We all know that gel manicures are the best invention in the history of ever but making time to head back to the salon for the whole soak-off process can be a real drag. Which is why most of us have resorted to ripping off our gel polish on at least one occasion. But, while ripping the polish off yourself might seem like a quick and convenient removal technique it can actually cause some serious damage to your nails. The truth is the delicate layers of the nail plate are being stripped away with every tear of the polish (eep!). While the best option to ensure the health of your nails is to head back to your salon for proper removal, if you can’t make it in, there are a few easy-to-follow steps to get similar results at home. Here’s how to remove gel nail polish at home without destroying your nails.

Protect your cuticles:

First things first, protect those delicate cuticles! Acetone can wreak havoc on the skin around your nails so before you soak your hands add a little protection to the surrounding areas. You can try cuticle oil or even good old fashioned Vaseline!

Vaseline

Loosen up the top layer:

Before you soak take a coarse nail file and go over the top surface of all of your nails with a light pressure. This will help to break the tough, nearly impermeable gel top coat (hence the reason gel nails last so long!). Scratching the surface of this layer will help the acetone penetrate the polish easier, cutting down your soak-off time.

Give your nails a good soak:

Now that you’re ready to soak here’s how to do it the correct way.

Preparation is key so before you start, gather 12 cotton balls and cut out 12 pieces of aluminium foil squares to fit your nails (you only have 10 fingers but it helps to have extra supplies on hand!).

Once you’ve got your prep done start by applying acetone-drenched cotton balls to each nail. It is important to use acetone as it is stronger and more effective than a basic nail polish remover. Next, wrap each finger, along with the cotton balls, in foil. This will generate more heat and help the particles break down faster. If that sounds like loads of work then you can also invest in a set of these Nail Spa soak-off applicators at R50 from Planet Nails.

Nail soak

Because different gel polish formulas differ in strength, the soak-off time can vary from anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes. If you’re worried about not being able to use your hands for 20 minutes then try doing one hand at a time so you are still able to do basic tasks while you soak. Once you’re sure you’ve soaked your nails sufficiently grab a nail file (preferably a wooden orange stick) and gently scrape the layers to safely remove the polish from the nails. Use a light pressure and if you find a stubborn layer rather loosen it with another acetone soak than scrapping the nail bed too aggressively. Repeat this soaking and scraping method until you’ve safely removed all of the polish, including the base coat from your nails.

Don’t forget to moisturise:

Once you’re done soaking it’s important to wash off any traces of acetone from the hands and nails. For a real treat use an at-home hand scrub treatment to exfoliate the hands and leave them feeling super clean. Next, apply a good-quality cuticle oil to your cuticles and nail bed. Finish off with a rich hand cream to leave your hands and nails thoroughly treated.

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