How To Remove Gel Nails Without Damaging Your Real Nails

How To Remove Gel Nails Without Damaging Your Real Nails

How To Remove Gel Nails Without Damaging Your Real Nails

How To Remove Gel Nails Without Damaging Your Real Nails

At-home gel manicures are nothing new. The concept of a gel manicure was introduced in the 1980s. After a brief break from the gel market in the 90s, nail salons and beauty companies started painting this revolutionary product back onto the fingers of beauty lovers everywhere at the turn of the 21st century. 

The 2000s saw innovation in gel polish like never before. Ever since, this quality nail product has only grown in popularity. Today, gel nails are offered at almost every reputable nail salon and are available as an at-home manicure option.

Whether you are new to gel nail manicures or not, you have definitely seen a gel manicure slowly picked apart a fidgeting finger. It’s okay; regrettably, we’ve all been there. We’ve all picked and shredded our perfect manicures at some point to get through a long line or a boring meeting, especially before we knew any better. 

But what if we told you that removing a gel manicure without the proper tools can cause damage to your nails? Normally the process, when done right, is painless and easy. However, improper removal can make the process painful and unpleasant. 

So how do you remove these trendy manicures safely to ensure your natural nail stays at its peak? We’ve broken down a step-by-step process to make the removal process as easy as applying. It should be quick and painless and leave you itching to order your next set.

What Tools Do I Need?

Everything you need to remove gel nail polish properly you might already have lying around your house. We’ll list what you’ll need for both a traditional gel manicure removal as well as what you’d need to remove a simple at-home gel set.

Cotton Balls/Cotton Pads

These are normally used with acetone to rub away normal polish simply. In this case, you will need to soak them with acetone and rest them on gel polish to get it off. Cotton balls or a cotton pad are cheap and widely available at almost any drugstore. 


Aluminum foil is used to wrap around a soaked cotton ball and keep it pressed to your nail plate. If you don’t have any tin foil at home, you can easily find this at any grocery store.

Acetone Gel Nail Polish Remover

Using acetone, whether pure acetone or in the form of acetone nail polish remover, necessary to avoid peeling when you’re removing gel nails.

Cuticle Pusher/Cuticle Stick

Use one of these for -nail care after removing your gels to reset your nail and attend to any overgrown cuticles. You may also want a coarse nail file nearby.

Nail Remover

A drop or two of this along the edge of any manicure will begin to loosen the gel and make it loads easier to get underneath and pop it right off. Our Easy Peel Remover does just this.

Cuticle Oil/Nail Oil

Here is another tool to remoisturize any dried or irritated cuticle or the nail plate itself after the removal. Our Pro Nourishing Nail Oil is the perfect one to try — skip the petroleum jelly and choose something made just for your nails.

You don’t need every single one of these tools to remove your gel mani, but we recommend these tools to do it safely. These are vital if you are a constant nail wearer of any kind. Keep those natural nails healthy for a continued positive nail experience — trust us.

Why You Shouldn’t Peel Your Gel Nails

The reason that proper removal is so important comes down to what you’re really doing when you enter the peeling frenzy and just can’t stop. Unlike regular polish, which is easily chipped away or removed with some acetone and cotton pad. Gel polish is hardened under a UV or LED light that is quite literally chemically bonding to your nail plate.

This is why gel manicures last so much longer than your average polish and why the infamous lift begins when those 2-3 weeks of fabulous wear runs out. The instinct to pick and peel at those lifts around the edge is addictive, but knowing just exactly what’s happening to your natural nail when you force that chemical bond apart might stay those peel-happy fingers of yours. 

When you rip away fading gel before its time, you’re not just removing the gel but a layer of your natural nail along with it. That’s why, after the gel massacre is over, your nail plates look like they have been taken through a paper shredder and why your nail beds can sometimes even feel sore when the new polish is being cured over them. Unfortunately, once the damage to your nails has been done, nothing can repair them except for waiting for the shredded nails to grow out. 

Can you believe all that time waiting for fresh nails could be avoided? And all you need is a few moments to properly remove the old ones.The know-how of the removal process is the best way to ensure the future of your nail health isn’t on the line. Let’s get to removing.

The Process of Removing Gel Nails

Now that you’ve got all the necessary tools to take proper care of your nails, the process becomes really quite simple. 

Gel Polish

Grab any nail file and buff off the top layer of your gel mani. This allows the acetone to penetrate past the top coat and into the gel itself. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to take acetone-soaked cotton balls or cotton pads and rest them over each buffed nail.

Use small pieces of aluminum foil to secure these in place by wrapping them around your fingertips — And now you wait. Watch your favorite show, take a power nap, and go for a run if you feel like it. Anything to pass the time while the acetone does its thing. 

Once enough time has passed, remove the cotton balls and scrape away all the loosened gel. This process also works the same for the removal of acrylic nails. After all that gel has been scraped off, you care for your nail plate and cuticles by remoisturizing them with the nail oil and cuticle oil.

Acetone dryies things out. Wash with warm water and get your skincare on by using your favorite moisturizer too. And once you’ve done that, rejoice. Your nails are fresh and ready for their next adventure.

Gel Strips

We think this process is a little bit simpler than removing gel polish, but we’ll let you decide once you’ve tried it. For gel strips, making use of that Easy Peel Remover or something like it will make this a sinch. 

Crack open the bottle and drip a few droplets of the solution onto the cuticle area of the nail. Using any sort of cuticle stick or tool will make getting under that loosened gel a million times easier. We think you’ll find the rest of the process a breeze.

The cuticle stick can be used to gently pick up all the edges from your natural nail and loosen them enough to come off easily. Once you’ve loosened the gel enough, the gel strip should pop right up. Complete the removal process by reintroducing moisture to your cuticles, nail plate, and your hands if that’s the kind of self-care you’re craving. We won’t stop you; we know the importance of you time.

Nails for the Long Haul

How To Remove Gel Nails Without Damaging Your Real Nails

And just like that, the days of frenzied peeling and trigger-happy fingers are a thing of the past. No longer will you be tempted to worsen your nail health for the momentary satisfaction of removing your gel polish in one piece. No longer will you lower yourself into the depth of nail depravity — and we applaud you for it. 

Now, with your newfound confidence in nail know-how, you can get out there into the big wide world of nails and strut your stuff, knowing your natural nails will be thanking you all the way. And hey, if you need a good place to pick up your nail journey of at-home manicures, we’ve got more than a few solid sets to set you up for success.

If you’re new to the nail journey, we’d be happy to get you started. With your first purchase of any ohora nails, you can get a free UV nail gel lamp when you sign up at



Guilty of peeling off your gel mani? This is what it's really doing to your nails | Glamour 


Peeling Nails: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention | Healthline

What Is Self-Care and Why Is It Critical for Your Health? | Everyday Health