The right way to remove a gel manicure at home

We’ve got the expert-approved technique

Beauty Crew Editor / April 02 2019

Gel nail polish has revolutionised the manicure industry. No longer do you have to wait for your polish to dry before leaving the nail salon; and you can now say goodbye to chips a few days into a glossy manicure. 

And while the correct thing to do at the end of your two-week gel manicure would be to go to the salon to remove it, that’s not always feasible. But do you know what you shouldn’t do to clean your nails? Pick at them.

Knowing how to get gel nail polish off correctly is crucial because the thing is, to get those incredibly long-lasting results that you love from your gel manicure, that nail colour has to be stuck on real good, which means removing them incorrectly can wreak havoc on your natural nails underneath.

“When you pick off your gel polish, you are removing layers of your natural nail, which sets the stage for weakened nails,” says CND Education Ambassador Skye McIntyre. And weak nails are more likely to break or split. 

If you’ve ever wondered how to remove gel nail polish the right way (minus the nail damage), we’ve got you covered. Here, McIntyre shares exactly how to remove gel nail polish at home.



Before you break out the gel polish remover, grab a nail file like OPI Crystal File (or a buffer block) and gently and slowly buff the surface of your manicure, removing the top layer of gel nail polish. This will make it easier to remove.



Next, McIntyre says to saturate a cotton pad with CND OFFLY FAST™ Replenishing Remover, and place the pad lengthwise directly on your nail. Then, wrap some foil tightly around the cotton pad, squeezing to secure it. The foil should be snug on your finger. Repeat on all fingers and leave for eight minutes. The remover has been formulated to work on a CND Shellac manicure, so if you’ve used a different brand, you may need to leave it to soak for a bit longer.

CND OFFLY FAST Replenishing Remover
TOP TIP: McIntyre suggests doing one hand at a time, as this is easier to manoeuvre. Also, make sure your room has adequate ventilation to avoid breathing in too much acetone.



Next, using a twisting motion and pull the foil wrap from your nails, loosening the polish, which will begin to have a raised or flaky appearance. Once the foil is off, gently slide off any gel polish remains with a manicure stick.

Try: Manicare Cuticle Sticks

Manicare Cuticle Sticks
TOP TIP: If you still have some gel polish on your nails, McIntyre recommends repeating the process in step 1, this time leaving your wraps on for about two minutes.



Once all of your polish is removed, McIntyre advises adding a dose of hydration to your nails. Apply a cuticle oil, like CND™ SOLAROIL® or Sally Hansen Cuticle Rehab, to your nails and cuticles, massaging the product in to nourish.

Sally Hansen Cuticle Repair

Now you know everything about how to remove gel nails, check out how to remove your acrylic manicure at home and how Kim Kardashian brought back the French manicure.

What’s your Holy Grail nail treatment? Let us know in the comment section below.

Image credit: Getty

Carli was BEAUTYcrew’s Editor from launch in 2016 until May 2020. You can find her words right here on BEAUTYcrew, and previously on beautyheaven.