Gel polish and acrylic removal at home…

With salons closed once again due to lockdown, here’s how to safely remove your nail enhancements without damaging your nails.

Firstly; all gels are not equal. Some hard gel products will not remove with solvent so no amount of soaking in acetone will remove them. These types of hard gel need to be very gently and patiently filed off. Your salon or technician should be contactable via email or social media and under the circumstances most should be more than happy to advise you on the best method of removal of their particular product.

The good news is that with a little patience, both gel polish and acrylic nails can be fairly easily soaked off with acetone without damaging your natural nails underneath.

Gel polish Removal

Firstly think about where you are going to do this. Acetone is a solvent and will dissolve a lot of household plastics, paints and varnishes. It can also damage fabrics so protect any precious surfaces really well with at least a thick towel or ideally work on a tray or another surface that won’t matter in the event of an acetone accident. It also has a fairly strong smell and pets (especially dogs) often really don’t like it so you might want to consider that if you have fur-babies at home.

You will need:
Emery board
Buffing block
100% acetone (available from most chemists)
Cotton wool pad disks (or some loose cotton wool)
Kitchen foil
Wooden orange stick or metal cuticle tool
Hand lotion and nail oil (If you don’t have nail oil; vaseline, olive or coconut oils are good alternatives)

Gel polish soak off occurs more quickly when everything is nice and warm so this time of year it is best to take the time to make little tin foil parcels on your finger tips rather than just dipping your cold fingertips in a bowl of freezing cold acetone.

Using a coarse buffing block or the rough side of an emery board, buff off the shiny top coat of your gel polish.

Cut two cotton wool disks into quarters then and separate the ply of each cotton wool quarter into two so that you have 16 thin segments of cotton wool. If you only have loose cotton wool or cotton wool balls; just tear off ten (not too thick) roughly fingernail sized sections.

Cut out ten kitchen foil rectangles that are approx 6cm x 4cm. Wet your cotton wool segments with some of the acetone and place them one by one on to the nails of one hand securing by wrapping a piece of the foil around as tightly as you can. For quickest results you want to trap the product and the heat inside.

Wait 10-15 minutes then one at a time remove the foil parcels and gently scrape off the polish from the nail plate using an orange stick or metal cuticle tool. It should come away fairly easily. If not, they need a bit more time so re-wrap and check again in another 5-10 minutes. Some products will require more time than others and it’s worth being patient here otherwise you risk damaging your nails. Don’t be tempted to peel the polish as this almost always takes at least a tiny layer of nail with it and results in de-lamination (thin,soft,damaged nails).

It’s best to do one hand completely and then start the other. Unless you are very dextrous, you’ll find working on the other hand with the tin foil parcels on your working hand very fiddly and frustrating. Alternatively if you have disposable nitrile gloves, wrap the nails on your dominant (right if your right handed) hand first, pop a glove on that hand over the foil parcels to hold them in place whilst you do your other hand. (Nitrile rather than vinyl gloves as acetone dissolves vinyl).

Once you’ve scraped off the polish, depending on the brand of product, the surface of your nails may still feel a bit rough. This may just be a residue of base coat which is easily removed either by rubbing the nail plate with some acetone on a cotton pad or by buffing with a buffing block.

Next wash your hands with soap and water and apply some hand lotion paying particular attention to rubbing in the lotion into the nails and cuticles. Now apply the nail oil ( or vaseline, coconut or olive oil) and give it a good buff in with the softest side of the buffing block (or just massage it in with your fingers). This step is really important to replenish the natural oils in your nails. If you don’t do this, they will be very brittle and likely to break.

Acrylic Removal

Firstly think about where you are going to do this. Acetone is a solvent and will dissolve a lot of household plastics, paints and varnishes. It can also damage fabrics so protect any precious surfaces really well with at least a thick towel or ideally do it on a tray or another surface that won’t matter in the event of an acetone accident. It also has a fairly strong smell and pets (especially dogs) often really don’t like it so you might want to consider that if you have fur-babies at home.

If you’re doing it yourself you’ll need to do one hand at at time so allow plenty of time and don’t rush it.

You will need:
Emery board
Buffing block
100% acetone (available from most chemists)
Cotton wool pad disks (or some loose cotton wool)
2 bowls (one small & one larger)
Wooden orange stick or metal cuticle tool
Hand lotion and nail oil (If you don’t have nail oil; vaseline, olive or coconut oils are good alternatives)

Using a rough emery board; buff off as much of the of the gel polish from your acrylics (or remove it with acetone on a cotton pad if just regular nail polish). Some acrylic has the colour embedded – eg pink and white French – obviously if that is the case you only need to buff off the surface shine at this stage.

Make a bain-marie by pouring some acetone into the smaller bowl (enough to cover your fingertips) and some very hot water in the larger bowl. (Recently boiled but not boiling is best). Put the smaller bowl into the larger bowl of hot water so that the hot water heats up the acetone. The acetone wants to be as hot as you can bear it and may fizz a little at the start. Dip a finger in the acetone to check the temperature is bearable and as soon as it is, put all of your finger tips of one hand into the acetone and leave them there for a good 10-15 minutes. It’s best to be patient here so allow plently of time. (Have a cup of tea ready or pop the TV so you don’t get bored!)

After 10-15 minutes remove your finger tips from the bowl and start to gently push off the acryilc using an orange stick or metal cuticle tool.
Remove as much as you can and if you meet with resistence, pop them back in for a few more minutes. Products vary and some will take longer than others due to composition and thickness of application. Expect to have to repeat the process a few times. This is normal. Take your time and be gentle otherwise you risk damaging your nails. Don’t be tempted to peel as this almost always takes at least a tiny layer of nail with it and results in de-lamination (thin, soft, damaged nails). You may need to replenish the hot water when it cools down.

Once all of the acrylic product is removed, the surface your nails may still feel a bit rough. If that’s the case try rubbing them with a cotton wool pad soaked in acetone or gently buffing away any residue with a buffing block until they feel nice and smooth.

Next wash your hands with soap and water and apply some hand lotion paying particular attention to rubbing in the lotion to the nails and cuticles. Now apply your nail oil (or vaseline, coconut or olive oil) and give it a good buff in with the softest side of the buffing block (or just massage it in with your fingers). This step is really important to replenish the natural oils in your nails. If you don’t do this, they will be very brittle and likely to break.