What you need to know to pull off a gel manicure at home

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The first step in the removal process is to break down as much of the gel polish as possible, and that’s where your nail file comes in. You’ll want to file the top layer of the gel polish to break it down so it’s easier for acetone to complete the job, by In the style. Be sure to go slow and easy; you don’t want to end up filing down to your actual nail and causing damage.

Once you’ve roughed up the top layer as much as possible, it’s time to grab your cotton balls and soak them in acetone, for Harper’s Bazaar. Wrap each nail in the soaked cotton balls and secure them tightly by wrapping the squares of aluminum foil you have prepared around each nail to get that snug and comfortable cotton ball.

Now this is where you’ll be glad you got on your favorite show, because you’ll have to wait and soak them for about 15 minutes. Celebrity nail artist Elle suggests wrapping your hands in a warm towel during this part, as she explains that “acetone needs heat to work properly” (via Harper’s Bazaar). When the wait is over, unwrap your nails and use a stick to push back the polish. It should already lift easily.

That’s it! If your polish remains, try soaking your nails in warm water and dish soap to lift the remaining polish. But most importantly, the grand finale should always be to bathe your nails in as much cuticle oil as possible to help repair them immediately. Now would be the perfect time to break out that hand mask you’ve been saving for special occasions!

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