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Top tips for removing your overgrown gel nails at home

We know. We miss our nail salon too.

And whilst some things are best left to the experts, with the current CoViD-19 partial lockdown, all of our prized nail parlours have had to temporarily close. Ladies (and whoever else is a regular): it’s time to become your own manicurist.

You often hear manicurists advising you not to remove gel nails on your own. That’s because there’s a high possibility that you’ll damage the nails or even skin if you’re not being careful. But at desperate times come desperate measures. Here are some tips on how you can remove them as safely as possible at home without damaging your nails.

(Featured and hero image credit: Lazar Gugleta/Unsplash)

Soft or Hard?

If you have a set of hard gel nails, you’ll only be able to ‘remove’ the colour by filing it down into a thin translucent layer and waiting for the rest of the nail to grow out. However, if you have soft gel or soak-off gel nails, you will be able to remove the polish with acetone. Hard gel is not removable by acetone.

File it down

Whip out your best nail file, because your first step is to sand it down. If you don’t have a professional grade electric filing drill at home (who would?), a coarse nail file with about 80/80 grit is your best bet — especially if you have hard gel nails.

File down the top layer of your gel nails with cross-hatched strokes. If you’re removing soft gel, the aim is to remove just the top coat — the shiny part of your nail polish — so that the acetone can work its way into the inner layers more effectively.

As soon as you start seeing coloured flecks being shaved off, that’s when you know you’ve touched the nail colour. Sand down a thin layer and stop. Don’t overdo it.

Protect at all costs

Before moving on to the next step (which involves a fair bit of chemicals) here’s your chance to protect your skin. Apply cuticle cream or a thick layer of hand cream to protect your nails and hands. Acetone will be mainly used to remove the gel polish, and it’s extremely drying to the skin. By applying a layer of protection before (especially around the nails), your skin will be spared from the harsh drying chemicals.

Bring out the cotton pads

The key is to keep your fingers soaked in acetone to remove the gel extensions. Dip a cotton ball or pad in acetone — preferably the ones without any moisturising benefits. Unfortunately, those will only slow down the removal process and you will have to leave them on longer than needed. Alternatively, you can soak your fingertips in a bowl of acetone but this step restricts your movement even more. You may want to consider doing each hand separately.

Wrap them up with aluminium foil

Cut the aluminium foil in small squares before wrapping your fingers in the soaked cotton pads. The size should be large enough to wrap and secure the cotton pad around your fingertips.

Do this on all 10 nails. The easiest way to start would be with your dominant hand first. It will be a little tricky to do it on the last few nails with aluminium-foiled fingers, but hang in there. Leave it on for 10-15 minutes for the gel to unlatch itself from your nails.

By the end of 15 minutes, the gel extensions should loosen up. It will look as though it’s peeling off or lifted — that’s when you know it’s ready to just crumble off. As you remove the cotton pads, apply some pressure and pull. If the gel extension is still glued on pretty tight, leave the cotton pad on for another five minutes.

If there are any leftovers after all that

Then it’s time to put some elbow grease into it with a wooden cuticle stick (not a toothpick). Leftovers are usually around the sides and cuticle areas, so be extra careful when removing it. Just gently scrape the gel off by going underneath and lifting it up. If there are still more stubborn spots, soak a new cotton pad with acetone and wrap it around the nail again with aluminium foil for another 10 minutes.

There, all done. Now your texting talons can brave another day. Might we suggest some non-toxic nail polishes to curb your manicure appetite before your next salon visit?

This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Kuala Lumpur.