How to Remove Shellac Nails at Home

If you’re due to get your gel or shellac manicure redone or removed but don’t have time to visit 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.

I know that it can be intimidating to take on this challenge without the help of your trusted nail tech, but I promise that with some practice it can actually save you time (and money!)

First off, there’s a reason removing shellac nails is usually done at the salon. Improper removal of your shellac manicure can damage your natural 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.)

How to Remove 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, pure 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. It also comes in a great travel-friendly case—perfect for your next girls trip.

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 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.

This acetone soaked cotton ball concoction is the key to getting the bulk of your shellac polish soft and ready to scrape off of your nail plate.

how to remove shellac at home

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.

how to remove shellac at home

5. Remove your Shellac Nail Polish.

Once you’ve waited 15 minutes, remove the foil from your fingers and gently try and lift off the polish from your nails with a cuticle stick or cuticle pusher. If it doesn’t come off easy, let them soak for a little longer.

The key is to gently scrape the remaining polish off of your nails without causing any damage. Ideally, the shellac will be soft and dissolve easily, but I know firsthand that it’s not always that easy.

6. Hydrate your nails.

Since acetone is so drying, your nails will be a little damaged and dry afterwards. For proper aftercare, first be sure to wash your hands. Next, use lots of lotion and apply cuticle oil.

If you want to go the extra mile, I’d recommend applying a nourishing nail and hand treatment.

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 self-care coach and wellness educator passionate about travel and mindfulness. She helps women redefine self-care on their terms and live intentionally so they can prioritize their wellbeing. Follow her blog or Instagram @madewithlemonsco


  • Jeanne Nott
    March 24, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    Can I just let them grow out? Please advise.
    Aunt Jeanne

    • Lindsay Silberman
      March 25, 2020 at 7:14 pm

      You definitely can! But they will eventually start to lift so when that happens you’ll probably want to remove them


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