How to Safely Remove Your Gel or Acrylic Manicure at Home
These expert tips will help you properly dissolve your polish yourself
Now that social distancing and self-isolation are becoming the new norm amid the escalating coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, people are googling at-home solutions to beauty treatments they used to outsource. So we’re reaching out to experts to share their at-home solutions.
Schools are closing nationwide, festivals, sporting events and Broadway shows are being postponed or canceled and restaurants and bars are forced to face unprecedented restrictions in response to the fast-spreading disease. Now, beauty establishments are following suit with many spas, hair and nail salons temporarily closing to adhere to the social distancing practices recommended by the CDC. And as the service industry continues to shut down, people are looking for do-it-yourself ways to self-care at home, which may include removing a gel manicure solo.
Leading experts from nail salons tell PEOPLE exactly how to properly care for your nails, whether you have gels or acrylics, during this period of social distancing. Luckily, removal isn’t as challenging as you might expect.
“It’s totally doable to remove your soft gel manicure at home, even if you’ve never done it before,” says Rachel Apfel Glass, founder and CEO of Glosslab in N.Y.C. “Even though it is tempting, just don’t peel the gel. It really weakens the nail underneath.”
Celebrity manicurist Deborah Lippmann adds, “The steps are simple but the most important piece is patience!”
Start by simply filing down the top layer of the polish using any nail file you already have at home. Rather than using traditional acetone, Glosslab nail salon uses a quick and easy swipe-on magic gel polish remover that is then applied like a polish and sits on the gel for five to 10 minutes.
“Once you see the gel start to bubble, up, the gel polish can be easily removed without scraping,” she explains.
If you already have acetone in your beauty arsenal, you can also use that to remove your soft gel polish, Lippmann says.
“Soak the fingers for approximately 10 minutes with acetone, cotton and aluminum foil. I recommend doing one hand at a time since you’re doing it on yourself,” she explains. Once you’ve finished soaking, use a metal cuticle pusher to “very gently nudge the gel off the nail,” she says.
“If it doesn’t lift right off, do another round of soaking saturating cotton with acetone and wrapping aluminum foil. Resist the temptation to ‘file the gel off’ that is where you can damage your natural nail,” Lippmann adds.
As for an acrylic mani, while going into a salon for a professional removal is best, Rita Pinto, founder of N.Y.C. nail salon Vanity Projects, says you can do it yourself if needed. “It is not necessarily a challenge, however it will take longer than expected,” she says.
The first step is to cut off the excess acrylic “as close to the natural nail as possible” using nail clippers and use a nail buffing block to remove the top layer of polish. “Then soak your nails in a bowl of 100 percent pure acetone for about five to 10 minutes,” Pinto says. “Finish with a metal cuticle pusher to gently push the gel polish off your nails. You may need to repeat the last step until the acrylic has completely soaked off.”
Once you see the majority of the acrylic has been soaked off, Pinto recommends using the nail buffer again to smooth the nail bed and finish with cuticle oil for hydration.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes ,PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.