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Image / Beauty

The expert guide to safely removing your gel nails


by Holly O'Neill
31st Mar 2020
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If you must.


Okay, people. We’re adjusting to our new reality. The entire house has become an office. We might never wear make-up again! Bras are gone! When are you supposed to eat the banana bread we’re all baking? Is it a lunch thing? Do you have it for breakfast? Is it a dessert? So many questions. One thing is for sure. I cannot truly settle into my new isolation life until I have removed these gel nails.

If you’ve had nail extensions applied, or have acrylic or gel nails that need removal, you must not pick them off. Don’t do it! Your hands are ravaged enough from all the washing without adding zombie nails to the mix. Thankfully, Pamela Laird, founder of problem-solving hero beauty products Moxi Loves and nail guru, has sent some steps to help us safely remove our nails at home.

Removing acrylic or gel polish

“If you have acrylic or gel polish, these are both soak off products and can be removed with acetone,” says Pamela. “If you have nail extensions, cut the length down first before you begin – this will speed up the removal time. File the shine off each nail using a rough file. You can either fill the base of a glass or a ceramic bowl (not plastic as the acetone will erode through) with the acetone or use cotton wool soaked in acetone and wrap around each nail and secure in place with some foil. I recommend doing one hand at a time. As the acrylic/gel polish is soaking, gently push off the product using an orangewood stick or cuticle stick. Do this in the direction of the nail growth and away from the cuticle. Once the bulk of the product is gone you may notice your nail is rough so using a soft nail buffer, gently buff across the surface of the nail to smooth the texture. Apply a coat of a nail treatment or base coat. This is so important, as your nails are used to being protected by the acrylic or gel polish so do not leave them exposed – especially with all the handwashing!

Gelish Nourish Cuticle Oil, €15

Removing gel nails

“Removal of gel nails is not so easy at home as gel does not soak in acetone so the only way to remove gel is to file it off. This can be tricky at home as it requires a rough file and lots of care and patience. A better idea is to file the length down or cut them down as much as you can. This takes the pressure off the nail and will prevent bad breakages! Once the length is down, you can file the surface of the nail to ‘thin out’ the gel coating. I would suggest you do this and not fully remove the gel, using a base coat you can cover over the gap and pop a nice colour on to disguise the regrowth. Try a matte base coat that acts like a ridge filler – Sally Hansen Nail Rehab is perfect for this!”

Sally Hansen Nail Rehab Strengthener, €10.99

“The main tip is your nails will need all the TLC you can give them, so give them some extra hydration by using cuticle oils and hand creams to maintain the moisture levels. Your nails don’t breathe so don’t make the mistake of leaving your nails completely bare, nails prefer protection so keep a nice layer of something on at all times.”

Photography by @overglowedit.

Read more: Stop saving things for ‘special occasions’. Now is the time to light that fancy candle

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Read more: IMAGE Round Table: are you wearing make-up while you work from home?