Without a nail appointment in sight, that gel mani you got a few weeks ago is probably starting to look like a bit of a bad idea. (Hindsight is 20/20, and 2020 is an unforeseen nightmare.) While peeling it off could be meditative in these troubled times, it’s not the best method for removal if you value the health of your nails (she says, while peering down at the one remaining gel she has not yet managed to scrape off).
“Don’t pick your polish or gel off,” says Sarah Gibson Tuttle, Founder and CEO of Los Angeles nail salon Olive & June. “Picking can lift pieces of your nail plate, which leads to damage—like peeling nails—that prevents future gels and polish from sticking.”
Fortunately, this bad habit is not the only alternative to salon removal. With some care—and, potentially, the help of non-toxic salon Base Coat’s new at-home gel remover kit, the proceeds from which go to help the company’s sidelined employees—you can remove them at home. “Proper removal of gels requires time,” says Tuttle. “I recommend removal while you’re FaceTiming a friend or watching TV so you’re not tempted to damage your nails by rushing or picking them off.”
Below, find step-by-step instructions from the pros, including Base Coat’s owner, Tran Wills, who says, “We will see you all soon with happy and healthy nails!” (Translation: Don’t. Peel. Your. Nails.)
How to remove your gel manicure safely at home
1. The first step is to cleanse the nails. “Spray our Cleansing Mist onto your hands and rub together,” Wills advises. If you don’t have the mist, you can use soap and water. (You should have that routine down pat by now!)
2. Next, both Wills and Tuttle recommend using an emery board to file off the very top coat of your gels. “This helps accelerate the gel removal process by breaking the seal of the gel manicure,” she says. You’ll know when you’ve completed the task when your gels are no longer shiny, adds Tuttle.
3. Next, Wills recommends you apply cuticle serum to your cuticles and rub it in. “This helps prevent the nails and cuticles from over dehydrating with acetone during soaking time,” she says.
5. Once this is done, soak a cotton ball in acetone and place it on your nail. “Be sure that the pieces of cotton fully cover nails to effectively soak off gel polish completely,” says Wills. “If you do not have acetone, you can also use polish remover with acetone, for soft gels only. It will take longer, but it works!”
6. Wrap your nails in foil to hold the cotton balls in place.
7. Then, wrap a warm towel around your hand to trap in heat. “Heat helps accelerate the removal process,” says Wills.
8. After about 10 to 15 minutes, check the nails to see if they’re ready, starting with the first finger you wrapped. “If the gel still isn’t popping off easily, just re-wrap the nail and let them soak longer,” Tuttle advises.
9. Next, check the polish again and remove it with a wooden stick. “To ensure no damage to the natural nail bed, do not use any metal tools or implements,” says Wills.
10: Cleanse your hands again.
11. Nourish your nails. “Apply a coat of our Base Coat with Garlic Extract to add a protective layer to your nails,” says Wills. “The garlic extract will help strengthen your nails but also acts as an antimicrobial.” Mary Lennon, President and Co-founder of côte, offers a similar solution. “Our Organic Argan Oil is a great way to heal stripped nails post-removal,” Lennon says. “We’d also recommend using our Resurface and Repair Base Coat. Infused with soothing lavender and ginseng oils, it was created to help rehab nails coming off of the harsh stripping process associated with gel/acrylic removal.”
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