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Professor Zilla: How To Remove Gel Nail Polish

Whether it’s DIY or at your salon, the way to remove nail gel polish can actually be quite simple, easy, and safe.

Here at Zillabeau, we’re always excited to provide trusted information about all things gel nail polish, and talk to both new and experienced nail artists through the basics!

There are different types of gel nail removal, all of which depend on the comfort and preferences of the client or nail artist.

We’ve provided a comprehensive step-by-step guide so you can know what to do before you try out the next nail design!

Table set up with nail tools and accessories, with a nail technician showing different tools like an electric file.

An arrangements of essential nail tools for gel nail removal, all products available here at Zillabeau.

Materials For Nail Gel Polish Removal:

Step-by-Step Guide:

When it comes to preparing your workspace, choose a well-ventilated area to work in. 

File the top layer of the gel polish: Use a nail file or buffer to gently roughen the top layer of the gel polish. This will help the acetone penetrate and break down the polish more effectively.

Using a file is a core part of gel nail removal - sometimes it may require patience, but using a higher grit such as 180+ is also recommended the closer you file towards the nail plate.

  • Protect your skin: Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or cuticle oil around your nails and on the skin beforehand to protect it from the drying effects of acetone.

Soak cotton balls or pads in acetone: Take a cotton ball or cotton pad and saturate it with acetone or gel polish remover. Apply one to each nail.

Apply the acetone-soaked cotton to your nails. Place the acetone-soaked cotton directly onto your nails, ensuring that it covers the entire nail surface. 

For an easier and more effective removal, you can wrap each finger with a small piece of aluminum foil. This helps keep cotton balls in place and maintain better contact with the gel polish.

Using aluminum foil is a classic way to soak the gel nails and prepare them for removal!

Let your nails soak in the acetone for about 10-15 minutes. The exact time may vary based on the brand of gel polish and how many layers you have on your nails.

After the soaking period, gently press and slide the cotton or gel nail wrap off of your nails. Use a cuticle pusher to gently scrape off any remaining polish.

  • You can also be extra careful not to damage your natural nails, by using a wooden file or stick instead of a steel product. 

When you start to see the polish flake off, you’re done! Next up, you can now move into the very essential after-care part of nail gel polish removal.

Removing Gel Polish Without Acetone

It’s definitely a preference whether or not you want to remove your gel polish with acetone! There are other options that you can choose instead, that range from the dry manicure methods, such as using special tools like an e-file.

Make sure to try and have two thin coats of base coat applied during this method, which protect the nails when filing.

Using Only Nail Files 

If you use a nail file, let’s say with 180 grit, you can apply very little pressure towards the gel polish as you start to file away the layers of the gel polish.

As soon as you start to see your natural nail color start to appear, switch to a different area of the polish that has not yet been removed. Repeat this process to make sure the nail is protected from strenuous filing. 

Use a light buff afterwards for any remaining color, this will do two things:

  • Any lifting from the base coat will be fixed this way.
  • Remaining color gel will be blended naturally into the nail plate.

Using Warm Water + Soap

You can also soak the nails while wearing a latex or rubber glove in warm or hot water for 10 minutes, after breaking the seal of the polish over the nails. Adding soap is a plus, but not needed.

This method can be used if you prefer not to use acetone or an electric file/drill!

Afterwards, you can remove the entire gel polish in a single go, using the sharp end of a cuticle pusher.

Using An E-File/Nail Drill

Another way to remove gel polish from your nails without acetone is using an e-file, or electric nail file, which requires using the cheek of the file to slowly remove the bits.

Always remember to use the cheek of the e-file and carefully strip away the gel layers you want to remove, being aware not to damage your client's nail plate or make them feel uncomfortable.

  • Using a certain speed, or the lowest speed possible, can be recommended to provide both comfort and longevity to your nail plate!

Another way to remove gel polish is using warm, soapy water to slowly wipe away the gel polish. 

Protecting Your Nail Health: Treating Your Nails After Removal!

It's essential to note that frequent gel nail polish removal can be harsh on your nails, so try to limit gel manicures and give your nails time to recover between applications.

Moisturize your nails: Wash your hands to remove any remaining acetone, and apply lotion to the nails afterwards.

We also recommend using a nail hardener, which can help prevent your nails from becoming brittle or easy to break. 

Close-up of two hands holding another person's fingernail, with nail hardener being applied.

Using nourishing cuticle oil or hand cream to rehydrate your nails and skin. Cuticle oil can really transform your nails, and create a long-term plan for how to keep your nails ready for new gel designs in the future. 

Products We Offer

We provide a full range of options from the largest Korean nail gel brands today. Our products are carefully curated by experts in the gel nail industry, and used and relied on by nail art professionals all around the world.

  1. Cleansers & Removers 
  2. Files
  3. E-file
  4. Pushers & Nippers
  5. Cuticle Oil 
  6. Base Gel
  7. Color Gel

Here At Zillabeau…

We are the largest Korean nail shop in the United States, with a proud variety of brands that offer everything a new salon or nail artist needs. Our products are non-toxic and vegan-friendly, and can also be found both on our website and at our flagship location. 

You can find us also on Instagram, Youtube, and Tiktok, where we provide content, educational videos, and tutorials for a nail artist at every point in their career, whether it’s as a newcomer or if you’re an expert learning new techniques. 


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