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How To Remove A Gel Manicure At Home Without Destroying Your Nails

Can't make it back to the salon to have your gel nail polish removed by a professional? Here's how to do it safely at home -- and keep your nails in tip-top shape.

Manicurist and makeup artist Bernadette Leva has applied -- and removed -- a fair few gel manicures in her time and was on hand to take us through the ins and outs of a DIY job.

Gel nail polish, for the uninitiated, is a type of polish finish that comes in many different colours and is applied on natural nails -- that's nails that don't have any type of polish at all.

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Once applied, the polish is cured under a UV or LED lamp to form a strong bond to your natural nail.

"This allows the gel polish to stay intact for a few weeks with high shine and resistant to chipping."

Their super staying power and chip resistance makes gel nails a favourite with people who like to leave it a while between salon visits.

Taking it off

The payoff for this long-wearing set of digits is that when the time comes the polish requires a rather intense soaking to get it off cleanly and safely.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to pick, chew or peel. You might take off layers of your nail bed in the process. Eek.

As any gel nail devotee will attest, you're strongly encouraged to return to a salon to have the polish removed by a professional.

"The removal process can be damaging on the nail plate if done incorrectly," Leva explained.

"Trauma can be caused to the keratin layer in the nail when gel polish is forced off the nail."

There's a catch, of course. She noted that problems can still arise even if you do see a professional -- "if they are drilling it or filing it off they are damaging your natural nails."

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Nailing DIY

If you really can’t get to a salon there is a way to remove your gel manicure yourself at home, and not destroy your nails in the process. Here is Leva's step-by-step guide.

  1. Using a file, gently buff the top layer of the gel polish to break the seal.
  2. Place cotton wool saturated with removal solution or acetone over the gel polish and tightly wrap with tin foil.
  3. Check the first finger you wrapped with foil after 10 minutes -- remember that different gel polishes have different soak off times.
  4. Test whether the solution has soaked through by gently pushing off the gel polish using a cuticle pusher or orange stick. The gel polish should slide off easily.
  5. If necessary, re-saturate the cotton wool and re-wrap the finger. Leave for another five minutes.
  6. Push the gel off using a cuticle pusher or orange stick. If the gel polish is still not budging you're best to visit your local salon.
  7. Give yourself a mini mani and apply cuticle oil to hydrate the nails.
Get help

There are some nail warning signs that mean you should ditch the DIY and go see a professional right away according to Leva. "If it’s still difficult to remove the polish after soaking for 15 to 20 minutes," she said.

Feature image: Getty.