How to remove gel & acrylic nails at home

Because biting or peeling them off is never the answer...

Unlike regular nail polish, gels and acrylics don’t come off with a simple swipe of remover (cry!).

Although it requires a little bit of patience, removing them isn’t as tricky as you may think. To help keep your nails in tip-top condition, we’ve created a nail removal 101. Acetone at the ready!


What's the difference between gels & acrylics?

First things first, let’s brush up your nail vocab.

Perfect for a natural-looking manicure, gel nails are achieved in three simple steps. A base coat, a polish colour and a top coat. In-between each stage, the gel is cured under an LED or UV lamp (depending on the brand), to leave you with firm, non-sticky nails that shine. Gel nails tend to last around two weeks before they start to lift or chip, and only take half an hour (give or take) to apply.

What about acrylics? Warning: things are about to get a little technical. For acrylic nails, monomer liquid and polymer powder are combined to create a paste-like formula. This formula is then placed over a cured acrylic extension and left to set. After shaping and buffing, the acrylics are normally painted with a polish of your choice. They tend to last up to four weeks and are perfect for those who want to add length to their nails.


How do I remove gel nails?

Before you get to work, you’ll need to get your hands on some acetone. Why not try Sensationail Gel Polish Remover or Sensationail Remover Wraps?

There are two popular methods for removing gel nails – soaking and foils. We’ll cover soaking first.

Soaking method

Buff – using a nail buffer, rough up the surface of your gel polish until the shine is completely gone.

Soak – next up, fill a nail soaking tray (or an old bowl will do the trick) with acetone, then place your nails in the liquid for five to 10 minutes. Here’s a little tip for you – stand your bowl of acetone in a slightly bigger bowl of hot (not boiling) water. This should help speed up the process.

Remove – gently test a nail with a cuticle pusher to see if any gel polish has come away. If not, don’t stress. Just soak your nails for a further two to five minutes. Once you’re ready, remove the gel by gently scraping it with the cuticle pusher. Repeat the process until all the polish is removed.

Aftercare – you’re almost there! Finish off by buffing the nails to remove any residue, then filing them into a shape of your choice. Once you’ve washed your hands, re-hydrate with a splash of hand lotion and a touch of cuticle oil.


Foils method

This is ideal for people with dry or sensitive skin as there’s less contact with the acetone.

Buff – like with soaking, you’ll start by roughing up the surface of your gel polish until the shine is completely gone.

Foil up – next up, soak squares of cotton wool in acetone and place them carefully on each of your nails. Now wrap each fingertip in foil to keep the cotton wool in place (things may get a bit fiddly here). Leave for 10 minutes to soak. Heat will help speed up the process, so consider placing your hands in a towel or a set of oven gloves (hello, fashionista).

Remove – gently remove one foil and test a nail with a cuticle pusher to see if any polish will come away. If it’s being stubborn, place the nail back into the foil for a further two minutes, making sure the cotton wool pad is sitting on top of the nail and has enough acetone. When you’re ready, remove the gel by gently scraping it away, then continue until all the polish is removed.

Aftercare – we’