Gel Nail Polish

How to Remove Gel Nail Extensions

How to Remove Gel Nail Extensions

  • Tuesday, 14 July 2020
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To remove your gel nail extensions, also called gel overlays, it's important to focus on keeping your nails healthy and undamaged. After you trim your nail extensions and soak the gel in acetone, scrape off the gel very gently using your finger or a cuticle pusher. By not scraping too forcefully and moisturizing your nails and hands once the gel is removed, your nails will be gel-free and healthy.

Part 1

Trimming and Filing the Nails

Remove any embellishments on your nails using nail clippers. These include things like jewels or other bling on top of your gel nails that need to be removed before soaking them. Use nail clippers to take off the embellishments, or remove them with your fingers if possible.


Trim your nail extensions to just above your real nails. Use nail clippers to cut off the ends of the fake nails. Be careful not to clip too close to your nail bed if you only want to remove the nail extensions and keep your real nails at their regular length.

Look at the underside of your nails to see where your real nail meets the nail extension.


File off the top coat of gel on each nail gently to get to the base coat. Do this using an e-file, which is an electronic file used for buffing, sanding, and polishing acrylic or gel nails, if you have one. If not, use a regular nail file to gently remove the gel coat so that the base coat is exposed. The base coat is often an opaque white color that’s lighter than your real nail.

Watch out for your cuticles when you’re filing so that you don’t damage them.

Avoid going over the same spot on your nail with the file more than a few times—you don’t want to file straight through to your natural nail.

Filing the gel coat off of your nails will make it easier for the acetone to penetrate the base coat.

Part 2

Soaking Your Nails in Acetone


Cut 10 pieces of foil that are roughly 3 in (7.6 cm) in width and height. Use scissors to cut the aluminum foil, which will wrap around your nails to hold the acetone in place. Cut the pieces of foil so that they're large enough to wrap around your finger securely.


Soak 10 cotton balls in acetone and place one on each nail. Use regular cotton balls or cotton pads cut in half. Soak each piece of cotton in acetone so it’s thoroughly drenched and won’t dry out. Hold a cotton ball or cotton pad on your nail.

Cutting round cotton pads in half will make it easier to fit them around each nail.

When positioning the piece of soaked cotton, make sure your entire nail will be saturated, including the tip.


Wrap aluminum foil around each finger to hold the acetone in place. Take a square of aluminum foil and wrap it around the piece of cotton so it won’t move. Twist the end of the foil and wrap it under your nail so it’s nice and tight. Do this to each nail until all of your gel nails are covered in soaked cotton balls and foil.

Wrap the foil tightly around each nail so that the acetone won’t evaporate.


Wait for 10-15 minutes to let the acetone penetrate the gel. How long you let the acetone soak is up to you, but waiting roughly 10 minutes before checking should allow enough time for the gel to begin to come off. Set a timer to help you remember when it’s time to check on your nails.

Some people remove the foil after just 5 minutes while others wait 20 minutes. How long it takes for the gel to loosen will depend on the type of nail extensions as well as the gel application.


Remove the foil and gently scrape off any loosened gel from your nails. Take off the foil and cotton balls to look at your nails, setting the foil and cotton aside to possibly use again. Use your finger or a cuticle pusher to gently scrape off gel that has loosened due to the acetone. Avoid aggressively trying to remove the gel—if it isn’t coming off easily, it needs to be soaked again.

The gel around your cuticle will likely loosen first.


Soak your nails in acetone again for 5-10 minutes to remove any leftover gel. Place the cotton balls back on your fingers, wrapping the foil around each nail again to keep the cotton ball in place. Set a timer for another 5-10 minutes to let the acetone continue soaking off the gel.

Touch the cotton balls to see if they’re still wet with acetone or if they need to be soaked again.


Take off any remaining gel using your fingers or a cuticle pusher. After you’ve soaked your nails for a second time, remove the foil and cotton balls. Gently scrape off the remaining gel using a cuticle pusher, or your fingers if the gel is super loose.

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