Gel nails are great because they last longer and are hard to chip. However, it is these properties that make it difficult to remove gel nails. While going to a salon for professional removal is always the best solution, there are times when it just isn’t possible. Whether you’re on your last dollar in a week or eleven hours away from a big party, sometimes removing your gel nails at home is the only way out. However, if you’re going down this path, it’s best to do it right. Eventually, scraping and pulling the gel to remove it can cause damage. Instead, follow this guide and you’ll be back to your beautiful natural nails in no time.
What Are Gel Nails?
Gel nails are a relatively new type of nail art that differs from both regular polish and acrylic. When it comes to getting gel nails, you can choose between hard gel nails or soft gel nails. Solid gel nails are similar to acrylic nails, they are used as nail extensions or artificial nails. On the other hand, soft gel nails are commonly referred to as gel polishes. These varnishes are applied in a similar manner to conventional varnishes and are often offered at nail salons.
While the process for getting a soft gel manicure is almost the same as a standard polish manicure, soft gel nails last much longer and are harder to chip. This is due to the thick consistency of the gel, which hardens when placed under a UV or LED lamp. However, keep in mind that UV rays can harm your skin. If your salon uses them, don’t forget to put some sunscreen on your hands before getting your nails done. Hard gel nails also require hardening/curing under a UV or LED lamp. Acrylic nails, on the other hand, do not use these lights and are made from solvent-soaked powder.
While soft gel nails last much longer than regular polish, they will cost you more. At the salon, you typically pay around $50 for a standard gel manicure. However, the price can go up quickly if you want some fancy design. While there are home kits you can try, going to the salon is usually the best option for quality results. Similarly, hard gel nails tend to be more expensive than acrylic nails, however, they also look more natural and are more flexible.
How Long Do Gel Nails Last?
Soft gel nails tend to last much longer than traditional nail polish, which is why they have become such a popular option. The standard time you can expect your gel polish to last is 2-3 weeks. This makes it ideal when you have several upcoming events within a few weeks. Unlike traditional polish, the gel polish will allow you to keep your beautiful nail color all the time without worrying about chipping. However, the exact time they take depends on the gel you use, how you apply it, and your body chemistry. While home kits can be a convenient option, they won’t last as long as the ones you get from a salon. In general, a manicure at home lasts about 10 days.
Hard gel nails usually last about two weeks, but this can vary. Although acrylic nails often last longer than hard gel nails, many women still choose gel because of its appearance.
How to Remove Gel Nails
Removing gel nails can be a tricky process and, if done incorrectly, can weaken the nail bed. It’s always a good idea to remove gels at the salon, but if you’re short on time or money, you can remove them at home. Just be especially careful when removing them yourself so as not to damage your nails.
Soft gels should not be aggressively peeled or scraped off as this will also cause the layers of your natural nail to peel off. Instead, using 100% pure acetone or a special gel remover, they should just fall apart. While gel remover is generally more expensive and harder to find than pure acetone, it is gentler on the nail bed.
Steps for Removing Soft Gel Nails
- Start by buffing the surface of the gel with a rough nail file. This will break down the clear top layer applied to the gels and allow the acetone to soak in.
- Soak a cotton swab in acetone and apply to the nail.
- Wrap a small square of foil around your nail and Q-tip.
- Repeat this process for other nails on this hand.
- Let your nails sit. Usually, 15 minutes is sufficient, but the process may take less or more time depending on the product used.
- Remove the foil and cotton balls from your nails. The gel should crumble. If this is not the case, you may need to soak your nails longer.
- Gently remove the excess gel from nails with a cuticle pusher.
- After the color gel is removed, you may be left with a clear residue where the primer meets the first coat. Remove this by washing your hands thoroughly and using a 4-sided buffer to smooth it out.
- Once completed, use cuticle oil and moisturizer to hydrate the nail bed.
- Repeat on the other side.
Steps for Removing Hard Gel Nails
- Start by using nail clippers to trim your nails.
- File the surface of the nails with an 80/80 grit nail file. Make sure the file is shaded smoothly and evenly by constantly moving the file into new areas.
- Shake off dust while filing so you can see when you get to your natural nails.
- Once you can see the edges of the nail, file the remaining gel with a smaller file. Work carefully and slowly so as not to damage natural nails.
- When all the gel is gone, use a buffer to smooth the surface of the nails.
- Apply cuticle oil and nail moisturizer.
How to Make Your Nails Stronger?
Done right, applying and removing gel nails shouldn’t damage your natural nails, but sometimes the process can dry them out. Dry nails become weak, brittle, and grow slowly, so it’s important to moisturize and treat your nails to keep them strong. Cuticle oil and moisturizer should always be applied to the nail bed after removing gel nails. This will help your nails stay healthy and strong, as well as prevent burrs. If you don’t have access to cuticle oil, soaking your nails in tea tree oil or massaging them with olive oil will have a similar effect. If your nails are still brittle, consider adding vitamins and supplements like biotin, vitamin E, and fish oil to your daily routine and eat more protein-rich foods.
For gel nails, you can also ask the salon about IBX. Gel pre-treatment is applied under gels and is designed to strengthen nails and act as a protective shield.