How to Remove Hard Gel Nails


Remove Hard Gel Nails

Hard gel manicures are known for their tough, long-lasting shine. But that tenacious gel formula does not let go of natural nails easily. When your hard gel mani finally starts growing out after 2-3+ weeks, removing it yourself at home can feel daunting. Have no fear! With the right supplies and techniques, you can safely dissolve away that hardy nail hard gel.

At-Home Removal Do’s & Don’ts

Before we get into the removal process, let’s go over some nail care best practices:


  • Soak cotton pads completely in 100% pure acetone
  • File the gel surface gently before soaking
  • Use foil to lock in acetone
  • Take your time scraping - no rushing!


  • Peel or pick at gels with your fingers
  • Use acrylic nail remover instead of acetone
  • File down to your natural nail surface
  • Leave acetone on for too long

Following these do’s and don’ts will protect your natural nails and cuticles during the removal. Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty step-by-step!

Gather Your Gel Removal Supplies

You likely have most if not all of these supplies already at home. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 100% Pure Acetone Polish Remover - The strongest formula you can find
  • Aluminum foil - Helps acetone penetrate gel
  • Fine-grit Nail file
  • Metal cuticle pusher and/or orangewood stick - For scraping gel gently
  • Cotton balls or pads - For acetone application
  • Cuticle oil - For moisturizing after removal
  • Non-acetone nail polish remover - For final step

Steps to Remove Hard Gel Nails

When removing hard gel nails, it’s vital to take your time and avoid damage to your natural nails or skin. Follow these steps properly to get back to a clean nail bed.

Step 1: File Gel Surface

Start by using your nail file to gently thin out and roughen up the top layer of your hard gel nail polish or liquid hard gel top coat. This helps the acetone remover solution penetrate the stubborn gel.

You only need to finely file off the hard, shiny surface - not down to your natural nails! Work at an angle instead of filing back and forth to avoid nail damage.

Step 2: Push Back Cuticles

Once filed, use your metal cuticle pusher to gently push back and protect your cuticles. Keeping them out of the way safeguards your nail beds during the acetone soak and gel lifting steps.

Apply a thin coat of thick cuticle oil around each nail if you have it. This insulates the delicate nail bed skin.

Step 3: Soak Nails in Pure Acetone

Now comes the most important step - acetone time! Soak a cotton ball or pad with plenty of pure acetone remover until fully saturated. Place the soaked cotton on top of each nail.

Quickly wrap each finger tip with a small piece of aluminum foil, crimping it around the edges to seal in the moisture. Repeat on all fingers.

Leave that hardcore liquid hard gel or other hard gel polish encased by acetone-soaked cotton and sealed tightly with foil for 15-20 minutes. This gives the acetone time to penetrate the layers and dissolve the bonds.

Step 4: Gently Scrape Away Gel

After 15-20 minutes have passed, carefully use your metal scraper or orangewood stick to gently lift up and pry off the gel, little by little. Take it slow!

Start at one corner of your nail and slowly work underneath the softened gel, moving across your nail to lift it in small pieces. Repeat for all nails until all traces have been removed.

If you have thicker coats or certain areas that won’t budge, do another focused 5 minute acetone soak only on those spots. More time in acetone helps break the remaining bonds.

Step 5: Wipe Nails & Hydrate

Once all traces of your best hard nail gel seem to be lifted off, soak a fresh cotton pad with regular non-acetone nail polish remover to wipe each nail clean as a finishing touch.

Then wash your hands with warm water and soap, massaging the nail beds to stimulate blood flow and replenish moisture. Finish by gently massaging in some healing cuticle oil.

Removing hard gel manicures is totally doable at home with some patience and the right nail supplies . Be sure to stock up on pure acetone, foil, a fine-grit file, cuticle oil, and scrapers before starting the removal process. Avoid rushing and take it slow by letting the acetone fully penetrate and soften the gels first. Your natural nails will thank you!

With the appropriate time and care taken, you can successfully free your nails from even the most stubborn long-lasting hard gel polish. Then it’s time to give those bare nails some TLC with moisturizing treatments to get them back in shape for your next manicure masterpiece.

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