There are a ton of upsides to getting a gel manicure. Your nails look sleek, they’re dry when you leave the salon (so there’s no risk of messing them up when you go to get your car keys), and they have a longer life than regular manicures. However, we’ve all been there — they finally start to chip and you can’t resist picking at them. The next thing you know, your nails are thin, peeling and damaged. Here’s how to take off a gel manicure at home without damaging your nails! 

Grab a kit

There are several kits on the market that are curated to specifically remove gel manicures. You can find these at Target, Ulta, or even Amazon. 

One that’s not too expensive is the Red Carpet Manicure Remover Kit, which retails for $10

Do it yourself

If you frequently get gel manicures or don’t feel like dropping the cash for a kit, you can easily remove them with things you already have at home. 

Step 1: Grab a nail file

Using a coarse file, gently (and slowly) file off the top layer of the gel. You want to file just enough that the shine goes away, and make sure you don’t file too far into the color. 

Step 2: Soak some cotton balls or cotton pads

Cotton balls are preferable because they hold polish remover better and are closer to the size and shape of nails, but cotton pads will work just fine. Soak the cotton balls/pads in your polish remover. Try to avoid removers with moisturizing ingredients, as these will make the soaking process take longer! 

Step 3: Cut some foil

Cut some aluminum foil into little strips, but make sure they’re big enough to wrap around your nail with a cotton ball/pad on top of it. You’re going to use the aluminum foil to secure the cotton ball/pad that is soaked with polish remover on top of your nail. Wrap all of your fingers, and let them soak for 10-15 minutes. If you’re using 100% acetone, you might want to protect your cuticles before you do this step. Try putting cuticle oil or a thick cream around your cuticle and the skin surrounding your nails. Acetone is very drying, and this will help protect your skin! 

Alternative step: Or try THESE!

If you don’t feel like dropping the cash on a kit but foil isn’t appealing to you either, try grabbing these nifty things from Amazon!


They remove all the hassle of cutting individual foil strips, and come with their own set of wipes. They retail for $8, and they have prime shipping available.

Step 4: It’s showtime! 

Pull the foils off while applying slight pressure to the nail. If there is any gel polish remaining, use a nail stick to gently remove it. Place the nail stick under the remaining polish, the idea is to gently lift it off of your nail bed. If the polish isn’t lifting easily, this is a sign that you didn’t soak your nails long enough.

After you remove your polish, you might find your nails are super dry from all of the acetone. If you’re not reapplying gel polish immediately after, try soaking your nails in coconut oil, or applying some cuticle cream. If you’re planning on redoing your manicure after the removal process, wait until your nails are done to apply any type of oil or cream.