Gel Polish Removal Tips and Tricks

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In my opinion, gel polish is the best nail polish! It lasts 2 weeks with high shine and very little (if any) wear and tear. Buuuut, gel polish removal is a beast. It’s definitely worth it to me, but having to soak my nails for 15-20 minutes can definitely be annoying. If you have several coats or have glitter, it can make removal even longer.

10 Tips and Tricks for Gel Polish Removal

Yes, gel polish removal is a beast. Here are some gel polish removal tips and tricks that can hopefully solve all of your removal woes.

Tip #1: Removal Technique

The foil method is the most popular removal technique for gel polish and it definitely works. But, I find it a little tedious having to cut the cotton balls and foil every time. Plus, I always need my husband’s help to wrap those last few fingers. Rather than using foil, you can cover the cotton balls with silicone page turners. This means no cutting foil and they are a bit easier to get on the fingers. Personally, I think the absolute best technique is Nail Mates for Gel Polish Removal. They are awesome!

Tips and Tricks for gel polish removal. Choose the right removal technique.

Tip #2: Find the Right Brand

Some brands are just easier to remove than others. CND Shellac (UV cure only), Couture, and IBD tend to have the easiest removals. Removal depends the most on the base coat, so you only need to try different brands for the base coat, not necessarily the whole gel manicure.

Tips and Tricks for gel polish removal. Choose the right base coat.

Tip #3: Easy Removal = Less Wear

Usually easier removal means less wear. IBD base coat removes VERY easily, but on me it only lasts 5 days at the most (this is without the IBD PowerBond). I personally would rather have to soak a bit longer/have a slightly more difficult removal, but have nails that look perfect for 2 weeks. Decide what is most important to you and wear accordingly. If you want a long lasting (but slightly more difficult to remove) base coat, I suggest Gelish foundation.

Tip #4: Use Regular Nail Polish as a Base Coat

If you use regular nail polish as a base coat, you will still have to soak off your gel polish manicure with acetone, but it will go MUCH faster. You will sacrifice longevity though so be aware of that. Also, I used black nail polish for this picture because it was the only regular nail polish I have. 🙂 If you use regular nail polish as a base coat, try using clear nail polish or a nude polish.

Tips and Tricks for gel polish removal. Use regular nail polish as a base coat.

Tip # 5: Bonder Only On Tips

Many gel polish brands have a bonder that they suggest you use before putting on base coat. IBD has PowerBond, OPI has Bond Aid, and Gelish has pH BOND. If you use it on your whole nail and have a hard time with removal, try only using the bonder on the tips. This should speed up removal. I, personally, don’t use bonder at all. I just cleanse the nail with a lint free alcohol wipe and let it dry before applying the base coat.

Tip #6: Don’t Buff The Nail

For a gel polish manicure, you usually start by buffing the nails with a 220 grit buffer; however, some people don’t need to buff the nail at all for a gel polish manicure. Buffing makes the manicure last longer, but you really only need to buff the new growth, not the whole nail. You might be one of the lucky people that doesn’t have to buff at all. Try it out. If your manicure lasts even after all of the buffed nail has grown out, then you don’t ever have to buff again. Lucky you. 🙂

Tips and Tricks for gel polish removal. Don't buff the nail before painting on gel polish.

Tip #7: Use Pure Acetone for Removal

Use pure acetone to remove gel polish. Acetone with glycerin added is better for your cuticles, but it can make removal take much longer. Try using pure acetone and check out my tips for re-hydrating your nails and cuticles after a gel polish removal.

Tips and Tricks for gel polish removal. Use pure acetone for removal.

Tip #8: Apply Heat

Heat can definitely speed up a gel polish removal. Use a microwavable eye mask for this. Just microwave it for 30 seconds, then set it over your nails while they are soaking.

Tip #9: Protect Cuticles

Cover cuticles with lotion or aquaphor before soaking in acetone. This will keep cuticles from drying out too much. Rub lotion in a little, but you don’t need to rub it in completely. Also, if you apply cuticle oil to nails and cuticles immediately after soak off, it will really help to keep nails hydrated.

Tips and Tricks for gel polish removal. Put lotion on cuticles during removal to protect them from the acetone.

Tip #10 Don’t Make Base Coat Too Thin

You do need to use thin coats when using gel polish, but if you make the base coat too thin, it can make removal a bigger pain than it needs to be. Make sure your base coat is on thin, but not too thin.

Two things to remember: 1-Easier removal usually means the manicure doesn’t last as long so decide which one is more important to you and go that route. 2-Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Use cuticle oil and hand cream to keep your nails hydrated and your natural nails are sure to stay strong.

If you have any other tips, I’d love to hear them! I’m always on the lookout for more ideas to cut down removal time. If you have any questions after reading this post, please feel free to email them to me at or message me on facebook. Happy removing! 🙂

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Hi, I'm Kirstylee. I'm a wife, mom, and lover of all things gel polish. I started this blog to share my knowledge and make new friends. :)