As more and more cities begin to close non-essential businesses—like fitness studios, hair dressers and nail salons—many of us will have to improvise the services that we typically leave to experts.
If you’re due to get your gel or shellac manicure redone and are no longer able to see your nail tech at the salon, you might be breaking a sweat thinking about removing it on your own. But fret not. I’m going to walk you through exactly how to remove shellac nails at home.
First off, there’s a reason removing shellac nails is usually done at the salon. Improper removal of your shellac manicure can damage your nails long-term, so make sure you’re extra vigilant and don’t skip any steps.
Also: if you’re looking for at-home manicure tips once your gels are removed, I have a tutorial that will change your life. (I used to spend $100/month getting my nails done by a professional, but I recently started applying $9.99 press-on nails myself—and they look ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.)
Oh, and one more thing: if you’re panicking about not being able to exercise, I have you covered. Here’s a list of six awesome streaming workout classes that I’ve been doing at home.
How to Remove Gel Shellac Nails at Home
1. Get your shellac removal kit ready.
The good news is that you most likely will have everything you need at home already.
You’ll need five cotton pads (split them in half), 10 large aluminum foil squares, acetone polish remover (non-acetone nail polish remover does not take off shellac nails well), a nail file, and a manicure stick.
If you don’t have the necessary tools at your fingertips (so to speak), I’d recommend this kit. As of now, it appears to ship within a few days. It also comes in a great travel-friendly case—perfect for when we can start planning trips again.
2. File your nails.
To start, carefully file the top layer of your gel polish to allow the acetone to penetrate the polish.
Because shellac is much thinner than gel nail polish, less filing is needed resulting in less damage to the nail bed.
3. Wrap your nails.
Acetone serves as a solvent and should be handled with care. While it isn’t toxic, it’s highly flammable and dehydrates your nails, cuticles and surrounding skin.
Soak your cotton balls in acetone (like this CND shellac remover) and place them on top of each nail to slowly dissolve the polish. Take your aluminum foil squares and wrap them around each finger to keep the cotton ball in place.
4. Soak for 15 minutes.
Soak your nails for at least 15 minutes to make sure all the nail polish lifts from your nail bed nicely. It’s best to keep your fingers warm to speed up the process, so wrap your hands in a towel and embrace 15 minutes of uninterrupted Love is Blind or simply doing nothing.
5. Remove your Shellac Nail Polish.
Once you’ve waited 15 minutes, gently try and lift off the polish from your nails with manicure sticks. If it doesn’t come off easy, let them soak for a little longer.
Ideally, the shellac will be soft and dissolve easily.
6. Hydrate your nails.
If you want to go the extra mile, I’d recommend adding a coat of nail growth and strengthening polish.
7. Alternate ways to remove shellac nail polish without acetone.
If you’re looking to remove shellac at home without damaging nails, you can try removing the polish with acetone-free nail polish remover (like these nail polish remover pads). You might have to soak them longer as the polish is going to be more stubborn to come off.
Another way to remove your shellac nails without acetone is to use warm water. Though ideally you shouldn’t be removing shellac nails without a proper nail polish remover, you can run warm water over your nails and try removing your nail polish by lifting a corner of your polish that has come loose until it lifts off fully.
Removing shellac nails at home isn’t ideal but definitely doable with some simple tools and patience!
Livia Boerger is a German London-based travel content creator passionate about trying new things. She helps travelers navigate adventure and mindfulness while sharing genuine travel guides and tips on her blog. Follow her here: @livandwander
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