While most of the world is now in quarantine, it’s left most of with a lot of questions. Many of our questions are yet to be answered, but one of the more minor dilemmas a lot of us are experiencing is how to remove gel nail polish at home. Typically you would just have it done during your salon visit, but since that’s not an option right now, doing it at home will have to do. Luckily removing gel nail polish at home (without causing damage to your nails) is possible, and it’s actually easy—as long as you have the right tools. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Nail file
  2. Acetone nail polish remover
  3. Coconut oil or olive oil

Once you have these three items, you’re just a few minutes away from gel-free nails—just follow the four steps below.

Step One: File down the top coat.

Since a gel manicure typically consists of a few layers, you’ll want to take your nail file and buff down the top coat of polish. You’ll want to file about half way through and then let the acetone work to remove the rest of the gel. File with even pressure around the nail and stop if you ever get to a point where you feel pain. Make sure not to file too far down (never all the way to your nails) so that you don’t accidentally damage your nail.


Step Two: Soak your nails in acetone.

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home Camila Coelho

Part of the double-edged sword of gel nail polish is that it doesn’t easily come off, which is great when you want to go weeks without chipped nails but not so great when trying to remove it. For this reason, regular nail polish remover won’t work on gel manicures—You’ll need pure acetone to free your nails at home. Once you’ve finished step one and buffed down the top layer of gel, soak a cotton ball in acetone and lay it on top of each nail, then wrap each finger in foil to really hold the acetone on there. Wait at least ten minutes for the gel to start to lift.


Step Three: Peel off each nail. 

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home Camila CoelhoPhoto: Coco Cuenco

Once your nails have soaked in acetone for at least ten minutes, the gel should start to lift and peel off easily. Don’t force it though—if one nail isn’t coming off easily go ahead and soak it another five minutes until the acetone loosens the gel to a point where you can remove it gently. If you own a cuticle pusher you can also use that to (gently!) help lift the gel polish off of your nail.


Step Four: Treat your nails with oil.

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home Camila Coelho

Photo: Michelle Lee

Once all your gel nail polish is removed, your nails will most likely be feeling sensitive for a while. Nourish your nails by applying coconut or olive oil (or nail strengthening oil, if you have it) a few times a day to help moisturize your nail beds. It’s a good idea to take a little break from nail polish to let your nails recover, and once you are ready to paint your nails again using a strengthening base coat is a great way to keep your nails looking healthy.


Have you removed gel nail polish at home? If you have any tips or tricks we missed, leave them in the comments below!