Top Tips to Remove Gel Polish Safely and Easily

With the popularity of gel polish and soft gels on the rise, proper removal is more important than ever. The right technique not only helps retain the integrity of the natural nail, but it’s the best possible prep for a client’s next service (and the next, and so on). It’s important not to rush the process, says Melanie Visser, head of education and general manager for Irvine, California-based Bio Sculpture USA. “Ask clients to come in 15 minutes before her scheduled appointment, so you have ample time to apply foil wraps and let nails soak,” she says. Those first steps are essential to safe and simple removal once the foil comes off, so read on to learn the best way to remove soft gels.

Step 1


Prep the nail for soaking by breaking the seal on the existing gel. Use a 100/180-grit file and lightly go over the entire surface.

Step 2


Apply cuticle oil to the skin around the nail. Be sure to avoid the nail, and to use a thick layer; this helps prevent the skin from drying out during soaking.

TIP! If your client has extra long nails, apply cuticle oil underneath the tip as well to lessen the drying effects of the acetone on the nail itself.

Step 3


Prepare to wrap the nail by placing the finger on a square of foil. Next, place a folded cotton square on the nail and drench it with acetone.

Step 4


After soaking the cotton with acetone, begin to wrap the nail in the foil. Start by tightly wrapping the foil around the nail to secure the cotton in place.

Step 5


Then, fold the length of the foil under the finger.

Step 6


To keep the cotton and foil secure, place a finger clip over the tip. Repeat steps 1 – 6 for each finger and let nails soak for 10 minutes.

TIP! The length of the acetone soak depends on the health of the nail, as well as the number of layers of product. “If there is damage to the natural nail, you may need to soak longer,” says Visser. “Any ridges, etc., will cause the product to adhere more tightly.” As a general rule of thumb, to remove four layers (think: one layer of base coat, two coats of color and one layer of top coat), soak nails for 10 minutes. For each additional layer, add five minutes, says Visser, noting, “For example, if you apply an extra base coat, or use a glitter polish.” Additionally, applying heat to the wrapped nails will help facilitate the removal process. Try warming mittens or gloves, a hot towel or a paraffin dip.

Step 8


Remove the foil and cotton, one finger at a time.

Step 9


Using light to medium pressure and the round edge of a metal cuticle pusher, gently push from the cuticle to the free edge on top of the gel surface to remove any loose gel. Once all visibly loose gel has been removed, work from the free edge toward the cuticle to remove any gel that is touching the natural nail.

TIP! Do not force product off the natural nail! Scratches or white spots that appear on the nail after removal are signs of damage. If polish won’t come off with gentle prodding, re-wrap the nail and let it soak until you finish removing polish from the remaining nails, then try again.

Step 10


When all 10 fingers are finished, lightly buff the surface of the nail to remove any small bits of polish.

Step 11


Lastly, wash the clients hands to remove any remaining oil or debris, and continue with the service.

What are your best gel removal tips? Let us know in the comments below!

[Images: Michael Chase Gordon]

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