Save yourself a trip to the salon.
If you're heavy-handed, artistically challenged, or in need of some TLC, there's nothing better than gel nails. First, they offer half an hour of glorious hands-free, salon time – which means no mindless scrolling, and hopefully a little hand massage thrown in, too.
After that? You're sorted for the next few weeks, liberated from the fear of smudging, chipping and ropey patch-up jobs. In fact, gel nails can be a godsend. Right up until it comes to removing them, that is.
"Having a long-lasting manicure is always the dream, but when they start to look dull after 3 week, the last thing you want to do is sit in a salon chair and pay to have someone drill away at your already weak nails," says award-winning nail artist and Naio Nail ambassador, Kirsty Meakin. Not to mention, it's a faff to get there and will set you back around a tenner.
Likewise, peeling them off may seem like the quickest way to get the job done (especially if the polish starts lifting or chipping at the ends), but it can seriously damage nails, leaving them weak and ridged.
So, we've devised the ultimate guide to getting your gels off at-home, so you can enjoy them knowing your natural nail strength won't suffer for it.
Step one: Gently buff the top of your gels
"Start off by buffing the nail," says Kirsty. When we say gently, we mean very gently, and be careful not to scratch the cuticles and surrounding skin. Always use a buffer with a low 'grit', which measures how abrasive the buffer is (go for around the 100 to 300 mark). This breaks the uppermost seal of the gel formula, to allow for the nail polish remover to penetrate more effectively. "You're not buffing to remove the gel, but to create a rough surface," explains Kirsty.
Step two: Wrap your nails
Before you get going, it's a good idea to apply a generous layer of Vaseline to the cuticle area and skin around the nails to protect it from the drying effect of the remover. You'll need to buy nail polish remover with acetone in it, otherwise it won't be able to break down the gel formula. Cut your cotton pads into 10 small squares (one for each nail) and then cut ten strips of tin foil.
Soak each cotton pad in the acetone and place on top of your buffed nail. Wrap the strip of tin foil on top and twist to secure. Repeat for all ten nails and leave for 10 - 15 minutes. If you find this a bit of a faff, then you can buy special clips, which do the same job as the tin foil, stay in place properly and can be reused again and again.
Step three: Remove the foil and cotton pads
Don't worry if your gels are still on – that's ok. By now, they should be soft which means you can oh-so-gently remove them using a wooden Orange Stick or cuticle pusher. "If the gel is still quite solid then you'll need to re-soak," advises Kirsty. Sorry, it's the only way.
Step four: Nourish and replenish
Your nails will be feeling a little delicate from the gels and the acetone, so make sure you replenish lost moisture and support healthy growth with a rich oil. We love Loubelle Dadi'Oil which contains 21 nourishing natural oils and is a firm fave among the pros, or you can use anything with almond oil in it (nails *love* almond oil). Simply add a small drop to each nail and massage it into each nail bed and surrounding cuticle. Follow with a generous dollop of hand cream and bask in your nails' natural beauty.
Finally, "it's a good idea to invest in a nail strengthener to apply once a week," says Kirsty. "This can prevent breakage (especially if your nails are already weak) and protect from any further damage caused by the gels."
This article originally appeared on GLAMOUR UK