Can I Take Off Gel Nails Using Nail Polish Remover?

Gel nails create a sleek manicured gloss that’s durable for weeks. Gel sets quickly, which makes gel nails a no-brainer. Except, when you’re ready for a new color or a small chip draws attention, you need to head back to the salon to remove gel nails.

Like shellac and acrylic, you can’t rub the color off with a few dabs of cotton balls dipped in nail polish remover. However, you might have heard that you can use acetone to remove shellac at home, as it’s thinner than gel polish.


Can You Take Off Gel Nails Using Nail Polish Remover?

Absolutely, but you need patience for this trick to work. As gel nails require a few layers and are semi-permanent, gel nail polish will resist removal. However, gel nail polish has one major weakness: soaking.


What You’ll Need

Double-check the label of your nail polish remover. Non-acetone nail polish remover is gentler on the skin and your nail beds. While it’s great for basic polish, it isn’t effective for removing gel nail polish. You need the strength of acetone to break the bonds of the gel polish types.


How to Remove Gel Nails Using Nail Polish Remover

If you’re wondering, “Can I take off gel nails using nail polish remover,” this is how it’s done. Once you’ve gathered your removal supplies, find a comfortable place to sit with space to rest your hands.

It can be a table or on the couch with a tray. We also recommend finding entertainment (music, streaming, etc.) to make waiting easier. Or, if you’ve wanted to practice mediating, this might be your chance.

Step 1: Prepping

nail moisturizer

Prepare your nail beds and the surrounding skin with some moisturizer. Simple petroleum jelly is a great choice, but you can also use your preferred cuticle oil or cream. It’s best to protect your vulnerable cuticles from harsh acetone.

Cut your cotton pads into size-appropriate sections that snuggly fit your nail to avoid the acetone leaking onto your skin. Then, soak them with acetone.

Then, grab your plastic wrap and tear or cut it into sections that will wrap around your fingers. You might have heard tin foil works, and it does, but plastic wrap creates a better seal.

Some at-home tutorials recommend rubbing away the surface with an orange stick, which destroys the top layer and allows the acetone to soak deeper. However, this can injure your nails.

If you consider yourself an expert buffer, you might gently remove some top layer. But, if you’re worried about brittle nails, it’s best to skip the buffing.


Step 2: Wrapping

removal of gel nail polish

It’s time to apply the soaked cotton to your nails. Use the plastic wrap to secure the acetone. It should be tight but comfortable enough to sit for 10-15 minutes.

Before you remove every wrap, test one nail, preferably the one you wrapped first. If most or all of the polish is gone, remove the remainder. If there’s some leftover, you can wipe the polish away with a warm cloth.

Remember to moisturize those nails afterward to limit any irritation caused by the acetone.

Related: Nail Polish Remover Alternatives


Now you can stop asking yourself, “Can I take off gel nails using nail polish remover?” Two simple steps, with some prep work, and your fading gel nails are gone. Now that your old gel nails are out, maybe it’s time for a fresh gel coat?

Whatever your nail plan, remember to keep the nail moisturizer handy so that your nails can keep up with your style choices.

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