Many of the reasons why gel manicures are so fantastic — they're long-lasting, shiny, protective, and scratch-free — are the exact same reasons they're hard to remove. And, if you're away from the salon? It becomes that much more difficult. Luckily, the best gel polish removers make quick work of removing a professionally-applied gel mani or pedi from the comfort of your own home. In order to maintain the structural health of your nails, using the right ingredients and taking the correct amount of time is really important.
Unfortunately, a regular nail polish remover isn't going to cut it. Because gel manicures are applied in layers and cured under UV or LED lamps, the polish won't just rub off in one quick go.
Rule number one: Do. Not. Peel. I repeat, do not peel. I'm basically the queen of fiddling with my nails, so I completely understand the temptation. But you must resist because peeling off gel manis and pedis can really mess with your nail beds and surfaces (think: long-lasting scratches...no thanks). Rule number two: Hydrate. Cuticle oil and moisture-rich creams are your best friend when you're doing a gel removal process because those harsh chemicals can be pretty dehydrating.
But, sit back and relax. If you can't get to the salon, here are the best gel nail polish removers you can use at home. Everything you need is gathered up below.
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1. The Easiest & Most Effective Option: Teenitor Acrylic Nail Polish Remover Clips
This top-rated set comes with 20 pieces of reusable plastic toenail and fingernail clips that securely hold an acetone-soaked cotton ball firmly against the nail to ensure the best, most effective gel polish removal. While this set doesn't come with the actual polish-removing formula (see below for our recommendation), it's easily the best tool out there for successfully removing all of the polish from each nail. Since it'll last you forever, you're saving money, and it only takes about 10-15 minutes for the process to work its magic.
According to one reviewer: "Wonderful product! Helps so much with taking GEL nail polish off without effort. No mess, just simply soak cotton in acetone and use the nail clips to keep in secure. They stay on as long as needed."
2. The Best Foil Nail Wraps: ECBASKET Gel Nail Polish Remover Foils
A foil option is the most common gel polish removal technique that you'll read about, for a couple reasons. It's generally pretty affordable, easy to do, and super convenient to travel with — this package, in particular, comes with 100 pieces, which is a major bang for your buck. After applying acetone-soaked cotton pads (see the recommendations below) to your fingernails or toenails, you then wrap them in foil, allowing the process to begin while keeping everything secure and in place. This kit eliminates the hassle (and mess) of having to cut your own aluminum foil and keep the cotton in place. To ensure not a single drop of polish remains, we recommend following up the process with a nail pusher, which is included in this set.
According to one reviewer: "I don't use gel polish often, mainly because, while it is great, removing it is a drag. These wraps do the job without the mess and also without wasting tons of acetone. I may be more inclined to use gel polish on a more regular basis now."
3. The Best Cuticle Pusher: Sally Hansen Gel Be Gone Nail Polish Removal Tool
It's all in the name with this nifty removal tool — gel polish will be gone when you use this handy, plastic remover that gently pushes acetone-soaked gel away from the nails, pulling it away from your nail in a clean motion. And it's double ended, so you can use it to push back cuticles, too. This isn't a method on its own, of course, but it's a recommended last step in any gel polish removal process to erase any trace of the manicure that was once there.
According to one reviewer: "I purchased metal gel polish remover sticks and they are not as good as this one. The design is perfect and does not damage your real nail when pushing off polish. Great product for those that like to do their own gel polish at home."
4. The Best Gel Remover Polish: AIKKER Magic Gel Nail Polish Remover
For an easy and fast way to remove gels, this magic polish remover is a great pick. First, buff your nails down to remove the top coat layer. Then apply a thick coat of this polish and let it dry. Wait for several minutes for it to dry and then begin pushing back the gels with a cuticle pusher (like the one above!). You get two bottles of this gel remover for just $12, a fantastic deal on an effective way to remove your favorite nails. Even better? Since you just need a cuticle pusher, a nail buffer, and the polish, you can bring it with you anywhere.
According to one reviewer: "A miracle in a bottle! Just buff off a little of the top coat....Then apply one to two coats and it starts bubbling within minutes. I leave it on for about 5 mins and it comes right off."
5. The Best Drill For Filing Down Gels: MZCMSL Fine Ceramic Nail Drill Bit
As a pre-soak step, you'll need to file down your nails first. And, while you can often get away with using a traditional nail buffer, nail drill bits like this one make fast work out of filing down your gels before you can soak them. Simply attach this drill bit to your home drill and you can use it to quickly buff away the top coat of your manicure. Many Amazon reviewers swear this is the key to getting the smoothest post-acrylic nails, with much less effort.
According to one reviewer: "It files away acrylic, gel, your sins..lol seriously though I love it and it leaves my acrylic nails so smooth. Have had this drill bit like 7 months I think and it is still bomb!! I like to use this bit to file down my acrylics before soaking them works very well!! Doesn’t get dull like at all still works perfectly fine."
You May Also Need: Cotton Balls
An essential for any at-home gel removal? Cotton balls. This pack of 100 organic cotton balls is a fantastic item to have stowed away under your bathroom sink or in your cabinet, and many reviewers love using them to remove their nail polish. Simply soak them in acetone and place them on each finger, before wrapping in foil (or in the plastic finger clips above). Wait around 10 to 15 minutes and then remove.
According to one reviewer: "I use them for nail polish remover (and soaking off gel polish), and they work great. I can usually remove all my regular polish with just 1-2 cotton balls."
You May Also Need: Acetone Nail Polish Remover
If you don't already have it stocked, you'll want to pick up some acetone gel nail polish remover. For most methods on this list, you'll need to apply regular nail polish remover to cotton balls and then hold them over your nails to wear down the gel before you push it off your nails. This one comes highly-rated with rave reviews from nearly 2,000 fans on Amazon.
According to one reviewer: "Does the job SOAKING off my gel nails, nice amount. What else can I say, it is "Pure Acetone" and there it is. Takes off REGULAR nail polish great too with just a cotton ball."
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