How to Remove Gel Nail Polish in 5 Easy Steps:


Have you been put off using gel because you’re not sure how to remove gel nail polish? In this post i’m going to show you how to remove gel nail polish in 5 easy steps.

Here’s some simple instructions of how to remove gel nail polish:

First, buff your nails to remove shine. Next, soak cotton balls in acetone and put them on your nails. Wrap each nail in tin foil to keep the cotton ball on. After 15 minutes gently scrape away the polish with an orange stick. Repeat this process until all of the polish is removed.

Now that you know the steps, let’s take a look at how to remove gel nail polish in a little bit more detail.

What equipment do I need to remove gel nail polish?

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To remove your nail polish quickly and easily without damaging your nails you will need the following items:

A nail file or buffer.
Gel nail polish remover or acetone.
Cotton wool balls or pads (you can use lint-free wipes if your kit came with them).
Tinfoil (cut into thick strips) or plastic nail polish remover caps/clips.
Lots of patience!

What are the exact steps in detail for how I remove gel nail polish?


Start by gently buffing the surface of your nails to remove the shiny top layer of your manicure.

You need to do this so that the acetone will properly penetrate the gel polish. You might want to skip this step.

Don’t. If you skip the buffing step it will take twice as long to remove your gel nail polish!



Next, you need to soak a cotton wool ball or pad in the acetone or gel nail polish remover. A little tip for you.

Most gel nail polish removers are made of acetone (with a bit of fragrance thrown in). So, you can save yourself some money by just buying pure acetone, which is basically the same thing as the products that are advertised as gel nail polish removers.

Take the soaked cotton ball or pad (you can also use the lint-free wipes that come with a lot of gel nail kits for this step) and apply it directly to the surface of your nail.

If you are using tin foil, you will need to create a little wrap for your nail in order to hold the cotton ball in place. If you are using the plastic nail polish remover clips then simply clip those on top of the cotton ball at this point.

You can actually buy special foil wraps for removing gel nail polish but these are very expensive so I would recommend that you just make your own.

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Let your nails soak for at least 15 minutes. Then remove one of the foil wraps or clips (you can also buy silicone caps for this job) and take a look. You should see that most of the nail polish has begun to lift off on its own. Wipe away as much as you can with the cotton ball or pad.

If you are lucky, then all the nail polish will come off. However, there’s normally some polish left on my nails after I soak. If you have polish left on your nails you now have two options.

Scraping or re-soaking

You can either repeat the process and soak your nails for another 15 minutes (make sure you use fresh cotton pads if you do this). Or, if there is not much polish left on your nails then you can use a wooden orange stick to gently scrape off the remaining gel polish.

You need to be very gentle when doing this to avoid damaging your nails. You can get metal scrapers for removing gel nail polish but if you are at all concerned about nail damage you will probably want to avoid those. I find that the metal scrapers cause way too much damage to my natural nails.

What kind of nail polish remover do I need?

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Have a look at products that are advertised as gel nail polish removers. Most of them come in liquid form in a large plastic bottle. You could also get yourself some pre-soaked wraps that remove gel nail polish.

If you are looking for a cheaper alternative then you can buy pure acetone. Most commercial gel nail polish removers are mostly made up of acetone mixed with fragrance, and it works out a bit cheaper to buy pure acetone which does the job just as well.

How long does it take to remove gel nail polish?

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Like any job of this type, removing gel nail polish will get quicker the more you do it. Buffing off the shiny layer from the surface of your nails should take you around 5 minutes.

Then you need to soak your nails for at least 15 minutes. Allow yourself a further 15 minutes in case you need to soak them a second time. Factor in scraping time (about another 5 minutes).

If you add the buffing time, soaking time and scraping time together then you should be able to remove your gel nail polish in around 25 to 50 minutes.

Can I paint my nails again after removing gel nail polish?

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Yes, you can paint your nails with normal nail polish or gel nail polish again immediately after you have removed your gel polish. However, if you want to keep your natural nails in good condition you should give them a break for 2 to 3 weeks every few months.

Make sure that you prepare your nails properly before you apply your new colour. This means that you should file the edges and buff the surface of the nails, then wipe them with a nail prep wipe solution or rubbing alcohol. Don’t wash your hands immediately before you apply a fresh gel manicure as this can cause your natural nails to take on water and swell which can lead to peeling.

How to remove gel nail polish from natural nails.

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In short, to remove gel nail polish from natural nails you need to buff off the shiny top layer, then soak the nails in acetone for 15 minutes. Then wipe away the polish and scrape off any excess with a wooden orange stick.

The method described above for removing gel nail polish is an in-depth description. It tells you exactly how to remove gel nail polish from natural nails.

If you have gel nails then the process will be different as it will not involve the use of acetone.

Check out our guide on how to make your gel polish last longer

How to remove gel nail polish without foil?

To remove gel nail polish without foil, simply replace the foil. Try using some plastic nail polish remover clips or silicone caps. You can buy both of these cheaply on eBay or Amazon.


  • Phoebe Meadows

    Phoebe Meadows is a self-proclaimed nail addict, always on the lookout for the latest trends and techniques. When she's not creating stunning nail designs, you can find her researching the latest nail care products or experimenting with new techniques.