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

Let’s face it. When it comes to removing acrylic and gel nails, we’re usually resigned to the fact it’s going to be a faff. Whether we’ve started to pick them off (don’t judge, you’ve done it too) and are left drowning in our own lacquered debris or are grimacing at the thought of forking out an extra tenner to get them professionally removed, it’s just not our favourite thing.

But fear not, as we’ve curated an easy step-by-step routine that will take you from peeling polish to beautifully bare in as little as 15 minutes. Plus, when you’ve bought the necessary products once, you’ll have enough for more than just a few removals, meaning more bang for your buck. Trust us, it’s worth it for strong natural nails.

From the basics to our tried and tested tools and expert-approved aftercare, we’ve got you covered. Watch our tutorial on how to remove gel nails and read the step-by-step below for everything you need to know.

What are gel nails?

First things first, let’s brush up on our gel nail knowledge. Gel nails consist of a base coat, a polish colour and a top coat that are cured by an LED or UV lamp (depending on the brand). The results? Non-tacky nails that shine.

How long do gel nails last?

They tend to last around two weeks before they start to lift or chip. But unlike regular nail polish, gels don’t come off with a simple swipe of remover (cry!).

How often should you take a break from gel nails?

"When you ensure the correct maintenance and removal process, it’s not compulsory to have a break," says Naomi Bjorkhaug, professional manicurist. "However, if you notice your nails starting to feel weak, then I would recommend going polish-free until they become visibly stronger. I can’t express the importance of cuticle oil enough when it comes to maintaining strong, healthy nails."

How to remove gel nail polish

For great results, we’re reaching for the Mylee The Real Deal Gel Polish Kit, which is a must-have. As well as having everything you need for applying gel nails at home, it has the files and acetone needed for removal. It’s the ultimate multitasker! Just grab some cotton pads and tinfoil and you’re good to go.

Sit back, relax, and scroll on for all the info you need on how to remove gel nail polish at home.

1. Prep cotton pads and foil

First up, cut some cotton pads into small pieces, alongside some strips of tin foil.

2. Buff nails

Next, use the nail file to buff off the shiny top layer of your gel polish. Go gently – you don’t want to touch your natural nails. This can make them brittle and cause damage, which we’re avoiding.

3. Apply acetone

It’s important you use a nail polish remover with acetone. Mylee’s is perfect for this. Soak your first piece of cotton pad with the remover and apply onto a freshly buffed nail.

4. Wrap up

To keep the cotton pad in place, wrap a strip of the foil around your fingernail – press it on to make sure it won’t budge. Repeat for all nails.

5. Set your timer

Leave the wraps on for around 15 minutes. This should be enough to break down the gel polish.

6. Remove

It’s helpful to take out one finger first from its foil wrapping to check if the nail polish is lifting. If it’s ready, remove the foils and cotton pads from all your nails. To gently lift any excess, you can use a cuticle pusher, but never scrape at your natural nails as this could damage them. 

7. Cuticle care

We recommend finishing with cuticle oil. Mylee's is seriously hydrating. You can apply this daily to keep your nails feeling nourished and strong – and ready for your next gel application. 

So there we have it, a simple seven-step method to remove gel nails. And if you want to know how to apply them in the first place, check out our tutorial on how to apply gel nails . You’ll have salon-worthy fingers in an instant.

How can you remove gel nails without acetone?

While there are options out there, they generally aren’t as effective and you may risk damaging your natural nail.

"Acetone works to remove gel polish by breaking it down and stripping it from the nail," explains Naomi. "When used correctly, as part of the above tutorial, it won’t cause damage to the natural nail. In saying that, acetone can be drying, so again, it’s all about always following up with nourishing cuticle oils and hand creams. They’re a must for keeping your nails in the best condition."

What's the difference between gels & acrylics?

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 to remove acrylic nails at home

1. Trim

Use a nail clipper to carefully cut your acrylics, cutting them as close as possible to your real nail length.

2. Buff

Like with the gel removal, grab a nail buffer and rough up the surface of your polish until the shine is completely gone.

3. Soak

Next up, fill a nail soaking tray (a bowl will do) with acetone, then soak your nails for five to 10 minutes.

4. Remove

Gently test a nail with a cuticle stick or pusher. If nothing shifts, re-dip your nails for a further two to five minutes, then gently try again. Repeat the process until your acrylics have completely soaked off.

5. Aftercare

Just a few finishing touches to go! Rub away any stubborn pieces of acrylic with a nail buffer before filing into a shape of your choice. Round, oval, square – you decide. Now wash your hands and apply cuticle oil and hand cream.

See – that wasn’t so hard, was it? Looks like you’ve nailed it.