How to Remove Gel Nail Polish

by Janet on July 27, 2012

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Rating: 3.2/5 (144 votes cast)

If you’re wondering how to remove gel nail polish, you’re not alone. It seems like a daunting task if you aren’t familiar with gel nail polish removal techniques, but it’s much simpler than it may seem to be at first. Standard nail polish can take a lot of scrubbing with cotton balls to get off, and it can be even worse if the nail has been chipped or smudged.

Gel nail polish is quick and easy to remove with a simple three-step process. It takes only a few minutes to do so, and with such a quick application time, you can easily change your nail polish color without being late for work or school!

Step 1: Rough Polish Surface
The first step in gel nail polish removal is to roughen the top of the polish surface. It’s easy to do this with a simple nail file, and you don’t have to get any special gel nail polish remover to do it. Just roughen the top of the nail a little until you break the smooth, clean surface of the nail polish. You don’t have to roughen the entire topcoat, just a little of it to allow the next step to work properly.

If you skip this step, it will take longer to remove the polish. The gel nails resist chipping, peeling, and cracking, and are intentionally tough to resist being removed, so this step is important if you want to make gel nail polish removal as quick and easy as possible.

Step 2: Acetone Removal
Once you’ve removed a little bit of the topcoat, it will be easier to complete this step, so don’t skip the first step! You will need some acetone! I highly recommend the Super Nail 16 oz. Pure Acetone. Fill a small bowl (glass or metal is best) with acetone, the same nail polish remover you might use for any other type of nail, and soak your nails in them for just five to seven minutes (depending on how thick the nail polish application is). You’ll see the polish on your nails start to bubble and flake as it comes off. If you don’t have a bowl, then you can purchase a nail soaking tray like this one right here. These make the whole process very simple and straightforward and you reduce your exposure to acetone.

Step 3: Final Touch-Ups
If there are any stubborn bits of nail polish still clinging to your nails, you can use a cuticle stick to easily scrape them off. Be gentle with your nails, because it won’t take too much effort to get the polish off as long as you broke the topcoat completely and removed the majority of it with acetone. You can clean the nails as a final step with wipes dipped in the acetone from your dish to make sure they’re perfectly clean and smooth.

Once you have gone through the process of gel nail removal, you can easily apply new nails yourself with an at-home gel nail kit without any extra steps. Just prepare your nails and apply the new nails as usual!

No special gel nail polish remover is required to get your gel nails off once your nails grow too much to touch them up or you’re bored with the color. You just have to carefully follow the steps above to remove gel nails.

How to Remove Gel Nail Polish , 3.2 out of 5 based on 144 ratings

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Leiana Clark July 12, 2012 at 2:45 am

Thank you for this information. I painted over my nails last night because I could not remove the gell nail polish on them. But with this tip, I will go home and try this process.



Mary Forbes July 12, 2012 at 10:06 am

I don’t know if the gel polish used in France is different, but I have tried all the methods proposed that I have found on various web-sites – fine filing, rough filing, acetone (for up to 25 minutes). Nothing works. My nails are still solidly gel-coated, if somewhat dull from all the roughing up. I am leary about going back to the manicurist who applied it; the last time she removed the gel-coat that I had had applied in Canada by sanding off the coat, and my nails were tender for 2 or 3 days. It is true that this manicurist applied the gel product with a little spatula rather than a brush so the coat is much thicker than the Canadian version. At this point I think I will just let the coat grow out. Any ideas anyone?


jai July 23, 2012 at 11:55 am

thank you i can’t do it and i searched for it and helped her [masi] she can’t find it


Natalie July 25, 2012 at 10:21 pm

just go back to the salon and they’ll remove it


Janet July 26, 2012 at 8:44 am

That’s one way of doing it! Unfortunately, most salons (including my own) charge money to remove this =(


Emma August 13, 2012 at 6:46 am

yay worked for me!


Maureen August 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm

It worked!! Thanks so much, this is awesome. I followed the directions & it came off easily.


Sandra September 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Wow! I had acrylic nails for many years & I. removed them myself using the same way you described. Of course I did not know you can do this with gel nails too! I also tried gel nails; I liked the raspberry red color & shine, but it peels off after after wk. or so., took them off & went with my own nails. OPI start to finish each day for 7 days days, with nail polish, remove & start over, so far working well. one thing, make sure you put hand cream on your hands before you start, it will help your fingers from damaged from the the acitone.


Nikita September 18, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Thank you for posting this. It worked great for me!


Jocelyn September 29, 2012 at 3:37 am

The pharmacy near my house doesn’t sell pure acetone. Will reg remover work?


KLN September 30, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Thanks! Worked perfectly!


SJ December 13, 2012 at 9:52 pm

My first time with gel polish, it is tough to get off, I will try the above steps. Thx for the info. Even wondering if I want to try gel again. Do not want to pay for remodel!


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