Nail Files: How To Remove Gel Polish, At Home!

Today I am going to show you how to remove gel nail polish at home! But first, some context…

I am a nail fanatic. And I am a bit OCD about my nails… For me, the sight of chipped polish puts me over the edge (okay not really, but it does annoy me to the point that I will peel away all of my polish until my hands are left ragged and bare—not a good look).

Since my job entails typing all day, I’ve learned that regular nail polish is not conducive to my lifestyle because it inevitably chips within hours after application.

Fun Fact: Apparently, some people are more prone to chipped nail polish because their nail beds have more oil in them, which prevents the polish from adhering properly.

My solution? Gel polish! I absolutely love it. My nails stay chip-free and perfect for up to three weeks. Amazing for an alleged “oily nail bed” gal like me…

While gel polish may be sunshine and rainbows when it is fresh, there is a very dark side to it: removal. Just as I pick away my regular polish the second it chips, I peel off my gels the minute they lift around the edges. This is NOT good for your nails at all and causes a lot of damage. The worst part about gels is that I always have to go back to the nail salon to get them removed, which I find annoying.

After going through this process dozens of times I finally took note of exactly how the nail technicians remove gels and decided to share their tricks with you today! Now you can remove your gel nail polish from the comfort of your own home…

Nail Files: How To Remove Gel Polish, At Home!

Gel polish removal is so simple—I cannot believe I used to drag myself to the nail salon to get them taken off… Now I just do it myself. It takes a bit longer than traditional polish, but at least now my nail beds won’t be ravaged by my compulsive need to peel off my polish the second it begins to lift!

Lately gel nail polish has been getting a bad wrap—some say it’s not good for your nails (which I can only assume is due to the fact that many people remove them incorrectly)… What do you think?

Do you wear gel polish? If so, what’s your favorite color and brand?

I’m a big fan of Gelish—I’ve found that their formulas stay on the longest and the colors don’t change over time.

Xx Alex
Team LC

Photo: Alex Gariano for LaurenConrad.com
Categories: Alex Gariano, Nails
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  • Jessica Anderson

    I have the same compulsive need to peel too. I’ve heard gel polish is bad because of the acetone soak. And I don’t know about your salon, but the one I’ve gone to scrapes at my nails and takes layers off and it is super painful. I love the concept of gel polish so I’ve been looking at the at-home kits. The Sally Hansen no light kit works fairly well. Definitely doesn’t last as long though.

    • Platinumuniversal

      Well I had my gel manicure on June 8th until today. The remedy I use to take off my gel nail polish was the same as taking off acrylic. I soaked it in some cheap lucky brand nail polish remover that cost $1.49 with a bowl of boiled water. Then I soaked my nails for 15-30 mins while filing them with a nail filer and I must say my nails are okay and little soft but in due time they will harden up. Oh yeah this was done at home by myself. Also this was the first time I did a gel manicure.

  • natbee05

    I love gel polish! I recently had French shellac done at a salon and LOVED it! I have the Sensationail nail kit that you do at home and I find that stays on my nails the longest. I won’t go back to acrylics now – too much damage to my nails that takes months to grow out and now with the gel polish they’re a lot stronger and actually grow!

  • Amanda Kretchmer

    I’ve wanted to try gel polish since it’s come onto the market, but heard so many bad things about it, that I have yet to try any. I’m a big fan of polish and find after two or three days I always need to re apply my regular polish, which can get annoying especially since I’ve been getting into “”nail art”” recently. I’ll have to suck it up and try the gels and this removal technique.

  • Katherine McCarthy

    I LOVE gel polish! I also freak out when my polish starts to chip, and my coworkers make fun of me when I peel it off during my lunch break. I’m an Admissions Counselor at a college in NYC, and I travel a lot for work. The last thing I want to do when I get back to my hotel room after a long college fair is remove my nail polish and then add some new coats.

    My favorite place to get my nails done is at a Bliss Spa (I’ve gone to the spas in New York, Hoboken, and Boston). I’ve lucked out every time and my nails have last about 3 and half to 4 weeks. I also always get the same color – purple shimmer with hints of blue. It’s a little pricey, but it’s better than going to CVS every week any buying a new nail polish color when I get bored!

  • Lacey

    I love gel too, but don’t want to pay as much for it each time at the salon! Has anyone had any experience with buying the at home gel sets to do yourself?? Thank you!

    Lacey
    http://www.sunnyandturquoise.blogspot.com

  • Rachel Trampel

    That is great advice!!!!!! That you for sharing :)

    http://www.rachelslookbook.com

  • Paulina Mo

    Good to know… I will try it next time :)

    ~Pau
    my fashion blog: http://www.lilbitsofchic.com

  • Amanda Lehrke

    This is the same way I remove GLITTER polish!! Makes it so much less of a pain!

  • marry kelly

    Nice to read this.

    really i will try it next time.

    http://ukmobileworld.co.uk/

  • Ashley

    So are you talking about removing gel polish, or gel fake nails?? http://dreamliveandrepeat.blogspot.com/

  • Giulia De Luca

    I use this trick also to remove glitter nail polish; here my post: http://diariodiunexstacanovista.blogspot.it/2011/11/come-togliere-lo-smalto-con-i-glitter.html!

  • Giulia De Luca

    I use this trick also to remove glitter nail polish; here my post: http://diariodiunexstacanovista.blogspot.it/2011/11/come-togliere-lo-smalto-con-i-glitter.html!

  • 2spaztic4u2c

    The nail plate is the part that gets damaged when you peel off nail gel. Your Nail bed is the tissue underneath the nail plate that supplies nourishment to the nail plate. This information is correct about removing gel polish. Word from a pro. Use a small amount of cotton just to sit on the nail portion of your finger, and apply pure acetone polish remover. To much acetone on the skin will cause it to dry out and crack.

  • Andrea

    I love the gel polish too. It was getting too expensive to keep going to the salon so I got a uv lamp from a beauty store and buy the gelish polish since it is my favorite I am not a fan of the OPI gel. I find the gelish online or in Sally beauty and it is really easy to do yourself once you know what you are doing. Also I remove the gel the same way since it is so bad for your nails to peel.

  • Ashley Rizzardo

    I can’t actually say that I have even heard of gel polish. But now, I will definitely look for it next time I am shopping since I too do a lot of typing.

    http://allthatglitters.co.nr

  • Danielle Aksterowicz

    I love getting my nails done, but it can get a little pricy. I just recently bought glass nail files hearing they are amazing. I was hoping you could do a post on different nail files, how to use them. I received a kit of five and have no clue which one does what and how to use them properly.

  • prey pray

    I’ve heard from several people that gel weakens the nails. I advise against it.

    Be sure to check out our new line, HorseWorship. Perfect for the animal lover and the fashionista. http://shop.preypray.com/HorseWorship_c47.htm

    http://www.preypray.com

  • Camille

    I’ve never tried gel nails. I saw on a medical show that the gel isn’t good for the nails. I’ve tried acrylics once and that was enough for me. I’m leery of anything that isn’t good old fashioned nail polish

    http://www.camillenochaser.blogspot.com

  • Alysa

    It is really inappropriate for you to use a mental illness so flippantly. This is a community with many different members, some of whom suffer from OCD and for you to call yourself OCD when you’re not is not ok.

  • Natasha Beganovic

    I love the look of gel manicures and they last longer for me than regular nails too! This is a great DIY article to remove gel. Would love one by Lauren or her team on DIY gel manicures, with the UV lights you can buy for yourself. My biggest hesitation is not on the manicures or the damage they do to your nails themselves because that will heal but the UV lights. This leads to cancer. Everyone knows this but we still put ourselves at risk for beauty. They have come out with UV gloves where the nails are open for manicures just for the gel manicures plus its suggested you use lotion with SPF.

  • Ali

    What a great post! I know I HATE getting gel color taken off. So much so I stopped getting it done. I have gone sans free of all polish for 6 weeks and nails did get a little stronger. I got a regular mani for the 1st time on Saturday and I brought my own polish Trina Turks Julep and it really stays on. Day 5 and almost no chips! I also tried the oval shape instead of square and I love it! But next time I get a gel I am going to follow these instructions. Thanks! I actually did a post on my nail experiences this week too!

    Ali of Dressing Ken

    http://www.dressingken.com/2013/02/oval-vs-square.html

  • Lizzi Burchnell

    I have followed these exact instructions in the past, and have still had issues getting the gel polish off my nails. The outside edges come off easily, but the center part has a harder time pulling up. Has anyone else had this issue? Any suggestions? I love getting my nails gel polished because I work I too am on the computer all day typing away. Any help would be wonderful!

    • Jeyne Poole

      soak the center after peeling the edges up

  • Alison Nolan

    I love gel polish. I have purchased a gel UV light and all the tools (Red Carpet Manicure set – paid for itself after two applications). The best I have found so far for removal (and the easiest) is Red Carpet Manicure’s Erase polish remover. I use this along with the all in one foils from Gelish and the gel slides right off after only 15-20 minutes (you have to slightly buff each nail so the liquid soaks in). I tried regular acetone but it didn’t work as well as the Erase. As long as you push the gel off with an orange stick and don’t peel, your nails look exactly as they did before the polish application. If you use the right base coats and follow the directions – your nails are not harmed at all. Now I don’t have to make time to get to the salon for application or removal. My favorite gel color? Red Carpet’s 148 Nominated for… Hope this helps!

  • Ingrid L

    I love gel nail polish. I’m always a bit iffy about trying brands I’m not familiar with. My favorite gel (and regular nail polish) brand is OPI. I like that I can use the gel on my nails and a matching shade of the regular polish on my toes.

    If Essie came out will gel I would definitely switch to that! Gel in Turquoise and Caicos – Sign me up!

    The only downside to gel is my fear that it may weaken my nails after too much use. Am I just freaking out over nothing?

  • My Style Diary

    I have never tried gel nail polish, but this will come in handy when I do!

    http://mystylediaryblogspot.blogspot.com/

  • Amy
  • Laura Jewison

    Thank you Thank you Thank you for this, i am also a nail fanactic and was reluctant to try Gel due to this fact. I am no going to give my first Gel polish a try! Thanks Alex!

  • Shellz

    I use this method to take off my glitter polishes! works really well!

    more tips on my blog:(pls visit and support:))
    http://www.shellzdoll.com/2013/02/26/7065/

  • Femme25

    You don’t know jacques…by O.P.I. Thanks for the tip :o)

  • Femme25

    Try gel just once…I promise you will like it! I was weary too but it doesn’t ruin your nails as long as you remove it appropriately (thanks Lauren) and it stays on for 2 weeks (I don’t get 3 weeks out of mine). It’s also beautiful once applied because of how shiny it is and it dries so fast…let me know if you try it!

  • Christina Graci

    Hi ladies!
    As a manicurist, i’ve seen the long term effects these gel polishes have on your nails. Yes, they look beautiful and perfect for days, sometimes weeks. However, the side effects of these products may take your nails up to a year to recover, and longer for some. Not to mention they are harsh chemicals and you have to put the delicate hand skin under a UV light to cure them. Not cute!
    Just a few words of advice :)
    Keep it au natural!
    Check out my nail blog for other tips and beauty secrets
    Christina
    http://www.christinamanicures.com

  • Kylie Miller

    I’ll have to remember this, I want to try gel nail polish ASAP! Check out my blog: http://thechicstreetblog.blogspot.com/

  • Miri

    I’ve always preferred gel polish but goodness, it’s such a pain… Thanks for the tip Alex! :)

  • Marie

    First of all this page is about how to remove gel polish not about OCD so maybe you need to be on another page.Second of all you wouldn’t know if she has OCD cause you don’t know her personally. Third of all your inappropriate for posting this childish comment on a site on how to remove gel polish…you need to grow up and stop being so negative. I honestly can say I can’t stand people like you and if you have something negative to say don’t comment back because the next comment I leave will be 10 times inappropriate as any comment you’ve ever seen before…

  • Giulia De Luca

    Sorry, but what are you talking about? I can’t understand…

  • fsdfsdf

    Great way to remove thanks , I also use gel nail remover jelly to remove gel http://rainnail.com/shop/Nails-Remover-Tools/rainnail-gel-nail-remover-jelly-15-ml.html also.

  • Julia0708

    Literally just did this. PERFECT

  • Racheal Schnarr

    Though this process is correct, PLEASE do not remove gel nails yourself!! Ensure that your nail tech is certified and educated in the proper removal of gel polish. The number 1 reason why nails become damaged after wearing gel polish is improper removal (this includes picking, filing, and even pushing too hard with an orange-wood stick). It’s one of those things that’s worth the trip and the few bucks!

  • Liza

    I’ve tried removing using this method, but it’s not perfect. When I go to the nail salon, they still do some “”scraping”” after using this method. I feel that my once healthy nails have now become weaker and brittle-actually soft-like a layer is missing. Plus, they break after a couple weeks-very low on the nail so I end up filing them to nothing. NO MORE NAIL GEL for me!

    • Britt

      Proper gel removal means NO scraping. I had my nails scraped once for gel and said good-bye to that salon! Proper gel use and REMOVAL means little to no damage. AKA: Buff/file the top of the gel until it the shine is gone but not so it removes the color, that is indicator one of a bad manicurist. Two, then soak for at least 15 minutes. Ten can work but for most 15-30 is the actual wait time. Check, it should look very peeled up when it is ready to come off. Use an orangewood stick, NOT metal, this is hint #2 to a bad manicurist, and only very lightly push away, if it doesn’t come off without you scraping the nail, wrap again and leave on for another 5-10 mins and keep checking until it practically falls off! It can take awhile but if you do proper removal than your nails will be fine AND the gel lasts 21 or so days which is pretty awesome. Prior to gels my nails broke and were very short. I finally have the elegant nails I wanted! :)

      • Britt

        Also, proper gel application: No more than 2 mins per layer and AT LEAST 3 layers of color and top coat! (as well as at least 2 layers of bottom.) Otherwise it will not last properly! Also, it shouldn’t bleed into the cuticle, aka the bottom of the nail nor the edges! That is a bad job… Just hints for everyone and if you ever try gel again Liza! :)

  • 2boyzmomma

    I actually am OCD, and her comment didn’t bother me in the least…

    • Annette

      Me too. I think it’s because she acknowledged that it doesn’t really send her over the edge.

  • HazelJillian

    Gelish do stay a really long time but there is a new brand called “”Geleration”” that I had stay on my nails for 2 whole months! I would of left them on longer but my nails were growing out so much I NEEDED them cut and filed down!

  • Christina Graci

    Hi ladies!
    As a manicurist, i’ve seen the long term effects these gel polishes have on your nails. Yes, they look beautiful and perfect for days, sometimes weeks. However, the side effects of these products may take your nails up to a year to recover, and longer for some. Not to mention they are harsh chemicals and you have to put the delicate hand skin under a UV light to cure them. Not cute!
    Just a few words of advice :)
    Keep it au natural!
    Check out my nail blog for other tips and beauty secrets
    Christina
    http://www.christinamanicures.com

  • Joyce rovneyko

    This worked wonderfully. Had a coupon for gel manicure and it was great. I dig in dirt and wash dishes without gloves. Manicure lasted full two weeks. If I hadn’t asked for crackle polish I’m sure it would have lasted longer. I still have a bit of Silver Polish on one nail, but to help push the polish off I used this filing stone – like a thick orange stick with a pointed end like orange stick, but fabulous for filing and smoothing nails as well.

  • Lauren Perry

    Soaking your fingers in acetone will absolutely destroy your fingernails and skin. Not a good call.

    • britt

      Most professionals disagree so I’d probably side with them, not to be offensive. If you leave your skin in for hours sure but not for 30 mins or less.

  • Queen Kristie

    for those complaining about uv lamp exposure, do you realize that you’re in that light maybe 10 minutes at most….5 at most if led lamp (and that probably mani and pedi time (depending on cure time and if your curing all at once). that said do u also realize this is LESS than all the times you go between ur home, car, work/school, and if you run or walk for excersize outside this few minutes every few weeks is less time than spend out side in a single day??? did u know that u spend more time with your hands in uv light from the sun driving your car everyday?? seriously now, are u still worried about maybe 4.25 hours in a year and that’s IF you go every two weeks??!!?!!??!

    • kiesha

      Also did you know the dose of UV you are receiving directly to your fingers and nails is actually way more than you get in a typical day? Also research studies are finding an increased risk for skin cancer in those who regularly get gel nail polish manicures. It all adds up and it doesn’t hurt to be cautious!

  • josie_107

    I absolutely LOVE gel nail polish! I always buy Finger Paints gel polish, and i wear it all the time!

    • casey

      Do you have to own a special light to use Finger Paints?

  • Stephanie

    My nails are ragged anyway so I get full UV set with gelish because I like the way it looks and I don’t have to worry about my thumbnail splitting at the tip or getting discouraged and biting them off all together. I don’t have huge gawdy nails I think they’re ugly and they scratch my eyeball when I put in contacts with super long nails. So paying the $50 a month is worth it to me to have nice nails and polish that won’t chip since I’m a home maker and I’m also a Mary Kay rep and showing up to clients with nice nails is an important final touch to my look.

  • kimmiedee marie

    Sorry Laurenconrad.com, but the most important step was skipped. Prior to applying the soaked cotton to the nail, you must buff the the top coat off, first. Remove the shine with buffer and then this process will work like a charm. I worked for Gelish and Artistic Nail Design and know from experience that without the removal of the top coat, the product remover will not penetrate through that top coat layer for safe removal. http://www.artisticnaildesign.com/removal-video

    • lena

      Perfect video of good removal!!

    • Leila Roche

      I have gel polish on my acrylics and want to change the color w/o removing the acrylic. Is it possible to do it myself?

      • Meg

        Acetone is also a good way to remove acrylic nails, so if you want to keep the acrylic in tact, acetone is not going to help remove the gel as it will also ruin and soften the acrylic nails. I would go to a salon and have them remove the gel because they can buff the gel off without ruining your acrylic nails.

    • I-know-better

      calm down kimmiedee know it all xo

  • Lisa mcdermott

    This is exactly how I remove mine. I learned it from my place that I get mine done at. I don’t always use gel because it weakens my nails. When I’m not using gel, I only buy from one small company. They have the most unique colors. http://www.shopeighty4.com.

  • 2tattered

    “Bad wrap” = Bad rap

    • Fang

      actually, i think it’s bad rep (reputation).

      • Beni N

        Actually it is rap — like a rap sheet (which is wht nothing has a good rap, but can have a good rep)! Fun fact!

    • Meaghan

      I think that was a nail joke, you know, like wraps?

  • Casey

    Can the gel nail polish be APPLIED at home? Do you HAVE to have the light? Or is there a brand that works without the light?

    • Dina

      CND Weekly Nail Polish and CND top coat lasts for a full week without chipping and gives you that gel nail polish you want at home. This removal was perfect for it, too.

  • Amanda

    You should try Jamberry then! No chipping and easy removal! http://www.amandamcqueen.jamberrynails.net

  • chris

    Forget foils and cotton for gel removal. Check out nail mates.net. You’ll ever go back. Your husband, boyfriend or kids will love it because they won’t have to help you do the other hand. With these you can do both hands yourself without help. They’re working on a set for toes as well.
    No dripping, you can move around during removal and caps and pads stay on. They are the best.

  • purplemother

    thanks for sharing this tip! I am so engrossed with gel polish same as you do with the same problem, I always have to go to the salon to have it removed, and what makes it worse is the salon where I go to charges for the removal… awww! thanks for the tips, I’ll try this at home

  • Kate

    Although messy and time consuming, this did work for me. I think it’s better to keep it on for more than ten minutes though. I don’t know about the comments below saying that it’s bad for your nails, but it looks cute on, and comes off easily if you do this. Kind of a pain in the ass, but worth it.

  • Lena
  • Gloria

    Thankyou so much, my nails are now tin-foiled up. I had scraped off two of them until I thought Google may help :p And my gel nail polish lasted 4 weeks.

  • Sue S.

    Thanks so much for posting this. I followed the steps today and the gel came completely off. My nails look great. Thanks for saving me a trip to the salon!

  • http://www.styleglamsalon.com Mark Smath

    I like your blog on this topic is well-written and original. Your information is really interesting to all readers. Hope you continue to keep up with this blog and will provide us some more information like this.
    http://www.styleglamsalon.com

  • Juju D

    I have the same problem with chipping (it takes just one shower to remove my polish)! So I just got my first gel polish today. For some reason the polish was too thin. Since this was my first time I didn’t know what was going on and didn’t think about all of the extra coats. At the end of the session I paid and went outside to walk home only to notice that I actually had sunburn on my fingertips! My cuticles didn’t need to be cut so this wasn’t the problem. The light pink I choose was a glaring contrast to my red fingers. All of the acetone in the world couldn’t remove the polish. I had to file and scrape my nails so much that 3 layers of normal clear polish barely covers up all of the damage. I know this is an extreme case, but actually receiving sunburn on my tips is enough to scare me away for life. Yikes!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for posting this!
    Oh by the way, “Lately gel nail polish has been getting a bad wrap…”
    Its “bad rap” not wrap”.

    http://shadesbreath.hubpages.com/hub/Is-it-Bad-Rap-or-Bad-Wrap

  • http://www.thesinglediaries.com/ The Single Diaries

    Oh this is super helpful! I always end up picking at my weeks old gel polish until I’ve scraped every last bit off. These tips will certainly come in handy!

    Jen Hacker | The Single Diaries
    http://www.thesinglediaries.com

  • Rosa Bun

    I do gel at home all the time. I love-LOVE! You have to use led light to dry properly. I soak my nails in 100% acetone polish remover and it works great! The polish will start to wrinkle up for easy removal. I have strong nails. I haven’t noticed my nails being unhealthy or damaged by gel polish. Gel nails are a life savor, for people with busy schedules for sure! I do let my nails breath for a couple of weeks between gel polish. Not sure if that has anything to do with its health. Also, if anyone is wondering. …. I have done gel base coat and regular polish with gel top coat and it helps my regular polish last longer than normal. (Not as long as all gel, but definitely longer than normal for regular polish.

  • ann

    Gel nailpolish will come off if you simply buff the nail with a nail file. They are a complete waste of time and money.

  • Gayle Paul-grucza

    I have gel polish on for 2 weeks. My nails are weak from the acrylics.
    Even with the gel polish on my nails still cracked off at the nailbeds.
    I tried this method of taking the polish off and it does not work very
    well. I think I have no option but to go to the salon to get the polish off.
    What can I try instead.

  • Edna Owens

    This worked great for me. I didn’t buff first so next time I’ll try buffing the nail coat off first. However the polish just came right off. Thank you.

  • Danielle

    I hate when people say “I am a bit OCD” or I’m OCD… Uh sorry, but I didn’t know you were an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I thought you were a person… A disorder is something you have, not who you are AND there’s no such thing as being a bit OCD, you really mean to say you are extremely anal when it comes to certain things.

  • Mrs_Blonde

    Tried it & it worked!! I also used a nail file before doing it & after to remove what was left but it helped a lot. Thank you!!

  • Syd

    Tried this tonight…..didn’t quite work. Had to “soak” for about half hour. It did help a little though, but scraped off the rest and filed and buffed them down. Heck, may cancel my nail appointment tomorrow, they look fresh.

  • NaomiE

    I am curious if you can file your nails while they have the gel polish on them with out wrecking the rest of the polish on your nails. I am a Cna and have to be very mindful of the length of my nails.

    • Vivi

      i filed mine twice without any problems

  • Amie

    OR….you could use Jamberry nails?! Gel is incredibly toxic and full of harsh chemicals. Not good. For your nails, or your body. Jamberrys don’t lift, peel, chip. They’re vinyl nail shields that you can apply at home, super simple. Over 350 designs to choose from. And best part? THEY’RE CHEAP!
    http://www.ehmekay.jamberrynails.net

  • Vivi

    I did this yesterday and OMG NEVER EVER getting gel nails done.. this was my first time doing it. I wanted to try it once, even tho i have really good thick nails and normal nail polish last more than a week without chipping. I guess i learned my lesson.. after removing the gel nail polish my nails are ruined.. thin as paper and just horrible :(… Here is a pic of them… OUCH

  • zara 12345

    after i removed the gel polish there is something left white transparent thing left pls help !!!!!

  • Lisa Toth-Stone

    I use ASP products (bond, base, top) with Fingerpaint gel polish and have no lifting, but it is stuck on so well that I cannot even peel it off if I tried. I will have to try your method, because right now I have been letting it grow out. I use a pale shimmery pink color that blends well when growing out.

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