Beauty

How to remove gel nails at home

Everything you need to know about gel and acrylic care while nail salons are closed.

For those previously wedded to their fortnightly gel appointments, the last eight weeks will have been difficult. When lockdown was announced, nail salons were among the closures: the hands-on nature of the job was especially high risk.

As such, nail devotees have been fending for themselves since, and while nail bars look set to open on July 4, that’s still another five weeks without professional help.   

Maintaining a clean manicure is one thing, but those with any specialists nail treatments like extensions or gel polish will need an extra hand. Whether your shellac is on its last legs, or your acrylic nail extensions have grown out and are in need of desperate help, we’ve answered every SOS nail dilemma. 

To DIY, or not to DIY

When you’re staring at your outgrown colour, investing your own UV lamp and gel polish or acrylic powder is all too tempting, but experts advise against it. 

‘The best products – like CND Shellac, for example – are only available for professional distribution,’ says a representative for DryBy nail bar. ‘It means the type that you’re able to get hold of isn’t the best in class product at all.’ Dodgy products can cause more harm than good, so you may well end up having to grow out any DIY treatments and let a professional bring your nails back to life post-lockdown should it all go wrong. 

‘Bear in mind nail technicians have to complete a qualification to apply gel polish,’ says a spokesperson for nail bar London Grace. ‘There’s a lot of skill and practice in getting that 2-week chip-free finish.’  

Keep them short

If your current gel manicure or acrylic extensions are still going (sort of) strong, the length’ll be fairly long, so it’s best to cut them down: experts have warned that to keep nails as clean as possible, they should be short.

‘It’s far easier to keep the nails clean if they’re shorter,’ says expert manicurist, Margaret Dabbs. ‘While we have Covid-19 concerns, nails shouldn’t be kept long.’ 

Acrylics can be trimmed using nail clippers, then filed so the edges are slightly rounded and the free edge is minimal. Similarly with gel polish: trim your tips down and ensure the edges are smooth. 

The removal process

If you’re keen to start fresh, removing your current nail treatments as safely as possible is key. Whatever you do, peeling either off is a terrible idea as it can prove painful and will ruin your nail beds, taking months to grow out and restore health. 

Instead, ‘lightly file over the nail to take the shine,’ Kim Treacy, celebrity nail technician told The Telegraph. ‘Then apply some pure acetone nail varnish remover on a cotton pad on each nail and wrap with a strip of kitchen foil. “Leave it on for ten minutes,” says Treacy, “and then gently remove with a cuticle pusher.”

For acrylics, the process will be slightly longer. To speed it up, nails can be soaked a bowl of pure acetone but this is harsher on the surrounding skin, so the foil method is preferred. 

What to do in the meantime

If you’re a constant gel or acrylic wearer, think about giving your nails some time to breathe. 

‘Lockdown is a good time to wean yourself off of gels and get nails into better condition,’ suggests Margaret Dabbs. ‘If you’re not great at painting nails, gently use a shiner buffer after filing and shaping to get a groomed look. You can also wear a conditioning base coat to help stop breaking and splitting whilst also improving the appearance.’ 

Equally, it’s a great time to experiment with colours: be sure to stick to health-promoting formulas like London Grace or Nailberry and take good care of your cuticles, too. 

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