done with Shellac remover wraps to minimize Acetone use.

Soaking nails with Acetone will make the nail and cuticle dry; thus, encouraging weak and splitting nails in the future.

Use a pump bottle like this to minimize messy application.

Sounds easy to do? It sure is.

All CND Shellac polish, wraps and pure acetone are available at Esther’s Nail Center. Visit us for CND Shellac products, Gelish, Daisy Gel and other manicure pedicure supplies.

How to Remove CND Shellac Luxe Gel Polish


How to Remove CND Shellac Luxe Gel Polish

Taking a client’s old gel polish off is usually one of the most time intensive parts of a gel manicure or pedicure, but CND is trying to change that with their new Shellac Luxe polish. And after testing it out, we can tell you—it really is a game changer.

Here’s how it usually goes: a client comes in looking to get a gel manicure or pedicure. They pick their polish and settle in, but before the process can get started you have to remove any existing gel polish on their nails. Between soaking, scraping, and rinsing, the process can take upwards of 20 minutes, and the mani or pedi hasn’t even started yet!

Shellac Gel Polish from CND offers a better way. Brand new CND Shellac Luxe can be removed in just 60 seconds—10x faster than standard gel polishes. The gentle and efficient shellac removal process won’t damage nails, and the polish itself boasts a 14+ day wear and comes in 65 amazing shades.

So what do speedier polish removals mean for you? Happier clients, more efficient service, and the ability to accept more clients. It’s a win all around.

It’s the unique chemistry of CND Shellac Luxe that makes it so much easier to remove. The polish features an open cross-link structure that allows the remover to permeate faster down to the natural nail, gently easing the color coat off of the surface.

The removal process is super simple for technicians of all skill levels. We’ll break it down below.

How to Remove Shellac from CND

1. Start with a clean slate. Before you begin, have the client wash their hands with soap and water, then thoroughly dry them off.

2. Massage. Give client’s hand a gentle massage with CND’s COOLBLUE hand cleanser. This refreshing, water-free cleanser will smooth and soften hands before the polish removal.

3. Wrap fingers with CND Foil Remover Wraps. Wrap all ten nails, starting with the pinky. For each nail, saturate the cotton side of the foil remover wrap with CND’s OFFLY FAST, then place the cotton pad under the free edge of the nail and tightly wrap it around. Squeeze the wrap to ensure a tight fit.

4. Wait 60 seconds. Once all nails are wrapped, set a timer for 60 seconds. That’s all the time it will take for the remover to work.

5. Remove wraps. Use your thumb to firmly press the top of each nail and slide the wrap up and off. Twist and massage the wrap as you remove it to ease off polish. If any nails still have a significant amount of polish remaining, re-wrap and wait another 60 seconds.

6. Gently remove any leftover polish. The foil wraps will take care of most of the polish, but if any remains use an orangewood stick to push polish in direction of nail plate growth. You can also use a dry sponge.

7. Clean, and done. Dampen a lint-free pad or a stiff manicure brush with CND’S OFFLY FAST and clean off nails for a totally polish-free nail bed.

That’s it!

Check out the new CND Shellac Luxe Gel collection, and start discovering the benefits of fast polish removals. You’ll never know how you did it any other way.

Gel-Nails is proud to provide nail spas and salons all over the world with the most innovative products on the market. Shop our extensive CND inventory, including brushes, additives, and skin care.

CND Shellac Application & Removal

CND Shellac is a cross between nail polish and gel. It’s to be applied like regular nail polish but is cured using a CND UV lamp. Polish application lasts at least 2 weeks.
Shellac Application Instructions
1. Remove shine and rough ridges from nails using pink buffer (optional)
2. Clean oil/dirt off nails using Scrub Fresh or polish remover and a lint free pad.
3. Apply a thin coat of CND base coat to one hand and cure for 10 seconds. Repeat on second hand.
4. Apply one thin coat of Shellac color polish to one hand and cure for 2 minutes under UV lamp. Repeat on the second hand.
5. Apply a second coat of Shellac color polish to one hand and cure for 2 minutes under UV lamp. Repeat on second hand.
6. Apply Shellac UV Top Coat to one hand and cure for 2 minutes. Repeat on second hand.
7. Remove sticky/tacky film left on the nail with a lint free pad soaked in dsperse Inhibition layer remover.

Shellac Removal Instructions

, shellac can easily be removed using Shellac Remover Wraps soaked in CND nourishing remover or dsolve. 

Removal Wraps
1. Place each finger in a remover wrap.
2. Soak the pad on the wrap with Cnd Nourishing remover or dsolve. Place wrap under the finger and the soaked cotton pad over the nail.
3. Secure wrap tightly.
4. Leave for 10 minutes and apply pressure to the nail.
5. Pull the remover wrap off the nail using a twisting motion.
6. Use pure acetone and a lint free pad to remove any leftover residue.
A Quality 36 watt UV/LED lamp must be used for successful results. Cheap underpowered lamps will not cure properly, particularly with dense opaque polishes. The CND 36 watt UV/LED lamp is recommended and is the only guaranteed method. The consistencies of CND Shellac polishes vary greatly,shake well before use particularly when cold, new and unused. Shellac brushes also have a packing starch applied, this normally disappears after shaking but can be removed using IPA or D-Sperse if required.
The colour of CND Shellac bottles does not always reflect the colour of the actual polish!
Please research the colour before purchasing

It’s easy to wax poetic over the benefits of a gel manicure—two weeks of chip-free wear and glossy shine? Yes, please! Removing the LED-cured lacquer, however, is another story. Once the free edge around the cuticle starts to lift, it takes all of our self-control trying (and sometimes failing…) not to rip all ten shells from our digits, which can cause major damage to the natural nail bed underneath.

Whether you’re wearing a gel manicure from the salon or your own handiwork, we rounded up three foolproof DIY ways to remove the product. No matter the method you choose, make sure you shield the skin around the nail with a preventative layer of Vaseline, as each involves acetone. Follow your technique of choice with an ample amount of cuticle oil or cream, like Lush’s Lemony Flutter, $16.95 afterward to restore moisture, and if you must re-shellac your nails, give them a few hours to breathe before applying another layer.


Removal kits like Red Carpet Manicure’s, $24.95 come equipped with everything you need to strip the shellac from your nails. Both work on salon-cured and DIY jobs, but differ only in the type of soaking pads involved. Red Carpet Manicure’s kit includes ten foils with each piece affixed to the nail surface, while Ciate’s comes equipped with conditioning acetone and a gel remover pot in which you pour the solution and dip your hand in one at time to loosen up the gel polish.


If a gel manicure is a frequent treatment for you, this method might be best, as some of the kits may not include enough solution for regular removals. Pick up a bottle of acetone, ten cotton balls, and a roll of tin foil from the kitchen. Buff the surface of your mani with a nail file to remove the shine, then soak a cotton ball in the acetone and place it directly on top of your nail. Follow by wrapping each finger with a small piece of foil, and after 10 to 15 minutes, the gel manicure should slide right off with the cotton ball. If some residue remains stuck to your nail, use an orange wood stick to work it off.


This method takes the longest and requires a little elbow grease, but works wonders if you don’t have any foil or cotton balls on hand. Grab two bowls from the kitchen, one slightly larger than the other. Fill the larger bowl with warm water, place the smaller one inside (as you would with a double-boiler), and pour in some acetone. Because acetone is highly-flammable, you should not heat it in the microwave or stove. As you allow the solution to warm for a minute or two, buff the surfaces of your manicure with a nail file, then place your hand inside the acetone and allow the gels to gradually soak off. After 10 to 15 minutes, you should notice the corners coming loose. As your nails are steeping in the acetone, take an orange wood stick and gently begin to loosen the gel on each nail until it is removed completely. Repeat on the other hand, and top off with a generous amount of hand cream and cuticle oil.

This article originally appeared on

How to Remove Shellac Nail Polish

You don’t need anything fancy or expensive to remove shellac nail polish without doing any damage to your nails. Just follow the simple instructions outlined below and you can chop and change your shellac nails any time you want.

Shellac nail polish lasts an amazing two weeks or more, and really that is because most women’s nails grow enough in two weeks that the new growth shows. If you are looking at a manicure that has gone past its sell-by date, you might be asking yourself (and your friends) how do you remove shellac nail polish. You may have heard you can’t do it yourself, but the truth is that with the right materials and knowledge, removing shellac gel nail varnish is not has hard as some salons would like you to think it is.

You probably have most of what you need for shellac removal in your home already. And no, despite what some salons may tell you, you do not need to buy special shellac remover wraps. You can make your own with these handy instructions.

What do you need for Shellac Manicure Removal?

Instructions for How to Remove Shellac Nail Polish

• Acetone (Note this is pure acetone, not an acetone-base nail polish remover.)
• Five round cotton pads
• Cuticle stick
• Kitchen foil
• Nail & cuticle conditioning oil
• Scotch tape
• Scissors

So exactly how do you get shellac off your nails when the new nail growth is an issue or you just want a change of colour?

  1. Start with the kitchen foil. Use a quality brand – not the microwavable kind! First cut off a strip roughly twice the length of your fingertip and fold it in half lengthwise with the shiny side inside. Cut into sections about three inches long. Make ten of these.
  2. Now take your five cotton pads and cut them each in half so you have ten half circle cotton pads. Fold each in half.
  3. One at a time, put some acetone on a pad, and then apply it to a nail. Make sure the pad is firmly against the entire nail. If it isn’t touching the nail, it isn’t working. Hold it in place by wrapping a foil square securely around the fingertip. Leave them in place for ten minutes from when you finished the first one. The foil does more than hold the cotton pad in place for your shellac removal. Acetone evaporates, and the foil slows this down so the acetone is in place long enough to work.
  4. Remove the foils and rub each nail a bit with its cotton pad. Using the cuticle stick, very gently push off the shellac nail polish. It should come off easily. Be patient, and do not scrape or scrub at your nails.
  5. The acetone will dry your nails out a bit. Apply your favourite nail and cuticle oil generously, and rub it into your nail and cuticles. Keeping your nails healthy is important, so don’t neglect this step! In fact, as long as you are removing shellac nail polish, why not take advantage of the chance and give your hands an intensive moisture treatment as well? You don’t have to skip the pampering just because you aren’t at the salon.

When you are doing your shellac manicure removal, it’s important to pay attention to the details, especially the timing. Even with the foil, the acetone will evaporate a bit. It will be gone in roughly ten minutes, and if you leave your fingers wrapped longer than that, the shellac will start to adhere to your nails again. The acetone does not dissolve the shellac; it actually just loosens the polish so you can push it off easily. If any does not come off easily, take a fresh cotton pad soaked in acetone to rub it off.

The Five Don’ts of Shellac Removal!

  • While you can get your shellac manicure removed at the salon, you don’t have to.
  • You can buy special shellac remover wraps, but you don’t need them.
  • The acetone should loosen the shellac so it can be gently pushed off of the nail; you don’t need to scrape or file or otherwise mistreat your nails to remove it.
  • Don’t neglect the nail conditioner. The shellac polish itself protects your nails while it is on, but the acetone can dry them a bit.
  • Don’t be too sad to take that gorgeous polish off. It just means you get to pick another stunning colour for your nails.

You may have been wondering how do you get shellac off your nails, and hopefully you are encouraged to learn how simple and easy the process of removing shellac nail polish really is. Take the time to gather exactly what you will need so you aren’t searching for something part way through it. Even if you aren’t at the salon for your shellac removal, there’s no reason not to indulge yourself. Put on some good music, make yourself a nice cuppa and relax. Invite a friend over and make it sociable. Just remember to always love your nails and treat them kindly!

Now you have removed your shellac gel nail polish, it’s time to start choosing your next shellac colour.

Gel manicures are one of the greatest beauty inventions. They’re chip-resistant and have longevity no regular nail lacquer could compete with. I’d get them all the time if there wasn’t one glaring downside: Removal.

I dread getting gels because they can’t come off with a simple swipe of acetone. Nope, you have to soak and wait and file it off. It’s a whole process I don’t have time for. Also, don’t even get me started on the fact most salons will charge you extra for removal. That $5 to $10 could go toward coffee, thank you very much.

That being said, I have mastered the at-home gel removal process for times I do decide to commit (say, if I’m going on long trip). Ahead, I break down exactly how I do it and get some expert input from Sarah Gibson Tuttle, the founder of top L.A. nail salon Olive & June.

Step One: File

Because there are at least four layers on the nail, I usually take a file to buff down the top coat. Tuttle suggests doing the same.

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Who needs sparkle today as much as we do? #oliveyourmani

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Step Two: Soak

I usually take whatever drugstore nail polish remover I have lying around and use it to soak up a cotton ball. I place the cotton on my nails and wrap it in tin foil (I literally just cut up tiny squares from the foil in my kitchen). Tuttle has a great pro tip to add: “We like to wrap a hot towel around as well to expedite the soaking process.”

Step Three: Wait

Tuttle advises waiting 10 to 15 minutes or until the gels are lifting off completely. She says, “The most important piece is having the patience to allow the gels to lift before removing the cotton. No harsh removal or picking please!”

This is the most annoying part, because you can’t really do many activities (like going on your phone, eating, or cleaning) while your fingers are all wrapped in foil. “Remove while you’re FaceTiming a friend or watching TV so you’re not tempted to damage your nails by rushing,” Tuttle suggests.

Step Four: Finish

After waiting with my gels soaked in the acetone, the polish usually peels off on its own. Sometimes, there are spots that are sticking a little stronger, and for those I gently use a cuticle pusher to get the rest of the color off. Then, I follow with a swipe of acetone, cuticle oil, and buffing—and I’m ready to start a new manicure.

There’s a common misconception that removing gels leaves nails brittle and unhealthy. Tuttle assures me that’s not the case: “Removal does not damage your nails when it’s done correctly and patiently,” she says. “But picking your gels off does hurt your nails and can prevent future polish and/or gel from sticking.”

Shop Your Gel Removal Kit

Deborah Lippmann The Stripper Nail Polish Remover $19.00 Tweezerman Dual Sided Pushy $18.99 Swisspers Cotton Rounds $6.99 CND Foil Remover Wraps – Option : 10 Count CND $7.95 Kristina Rodulfo Beauty Director Kristina Rodulfo is the Beauty Director of Women’s Health—she oversees beauty coverage across print and digital and is an expert in product testing, identifying trends, and exploring the intersections of beauty, wellness, and culture.