Gel manicures easily promise a chip-resistant look, but to remove gel manicures can be extremely challenging on your own. And while peeling and picking off polish seems to be a good way to remove your color at home, such actions can really wreck your nails in the process.
The salon method of removal is proven to be effective, but it can be costly if you find yourself getting gels pretty often. To save yourself some time and cash, using the help of nail polish removers can be a valid option, especially since recent improved formulas easily work to remove even the most bulletproof of gel formulas.
While you could grab your favorite remover, it’s important to use pure acetone-based formulas, as Cutex chemist Frank Busch finds that such removers can lift gel polishes with ease. But while nail polish removers can easily step in and get the job done, there’s there’s a proper way to utilize your remover, which makes sure all gel color is removed.
1. File First
Unlike peeling or picking your nails, filing your nails before using nail polish remover is recommended. Files help remove the shiny layer of top coat that keeps the gel intact for 14 solid days.
“Use an emery board to lightly buff each nail,” says Skyy Hadley, celebrity manicurist and owner of As U Wish Nail Salon over email. “This helps remove the shiny top coat from your nails, leaving them with a powdery finish.”
But as you file, make sure you don’t hit the nail bed in the process. Over-buffing your nails can only leave them scratched and damaged, explains celebrity manicurist, Elle Gerstein via email. For proper filing, just be sure to break the top coat layer, so your acetone remover can work effectively.
“When filing, you don’t have to touch the nail bed, you just have to break the first layer so the acetone can penetrate the gel,” Gerstein says.
2. Soak With Caution
Once you’ve filed off the top protective layer of your gel color, it’s time to soak your nails acetone. As previously stated, it’s wise to use acetone polish remover, being that the ingredients found in gel colors, make them hard to remove.
“To remove UV-cured coatings (like gel, lacquer, shellac) acetone-based nail polish remover is most effective,” says Cutex chemist Frank Busch via email. “Polish removers that are listed as 100 percent acetone actually don’t work as well as 97 percent acetone, because the acetone evaporates so quickly.”
To start the removal process, Busch explains you’ll want to soak a cotton ball in your remover, and saturate the nail for three to five minutes. This allows your acetone to penetrate and remove your color, without any damage.
And while it’s true that removing your gel color definitely takes some time, you can surely speed up the process by using foils and heat. Yes, polish is flammable, but Gerstein says the process is totally safe, if you use a heating pad. Wrap your cotton ball-covered tips in strips of tin foil, then place your hands on a heating pad.
3. Gently Scrape
If you find that your color isn’t completely lifted after soaking, you’ll want to grab a wooden stick to help aid the removal process.
“After soaking nails for five to seven minutes, the gel should be soft enough to remove with an orange stick,” says nail expert and NCLA founder Elin Dannerstedt via email. “Afterwards, gently scrape the entire gel layer off of the nail.”
4. Don't Forget To Moisturize
After the gel has been completely removed, it’s important to replenish lost moisture to your nails. Gel polishes can be extremely drying, and the removal process can be ultimately damaging to nail health. For a beneficial boost of moisture, using a nourishing cuticle oil can easily re-hydrate nails from the harsh (and dehydrating) effects of acetone.
“Wash your hands and apply a cuticle oil to the nail and cuticle,” says Skyy Hadley via email. “This will rehydrate your nails after using acetone, keeping them strong and healthy between polishes.” After that, your nails are ready for another fresh mani!
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