Today, I made the very difficult decision to end my love affair with my gel manicure. It was still totally chip-free and gorgeous, but had grown out enough at the bases that it was starting to peel up and annoy me. Because I am cheap and I did not want to be tempted into getting yet another expensive manicure while getting this stripped by a professional, I decided to attempt to remove the gel at home, using a technique I dreamed up using 1) things I spied at the nail salon and 2) various DIY guides online.
My nails when I began the process (a full two weeks post-manicure), still perfect and lovely, but just grown out enough to upset my delicate sensibilities:
I began by gathering my supplies: ten pieces of cotton ball, acetone (or as close as to acetone as I had at my house), and ten 3X3 squares of tin foil.
I then soaked one cotton piece in the acetone at a time, placed it directly over a nail, and then wrapped the fingertip in foil to hold the cotton to the nail. I was experimenting with my left hand only, and had no trouble doing it all with one hand. If I, She-Of-No-Hand-Eye-Coordination, can manage this, anyone can.
My Googling led me to believe that the little tin foil acetone mummies should remain in place anywhere from 7 to 10 minutes. I am a notorious five-year-old and love silly fingers, so I enjoyed this part. In retrospect, I could have enjoyed it longer, because ten minutes was not enough time for my gentle acetone to do its job. I’d suggest closer to 15 or 20 minutes.
Upon removal of the foil and cotton, the gel had lifted from the edges of nails, but was still quite thick and sticky near the center of the nails. I ended up cutting a few Q-tips in half and using the blunt cut ends of the sticks to push up the stubborn gel.
My nails mid-scraping (I apologize for the especially horrific quality of this photo):
This manual removal process took approximately forever. I ended up replacing the tin foil/cotton wraps on all the nails but the one I was working on at the moment, which leads me to my conclusion that a wait time of closer to 20 minutes might be helpful.
I started wrapping my fingers at 2:26 pm and was finished scraping the last of the gel off my five left fingers at 2:54 pm. It was a total blast.
When I was finished, I rummaged through some crap under our bathroom sink and managed to find two nail “salon boards,” which I used to buff off the last of the gel polish, which left me with:
It’s now 7:45 pm and I have yet to start on my right hand, because I am so not looking forward to repeating this process. However, despite how labor intensive this was, I think it was a DIY win. The gel manicure has been removed and my nails are not destroyed. And now I can give myself a normal polish manicure before a big school function I’m going to on Friday without paying someone to stick my hand into a UV lamp.
Finally, just for the record, I used my still-manicured right hand to scrape, scrub and douse my left fingers with acetone and it survived, totally unscathed. I’ve said it before and I’ll gladly say it again: if the gel manicure wasn’t so expensive (or so mildly terrifying in its impenetrability), I would do it all the damn time.