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How to remove gel nails

Updated April 17, 2017

Gel nails are a quick way to add length or strength to your own fingernails. These nail extensions are made of a light plastic and are glued over your natural nails. UV gel can be applied directly to your nails or over nail tips or extensions to strengthen your natural nails and any extensions you may have on them. Gel nails should be applied by a qualified nail technician but you can remove them yourself at home.

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  1. Use acetone-soaked cotton balls to remove any nail polish or oil you may have on your gel nails.

  2. File down the surface of the gel nail with a nail file until it is just a thin layer over your real nails. Be careful not to file down too low or you might damage your natural nails.

  3. Fill a small microwave-safe bowl with water and heat it in the microwave oven until the water is boiling. Empty out the water.

  4. Pour enough acetone into the warm bowl so that it will be able to cover your fingertips. Soak one hand in the warm acetone for 10 minutes.

  5. Gently rock the gel coatings back and forth to slowly remove them from your natural nails. If they do not come off easily, empty out the acetone and repeat steps 2 and 3.

  6. Repeat the above procedure for your other hand.

  7. Use acetone-soaked cotton balls to remove any extra gel from your nails. Make sure that you use new acetone, not the solution that you may already have in the bowl.

  8. Buff your nails gently with a nail buffer to get them completely clean and smooth.

  9. Tip

    Some nail polish removers do not contain a strong enough concentration of acetone to remove gel nails. Stick to pure acetone or stronger formulations of nail polish remover. Wait a couple of weeks after removing your gel nails before applying new ones or applying any gel coatings so that your natural nails can strengthen.


    Use acetone in a well-ventilated area to avoid breathing in too many fumes. You should not dip your fingers in acetone if they have cuts or wounds on them.

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Things You'll Need

  • Acetone
  • Cotton balls
  • Nail file
  • Small microwave-safe bowl
  • Nail buffer

About the Author

Andrea Chrysanthou began writing professionally in 1993. Her work has been published internationally by "The Cyprus Mail," MochaSofa and My Favorite Trainer, among other magazines and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts in journalism from Ryerson University. Chrysanthou is a certified fitness instructor and personal-training specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the fitness industry.

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