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How to Remove Gelish Polish at Home – in 7 easy steps

July 23, 2011 By: Category: Gelish Soak-Off Polish, Manicure

Gelish lasts for about 21 days – depending on how well you take care of them. By then you would have the growth of your natural nail. To remove your Gelish either visit the salon where you had them done, and the therapist will do it for you, or you can remove it yourself at home.

You would need:- block buffer / nail file, acetone nail polish remover, cotton balls, foil strips cut in about 5cm by 3cm, wooden stick / orange stick, nourishing nail oil (almond oil is perfect).

1. Roughen the surface of the nails with a file or a block buffer. This will break the seal on the top coat and will allow the remover to penetrate.
2. Apply a cotton ball soaked in Acetone Nail Polish Remover directly to the nails.
3. Cover the nail and the cotton ball with the foil. Make sure to tighten the foil to keep the remover in contact with the Gelish.
4. Wait for 15 minutes.
5. Remove one foil, and scrap surface of the nail with a wooden stick / orange stick, to remove any remaining bits of Gelish off your nail. Repeat this step for each nail.
6. File nails lightly to remove any excess polish, if necessary.
7. Apply Nourishing Nail Oil (such as Almond Oil) to your nails.

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  2. Before and After-Care Advice for the Pedicure Client
  • Stephanie

    I didn’t know that the nail polish had to be removed a certain way and I started peeling the polish off… my nails look weird now.. did I ruin/damage them?

  • Heather

    I peeled one nail off. And I noticed a fine layer of the nail was pulled off too. That worried me.

    Did you tear away a layer of the nail like I did?

    What does it look like?

  • claire78

    Don’t worry Stephanie. As Heather has noticed, you would removed a fine layer of your natural nail while peeling off your Gelish. You wouldn’t have damager your nail per se, but just weakened them slightly.
    So for now you would need to strengthen your own natural nails. Just apply almond or olive oil to your nails and cuticles. Whenever you can (at least before going to sleep), rub in the oil and massage it in. This should work with your current nail length – just in case, to bring the strength back, file your nails a bit shorter than usual.
    Don’t apply Gelish again until you see that your natural nails are back to normal. Your nails should start looking better in a couple of days.
    I assume that your nails look a bit rough to the texture, when you say that your nails look weird, no?
    Let me know how this works out, and don’t hesitate to comment if you require further information.

  • claire78

    Stephanie, I am assuming that you only peeled one nail off. How did you remove the Gelish from your other fingers/toes?

    If you peeled off all the Gelish, then follow the advice I gave to Stephanie. Also you might want to SLIGHTLY AND GENTLY buff your natural nails using a soft buffer.

    Hope this helps?

  • Bibi Ngai

    yes, u are not supposed to peel it off. If you do so you will weaken ur nail & the only way for ur nail to get better is to let it grow out. During this period ur nail will break n tear a lot easier~ 

  • claire78

    You are right Bibi. A bit of almond oil will help. And keeping your nails short till your nails strengthen.

  • Amywells4

    I have trouble getting the polish off even after soaking it for 15 minutes and then soaking again another 10!  Don’t want to scrape and cause damage to the nail.  Should I put the acetone/foil wrapped finger in the UV light to heat and up and help for removal?

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    Amy, thank You for your question. I don’t know if you are doing this step – but before applying the cotton wool soaked in acetone and then tightly wrapping the foil around each individual nail, get a block buffer (it’s like a white harsh buffer) and buff the top of the nails. You will notice the shine going off the nails – this will help break the seal and the acetone can actually penetrate the colour. Another thing to make sure when applying Gelish is that the coats have to be really thin – this is for curing purposes as otherwise it won’t dry properly for you. But then also, if you have a thin Gelish application, it will be much easier to remove. Try these steps Amy – and keep me updated.

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    You are right Bibi. A bit of almond oil will help. And keeping your nails short till your nails strengthen.

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    Don’t worry Stephanie. As Heather has noticed, you would removed a fine layer of your natural nail while peeling off your Gelish. You wouldn’t have damager your nail per se, but just weakened them slightly.So for now you would need to strengthen your own natural nails. Just apply almond or olive oil to your nails and cuticles. Whenever you can (at least before going to sleep), rub in the oil and massage it in. This should work with your current nail length – just in case, to bring the strength back, file your nails a bit shorter than usual.Don’t apply Gelish again until you see that your natural nails are back to normal. Your nails should start looking better in a couple of days.I assume that your nails look a bit rough to the texture, when you say that your nails look weird, no?Let me know how this works out, and don’t hesitate to comment if you require further information.

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    Stephanie, I am assuming that you only peeled one nail off. How did you remove the Gelish from your other fingers/toes?
    If you peeled off all the Gelish, then follow the advice I gave to Stephanie. Also you might want to SLIGHTLY AND GENTLY buff your natural nails using a soft buffer.
    Hope this helps?

  • Amy

    Thank you Claire.  I did buff them first.  The application was at a salon and I’m not sure if it was Gelfish or another brand.  I had this done at a salon 2 other times and my memory seems to tell me that they put my nails wrapped in acetone soaked cotton and foil under the UV light then the gel came off and they easily removed excess with the stick.
    I have not bought my own kit to remove and start afresh but cannot get this layer off without scraping roughly and thought the light might heat up the acetone and help in the removal.   Is this OK to try or a no-no?

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    Amy, I am so happy that you are trying to do the right thing for your nails.
    You don’t need to buy any special kit to remove Gelish (or any other soak-off gel polish) – you only need cotton wool, strips of foil and acetone. Amy, make sure that what you are applying is pure acetone.
    Now, with regards to UV light. UV light in itself does not cause any heat, so by doing the procedure you mentioned, you won’t be heating up the acetone. We use the UV light to ‘cure’ (which is actually to harden) the gel polish, as otherwise it won’t ever dry. You can read more about UV here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultraviolet
    Amy, you can either try to research to see exactly what was put on your nails and go from there, or else (as it might be that you don’t have the soak-off gel polish, but the normal gel polish) try buffing a lot the gel polish, then apply cotton soaked in acetone, then keep buffing. Continue this cycle till the gel has been removed. Be as gentle as possible to your nails. Then after removing keep your nails short till they strengthen, and apply almond oil.
    Keep me updated Amy!

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    Amy, I am so happy that you are trying to do the right thing for your nails.
    You don’t need to buy any special kit to remove Gelish (or any other soak-off gel polish) – you only need cotton wool, strips of foil and acetone. Amy, make sure that what you are applying is pure acetone.
    Now, with regards to UV light. UV light in itself does not cause any heat, so by doing the procedure you mentioned, you won’t be heating up the acetone. We use the UV light to ‘cure’ (which is actually to harden) the gel polish, as otherwise it won’t ever dry. You can read more about UV here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultraviolet
    Amy, you can either try to research to see exactly what was put on your nails and go from there, or else (as it might be that you don’t have the soak-off gel polish, but the normal gel polish) try buffing a lot the gel polish, then apply cotton soaked in acetone, then keep buffing. Continue this cycle till the gel has been removed. Be as gentle as possible to your nails. Then after removing keep your nails short till they strengthen, and apply almond oil.
    Keep me updated Amy!

  • Alanna

    I used the special gelish remover to soak off my gelish. OMG! Not only did it take way longer than 15 min. but my nails were broken and paper thin afterwards. I had to cut them all down and start over again.

  • Clairemorawski

    Alanna, I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience with removing Gelish. It doesn’t usually happen – Gelish usually makes your own natural nails stronger, and grow more without breaking. I am not aware that Gelish have their own remover, unless you are referring to the cleanser which is used to clean the nails.
    Alanna, next time around use a normal nail polish remover WITH Acetone (can buy from the drugstore / pharmacy). This works, and you won’t damage your own nails.
    For now keep your nails short till they become stronger, and massage almond oil. Can also apply a clear nail-polish to give them some protection.
    Hope all this helps Alanna.

  • Julie

    Thanks so much. I love the manicures, but get annoyed with regrowth and can’t always get to the salon right away. My manicure was starting to lift and I have no time to get there. I used this method and it worked like a charm. DOing one hand at a time (cause once the foil was on I couldn’t do the other) Was done removing in less than a half hour. No nail damage and no residue.

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    Thank You for your suggestions Julie. I am glad that you have managed to take the best out of Gelish – long-lasting colour with the benefits of strong nails, and NO nail damage. Yes, you are absolutely right with removing gelish – also, I would add – DOING ONE NAIL AT A TIME – remove one foil and work on it. Do not remove all the foils at once, as otherwise the acetone would dry by the time you get to the nail, making the gelish harder to remove.

  • Juli

    I wondered if there is any advice for slight lifting at the cuticle edge (it looks like the manicurist painted over my cuticle and so the resulting grow-out means that edge is raised slightly) – can I buff it down or do I need to apply something?  It’s only been one week since I had them done and I don’t want to remove the polish yet. 
    Also I am concerned because I have very soft bendy nails and she filed the surface of my nails before application, I guess I will have to wear regular polish religiously after removal or get more gelish nails done otherwise they will be really weak and thin..

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    First off, Gelish actually strengthens your own nails – in that you will have a sort-of strong layer protecting them from breaking, bending, and they will hence grow.
    But if you originally have soft nails you would need to treat them with some sort of calcium (I find Alessandro nail products have excellent nail treatments).  PS If your nails are soft they are lacking in calcium, but if they are brittle they are lacking in biotin which is a B vitamin – so you treat them differently. Soft is when your own nails bend, and brittle is when your nails flake and break from the sides.
    The manicurist needs to buff your own nails – though it has to be slightly – just for the Gelish to ‘stick’. A lot of buffing is not good for the nails, and there is no need with Gelish – in fact that’s why I use Gelish on my clients myself, because they don’t harm your own nails and they actually protect them.

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    Now with regards to the lifting. Yes, sometimes that happens – it’s usually a bit of top coat that is painted over the cuticle. First of all, you don’t have to worry about getting any nail fungus or whatsoever, as in gels and acrylics, as with Gelish you can’t get water trapped underneath.
    What you can do is, either leave it completely alone – don’t pick on it, or else with a cuticle cutter remove the part which is sticking out by cutting it. DO NOT peel it, as otherwise the whole colour will come off for you.
    I hope all this helps Juli – please do not hesitate to write further. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you!  (Juli was taken as a username when I decided to register) I will check out the Alessandro products. 
    I was alarmed because when she buffed she used the same emery she had used to shape my nails, but she did only lightly buff at the surface. 

  • Anonymous

    I’ll see how it goes with a pinkie nail, otherwise i will leave alone.  The only annoying thing is it catches in my hair, or is tempting to fiddle with absentmindedly!
    Thanks for all your help, and I will use these tips to remove the Gelish when the time comes too so thanks for that as well :)

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    So that’s good what she did. It’s normal, as you need to buff the nails a bit – just a little bit to remove that shiny layer. I usually use the white block buffer.

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    You’re welcome Julijet :-) Anytime you are welcome to post. Thanks for replying.

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    For Alessandro products – check out this website: http://alessandro-international.com/ and there is a section ‘Where to buy’, and you’ll be able to locate a salon who sells Alessandro close by to you. The calcium products are blue and the brittle nails products are pink. They basically consist of a clear nail product that you paint on and a cream that you massage in. But there are different ingredients depending on your nail type.
    The only thing is that you can apply the cream while you have Gelish on, but the nail product that you apply with a brush, you’d need to do it when you don’t have polish on.

  • louise n

    I USED YOUR GELISH POLISHED AND ALL MY NAILS STARTED SPLITTING IN HALF.  PRESENTLY ALL MY NAILS ARE REAL THIN AND UNDERNEATH MY NAILS ARE REALLY SORE AND HURTING.  WHAT IS THAT PRODUCT MADE OUT OF? YES, I DID GO TO A NAIL SALON TO HAVE MY NAILS DONE.

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    I’m sorry Louise you had such a bad experience with Gelish.

    I would suggest to first check with the nail salon to make sure that they used the original Gelish polish – as there are a lot of cheaper imitation versions which obviously might contain harmful ingredients.

    Also you can write to the Gelish company (Gelish is not mine, I just buy from a local agent to use on my clients) to check whether there is some particular ingredient that you are allergic to.  The websites for Gelish are:
    http://www.nailharmony.com/ (for the American company)
    http://www.nailharmonyuk.com/ (for the UK company)

    Now, have you had the Gelish removed? I would recommend that you do it gently at home – as if you are allergic to an ingredient it’s better to remove it. Then treat your nails to some almond oil to strengthen them again.

    Hope all this helps. Please keep us updated.

  • Lyn

    Hi Clarie, i found your site very helpful.  I have just had gelish put on my nails for the first time ever at a salon.  It is very expensive here in South Africa so i will not be taking it off on my own, thanks to your help.  Is there any site that can help teach me how to apply the gelish as my daughter would like to learn and then we can do our own nails.  I also need to know where to buy the polish and what lamp is best to us, UV or LED.  Thanking you kindly. Lyn

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    Lyn, yes Gelish tends to be expensive, because the products are expensive too. But then it will work out cheaper if you had to buy the products wholesale.
    With regards to buying gelish, check with gelish uk and usa websites – email them and they will send you from where in South Africa you can buy the products.
    http://www.nailharmonyuk.co.uk/ - uk website
    http://www.nailharmony.com/ - US website.
    With regards to applying gelish, see the following video. It will give you a good idea, then obviously you’d need to practise:-
    http://myskinandco.com/products/gelish-soak-off-gel-polish
    I would go for a UV lamp. UV lamps are cheaper and they are good enough – especially for home use.
    Hope all this helps Lyn – please feel free to get back to me should you require more info.

  • http://twitter.com/karenbabix Karen Leung

    Can I use baby oil or vaseline for the nourishing part? 

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    Karen, vaseline and baby oil (which is a mineral oil) are not absorbed by the skin. Whereas almond and olive oil are – which is the reason why you would want to nourish the cuticle and nail. So I would stick to either olive oil or sweet almond oil.

  • Vee

    I read a suggestion to do one nail at a time. That’s 15 minutes a nail! Do the math! The polish is very easy to apply but r removal is awful. I spoke to customer service rep the last time I removed it and was told I should not have used acetone. He sent me gelish remover at no charge and suggested I use the pink plastic cups instead of foil. I did purchase them but have not taken the plunge to try it again because my nails have been a mess since. This was 3 months ago!

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    Hi Vee – thank you for your comment.
    So, yes, you’d be removing a nail at a time and working on each nail, but let me explain in more detail…
    So first apply the acetone soaked cotton ball to your nail and wrap in foil. Do this for all the nails on one hand. Then allow 5 – 10 mins for the acetone to penetrate. Then when removing work on one nail at a time – as if you remove all the foil at once, then the acetone and gel will harden for you.
    Usually when working on myself, I do acetone and foil on 5 fingers of left hand. Then I remove little finger foil and place it on the little finger of right hand (inside the foil there will be the cotton ball soaked in acetone – if need be just add more acetone). Then I remove the gel of the little finger of left hand. Then I do the same for the left hand. By that time the acetone would have penetrated the nails of the left hand. And you can start working on your left hand It would take maximum 15 mins to remove the gels.

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    Acetone won’t really damage your nails, as you’ll only be using it for a little while till you remove the Gelish. After using Gelish with the acetone, make sure to cleanse your nails with a non-acetone nail polish remover, and apply some almond oil to the cuticles and nail plate. If you prefer to use Gelish’s own remover you can as well.
    I prefer the foil method – quicker and more effective; and not any more harmful than using any other method. I’m not sure what the pink cups that you mentioned are; but if it is where you place the remover and you have to dip your fingers in? – I find this too time-consuming (as it takes much longer for the gel to soften), and you waste far too much solution. With foil you’ll only use enough solution for just the nail, and it will be directly in contact with the nail only and not the whole tip of finger. But then again this is my method – everybody has his own method and preferences.

  • http://www.clairemorawski.com Claire Morawski

    I’m not sure why your nails are in a mess? Is it because of the Gelish, or the acetone, or is it because you have some medical condition? Gelish won’t harm your nails. Removing Gelish (if don’t properly) is not harmful at all. Sometimes though we might have an underlying medical condition such as thyroid issues or a vitamin deficiency, which we might think that Gelish is the cause.
    But if you’d like to strengthen your own nails – moisturize cuticle and nail daily with almond oil. And file gently – from outwards to inwards – not using a sawing action.
    Hope all this helps Vee?!

  • Alessandra

    I also had the same problem. When the lady started my nails I asked her if she had Shellac Polish. Her response was Yes. Low and Behold she STILL pulled out a bottle of Gelish, She filed the life out of my nails with her damn buffer even after I asked her to be more gentle. They are very senstive now and thinner than normaL. I can just feel it. Use olive oil on your nails! Its a great moisturizer and when removing I advise mixing the oil with acetone/remover to make them less dry in the process.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marijke.vroomen.durning Marijke Vroomen Durning

    I don’t know if you can help – I’ll ask in case you can. I bought my gelish stuff in October and have done my nails about four times since. Love, love, love them. But, after three very successful applications, the fourth was a disaster, but I did nothing different.

    The day after I did my nails, one nail’s covering slid right off. I figured, maybe I forgot to put on the pH bond, so I redid it. Two days later, another nail came right off. And then another. It’s as if they weren’t bonding to the finger nail, but as I said, I’d done everything the same. Do you have any idea why this would happen?

    Many thanks.

  • Magdalena

    I just wanted to say that I found this forum extra helpful. I have been doing my own gelish mani and pedi for 2 months now. I did unfortunately peel the gel off a few times and will never do it again. Also I will need to get the white buffer to shorten the soaking time during removal. Almond oil is a must as well.

    Should I take breaks in using delish and if so, how long between manicures?

    Also, that PH product – is it necessary?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Magdalena

    Obviously meant gelish not delish in the comment above (ehh autocorrect)

  • claire78

    Alessandra, with Gelish if it is removed with acetone, the buffing is usually kept to a real minimum. With Gelish, your nails are not damaged at all. Most of my clients, even find that Gelish actually strengthens their nails.
    So if you go to a salon and they start buffing your nails like crazy, it’s better to just leave. Or ask them straight up-front how Gelish is removed.

  • claire78

    Marijke, thanks for your comment. I am not sure what could be happening to you, especially since you have done 3 successful applications prior!
    Make sure that before you start, you clean your nails really properly. When removing the old Gelish, just use acetone (don’t add any oil to it). Then buff your nails with the white block buffer (gently) – but just to remove the shiny surface of the nail. Then clean with the Gelish cleanser, then start applying Gelish.
    First apply the pH bond, then base coat. Between the base coat and the 1st colour, get a dry cotton-wool (I prefer the lint free discs) and tap the already cured based coat, to removed any shine, and to make sure that the colour sticks to the base coat. Do the same between 1st and 2nd application of colour – for the colour to grip really well to the coat underneath.
    But it seems that you are doing the above steps well, since the whole stuff comes off – so you get all 4 coats off – they simply slide off?
    But make sure that the cleaning process is done well. Make sure you don’t have any oil residue on the nail.
    Hope this helps Marijke. Please keep me updated, as I am curious if you manage to solve it, and how!!!

  • claire78

    Magdalena – I’m glad that you are finding these comments helpful.
    Instead of soaking the nails to remove Gelish, I much prefer the cotton soaked in acetone, wrapped around 1 finger-nail, and then cover with foil. Like this you’ll waste much less acetone, and also the acetone is concentrated where it needs to be – around the nail. The white block buffer is only used briefly to just remove any residue – or to remove the shine from the colour – it’s like to break the bond for the acetone to start to penetrate. With this technique, the colour comes off quite quickly.

    There is no need to take breaks between Gelish. As you notice, even the dark colours do not stain the nails. And even, if done properly, the Gelish actually strengthens your own nails – it’s like your nails will have a protection.

    The pH bond is not necessarily. I don’t use it on my clients – but I am actually ordering one, as I’ve heard that the pH bond makes the Gelish last longer – especially for clients who are a bit rough with their hands, and for those clients with an oily nail plate.

    Hope this helps Magdalena!!!

  • claire78

    Marijke, also check that while applying the Gelish, you make sure that you go over the nail-edge so that you will ‘seal’ the Gelish coat. Do this for every coat, especially the top coat (top-it-off).

  • Glam diva

    I am a hair designer. We recently hired a new manicurist who uses gelish. I personally like shellac better. Shellac lasted a longer period of time, and I did not have peeling and bubbles. I had peeling and air bubbles on several nails with gelish. The gelish lifted and peeled within the same day of service. NOT A FAN OF GELISH!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kerrybeauty.shuttleworth.3 Kerry-Beauty Shuttleworth

    You should NOT use acetone to remove gelish… acetone dries the nail out. Nail harmony have a remover to remove the gel polish.

  • claire78

    Hello Glam diva! I personally have not tried Shellac, however I use Gelish, and I don’t usually have any complaints and it does last.

  • melissa

    I had the opposite. Tried shellac which was exceptionally expensive and it started chipping within a day. The gelish lasted about 10 days without any Chipping but I find the regrowth annoying as it lifts slightly at the cuticle and then catches in my hair.

  • Rikasoli

    please can some one tell me which one is best Gelish or Shillac? Thank you I would like to do it at home. DIY

  • Carina

    … and guess what is the main ingredient of that remover? yup, acetone.