How to get it gel nail polish off

Removing gel nail polish quickly, safely and effectively

Ok, so it’s time for your gel polish to come off.

You undoubtedly foresee a daunting task ahead of you, but we PROMISE it will be quick and easy if you follow these DIY instructions on how to remove gel nail polish effectively.

Removing gel nail polish from your fingers or toes properly is essential for the health of your nails. This is because gel sticks to the nail plate, so if you pick or peel it off, you will also be tearing off the layers of the nail with it.

Picking or peeling your gel nails off can cause your nails to become paper-thin! Not only is this sore, but weak nails can also be one of the causes of gel polish chipping and peeling, so it is best if you don’t remove the gel from nails this way.

Eek! Don’t threaten; you can repair your nails with the IBX nail strengthening treatment if you read that advice too late.

Will these soak-off instructions work with any nail system?

Yes, these gel nail removal instructions will work for any gel nail brand, such as CND Shellac, The Gel Bottle, Artistic Colour Gloss, OPI or Gelish.

This guide is also helpful for soaking off gel polish on your feet.

Will this work for acrylic nail removal?

Yes, but it will take much longer, and you may find it easier using a soak-off bowl with a warm water bowl underneath it. You will also have to scrape off the acrylic every 10 minutes and put them back in the bowl.

What about hard gel?

Unfortunately not; hard gels are not porous and won’t soak off; they must be buffed off, so please be careful!

In the future, stick to gel or Shellac polish, as those products are much easier to remove.

If you are wondering if you have hard gel on, ask your nail technician if they have applied any of the following hard gel products: IBD Hard gel, Gelish PolyGel or Young Nails Hard Gel.

Before you start

Items you will need before you remove gel nails:

The product used to remove gel nails is called Acetone. Bottles of Acetone, or ‘Gel Nail Remover’ or ‘Gel Polish Remover’, contain 100% Acetone and are the only effective way to remove gel polish, polygel and acrylics.

Ordinary nail polish remover will not effectively remove gel polish because it comprises only 30-60% acetone. [1]

  • Acetone (what takes off gel polish)
  • Tinfoil
  • Nail file
  • Cotton pads or wool
  • Tweezers
  • Glass dappen dish or anything similar that is acetone resistant
  • Cuticle stick or pusher
  • Kitchen roll or couch roll
  • Towel

Items that aren’t necessary but make the process quicker and easier:

  • Hot water bottle, heated mitts or heated beanbag to speed up the process
  • Nail clips to keep the foils in place

Health and Safety

Before you start your Shellac or gel removal, there are some essential things to note for your safety and the safety of others. Acetone is used to remove gel nails, but please remember, Acetone is a chemical substance and must be used with care.

  • Acetone is highly flammable. Heating to extreme temperatures will cause a rise in pressure with the risk of bursting.
  • Acetone will melt specific containers by damaging the plastic’s surface, softening it, or even dissolving it.
  • Clearly label your acetone and store the substance in a cool, dark, locked cupboard out of reach from children.
  • If you have acetone in your eyes, remove contact lenses, irrigate the affected eye with lukewarm water for at least 10 to 15 minutes and seek medical advice.
  • If you have sore nails after gel nail polish removal, this could be because the original preparation was too harsh (buffing) or you did not leave your nails to soak off for long enough.

Six easy steps to get gel nail polish off your nails

It’s easier to do these steps one hand at a time to avoid the foil falling off your opposite hand when scraping off gel; this is the best way to remove gel nails.

Prepare your foils and cotton wool pads

Cut ten pieces of tinfoil into 4×4 inch square shapes. The tin foil will secure the acetone-soaked pad while attracting and maintaining enough heat to speed up the soak-off process.

Cut a cotton pad into ten pieces that are a little larger than your fingernails.


Wash your hands with soap and water. Remove the topcoat by buffing over the gel polish and file the edges too!

Apply the Acetone and foil

Pour the acetone into a glass dappen dish (it cannot be plastic), and one at a time, take your tweezers and dip the cotton wool into the acetone, fully saturating it.

Covering the entire nail, place the cotton wool down. Take a foil and place the centre of the foil onto your fingertip, fold it and wrap it tightly around the nail.

If you have nail clips, place them on top of the foils to keep them in place.

Wait 15-20 minutes

How long to leave acetone on gel nails depends on the brand used. Some gel brands take longer to remove, so check one nail every ten minutes.

Sneaky gel soak-off hack

Wrapping your hands in something warm will dramatically speed up the soaking-off process. Increasing the temperature increases the average speed of the reactant molecules. As more molecules move faster, the number of molecules moving fast enough to react increases. [3]

Using a towel or a towel with a hot water bottle beneath it can move things along much faster. If you want to soak them off super fast, heated hand mitts are an excellent choice.

Now it’s time to kick back and relax!

Remove the gel

Take the first foil off and assess how the gel looks.

Does it look crinkly or have gaps where you can see your natural nail now? If so, it’s ready to come off.

Take your cuticle stick or pusher and scrape off the gel. Then take off the next foil and scrape off the gel so on and so forth.

Taking off all foils at once will cause the gel to re-harden, and you will have to re-soak them!


After you’ve taken your gel manicure off, if there are any bits of gel left over on the nail plate, you can re-wrap them or lightly buff the gel off with a buffing block.

If you don’t want to re-apply gel and feel your nails could use a little TLC, you must try the IBX nail toughening agent.

After removal, nails will often feel a bit dry, so apply cuticle oil daily.

So there you have it; you’ve learned everything you need to know about how to take off gel nail polish most efficiently and effectively!

Mylee MyGel Magic Gel Remover

The Mylee MyGel magic gel nail varnish remover aims to quickly and efficiently remove the gel from your nails in approximately 6 minutes.

This remover for gel polish claims to be an effective way for nail technicians, salon professionals and home wearers to save time when removing Shellac nail polish or gel polish.

Ingredients: Triethanolamine, Ethanol, Cellulose, Polyacrylic Acid

Triethanolamine: This compound is used to make surfactants in industrial and cosmetics as a pH adjuster for skin and hair conditioning products. This substance is found in sunscreen lotions, liquid laundry detergents, polishes, and paints.

Triethanolamine is safe for the skin and has no side effects due to most manufacturers keeping the concentration between 1% and 3%. Triethanolamine is safe for skin application at this concentration and does not lead to skin irritation or other side effects.[2]

What about Polyacrylic Acid?

Polyacrylic acid (PAA) is the most common conditioner used in dentistry pre-treatment to remove the smear layer before applying restorative materials onto tooth enamel. So here’s hoping if it’s safe to use in people’s mouths, then this should be ok to use on other areas of the body.

Mylee MyGel Magic gel remover reviews

The magic gel remover got a 4 out of 5 rating out of 5000 reviews on Amazon, so we decided to look further into what the customers had to say about this Mylee product.

  • Very fast; Some saw it started to remove the gel immediately, seeing the gel bubble soon after the application.
  • Others complained it took just as long as using acetone, but this could be due to improper buffing of the top coat before application.
  • A few had mentioned that their nail shape temporarily changed afterwards but that this could have been due to previous nail damage.
  • Strong chemical smell – no suggestion if this was worse than the smell from Acetone

Would we recommend this product?

Probably not.

Acetone can be quite drying for the nail plate, making nails brittle. The longer acetone is left on the nail, the more it will dry up your nails, so there is some benefit to the quickness of the Mylee product being only 6 minutes for removal.

However, it is a concern to read about the drying effects of the remover and several reviews regarding the nail changing shape after use.

From my years as a nail technician, I can tell you what I learned along the way regarding removing nail products.

Removing gel nails with acetone is the least damaging way to get gel nails off, but is it the best thing to do for your nails? I think not.

The best way to avoid nail damage is to get infills with a product like ‘Builder in a Bottle’.

This prevents you from using Acetone to soak the entire polish off.

An infill treatment can be given to your client about three weeks after applying a set of ‘Builder in a Bottle’ gel nails.

Your client’s natural nails will have grown, and you will see a gap nearest the cuticle of about 2-4mm. The old polish is buffed to a certain level, and a new coat of gel is put on over the nails.

How to get gel nails off at home without acetone

The only safe and effective way to remove gel nails at home is by soaking them in acetone until the gel lifts off quickly. Buffing the gel polish off with a nail file can buff some of your natural nails. If you want to take them off without acetone, the safest way to do so is to:

  • shorten the nail
  • lightly buff the top coat off
  • soak your hands in hot water with washing-up liquid for around 30 minutes
  • Go swimming, for a bath, sauna or jacuzzi for an hour
  • massage them in cuticle oil or olive oil
  • Sometimes if you are lucky, they can peel off.

Can I use nail polish remover instead of acetone?

No, this would take way too long, unfortunately!

Just not budging!

If you can’t get your gel nail polish off, there are a few reasons why this could be happening, such as:

  • ‘hard gel’, which cannot be soaked off, has been applied to your nails rather than gel polish or acrylic
  • the nails have not been soaked for 15 minutes +
  • the cotton pads placed over your polish have not been completely saturated in acetone
  • foil has not been wrapped around the fingers to maintain enough heat for the acetone to be effective
  • you have not buffed away the top coat


  1. Nailpolish remover composition | Source:
  2. Triethanolamine Safety Data Sheet | Source:
  3. Temperature and the rate of a chemical reaction | Source: