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Removing Gel Polish With Acetone: Steps & Tips for Beginners

Written by: Ellie Simmons



Time to read 9 min

Using acetone removers is the only way you can properly – and safely – take off your gel polish. But knowing how to correctly use acetone at home is really important to protect your natural nails underneath and to make sure you remove your mani fully.

If you're new to gel polish and don't quite know all the tricks of the trade yet (or you just want to make sure you're doing it right), we're here to help you out.

We've bundled all our knowledge, tips, and hacks into a handy step-by-step on how to remove gel polish with acetone so you can confidently take off your gel mani at home.

Grab your gel remover, and let's get started!

Is Acetone the Only Thing that Takes Gel Polish Off?

Some people like to think that they can cheat the system and find an alternative to acetone for removing gel polish. But let's clear that up – acetone is the only thing that will fully remove your mani.

Acetone is a powerful solvent that breaks down the gel formula. Other solutions, like regular nail polish remover, won't be able to cut through the tough gel, leaving you with partially removed polish and a lot of frustration.

Not only that, but incorrectly removing your gels – whether that's using the wrong remover or peeling the polish off –  can damage your natural nail bed underneath, causing your nails to feel thinner or bendier and more prone to breakage.

So, in short, you should always stick to using acetone as it is the most effective and safe way to remove gel polish.

What is the Best Acetone to Remove Gel Polish?

Acetone or acetone-based gel removers can come in different strengths and formulas.

While they should all be effective at removing gel polish, you might find some methods work better for you than others, or you might simply prefer using a certain type of remover.

Acetone Gel Nail Polish Remover

What it Is

How to Use

How Long it Takes

100% acetone (or pure acetone)

A pure form of acetone

Soak nail wipes & place onto nails, securing with foil & clips

10-15 minutes

Gel remover with acetone

A remover solution containing acetone (usually mixed with other ingredients)

Soak nail wipes & place onto nails, securing with foil & clips

10-15 minutes

Pre-soaked remover wraps

Nail pads pre-soaked in acetone

Place nail inside the wrap & secure by sticking down the sides around your finger

10-15 minutes

Magic Gel Remover

An acetone-based brush-on remover for faster removal

Paint onto the gel polish & wait for bubbling

5-6 minutes

100% Acetone

Pure acetone, or 100% acetone, is as it sounds – a strong and pure version of the chemical.

This is usually the most effective at removing gel polish because it can break down the bonds in the formula quickly and more easily. We'd also recommend using this for soaking off gel tips, acrylics, and other nail extensions.

However, pure acetone can also be quite harsh on the skin and nails, so it's important you use it carefully and as directed. Always wash your hands thoroughly after using it, and make sure to moisturise your nails afterwards.

But as long as you follow the correct removal steps, you'll be left with clean, polish-free nails.

Gel Remover With Acetone

A gel remover that contains acetone is less harsh than pure acetone but still effective. It'll typically be a mix of water and acetone, and it's a great option for those with more sensitive skin or nails.

You use gel remover in the same way as pure acetone (which we'll cover in a moment), so it's really down to personal preference whether you opt for this product.

Pre-Soaked Remover Wraps

For those who prefer to cut the faff, pre-soaked remover wraps are a great alternative.

These handy little wraps come with an absorbent nail pad soaked in acetone, which you just need to secure to your nails by wrapping the foil around your finger.

They work just the same as regular pure acetone but cut out the step of having to soak your own wipes into the solution.

Magic Gel Remover

If you're after a speedy solution, our Magic Gel Remover will be a real life saver.

This little bottle of magic is brushed on like a polish to your gel nails, and then after just 5-6 minutes, the gel will start to bubble, after which you can gently peel it off.

It still contains acetone, which is what breaks down the polish, but its formula also includes alcohol and other removing agents that make the process quicker.

How to Remove Gel Polish With Acetone in 5 Steps

No matter what type of acetone remover you're using, the method for removing your gels is the same.

We'll walk you through the steps for using our Gel Remover and 100% Pure Acetone at home, ensuring you get rid of your gels easily and safely.

If you're using non-Mylee removers, be sure to read the instructions provided, as we can't guarantee the results will be the same.

Step 1: Buff the Top Layer of Gel Polish

Every removal process for gel polish removal starts with buffing the top layer to remove the shine from the top coat.

This should be done firmly, as the surface needs to be opened up to allow the acetone to penetrate your gel polish. But do be careful not to file too much and damage the nail underneath your gel colour.

Use a 100-grit nail file (or the pink side of our Half Moon Nail Files) to gently buff the shiny top layer. You’ll notice that the shine fades away as you do this, and you'll see a powdery residue on the nail surface – this is completely normal.

Step 2: Soak Your Gels In Acetone for 10-25 Minutes

Once the top layer is thoroughly buffed, you can soak a cotton pad or our Nail Wipes with Gel Remover or 100% Pure Acetone.

Place the soaked wipe over your nail and secure this with clips or a piece of foil wrapped around the fingertip. Our Gel Polish Soak Off Clips give you extra hold and make sure the acetone is fully in contact with the nail surface for more efficient and effective removal.

If you're using our Pre-Soaked Remover Wraps, you can skip the soaking step and just wrap your fingers in the wraps.

Tear along the line of the sachet, discard the film to reveal the sticky side, pop your finger in so your nail is against the pre-soaked pad. Then, fold over the sides so they stick on the sticky side and your fingertip is snug inside.

Leave this on for 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 3: Remove the Wraps & Scrape Off the Polish – Gently!

After this time, remove the wrap or clip around your nails, and use a Wooden Cuticle Pusher Stick or Gel Scraper to gently push away any gel polish from your nail bed.

You need to be super gentle with this and don’t scrape your natural nails too hard; otherwise, you could damage them. Take your time and be patient.

Step 4: Repeat the Process If Necessary

If the gel is still tough and you have some polish remaining, re-buff and re-wrap your nail for another 10 minutes to remove the remnants.

Step 5: Thoroughly Wash Your Hands

Once you have completely removed the polish from your nails, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water.

Finish by applying Sweet Almond Nail & Cuticle Oil and hand cream to rehydrate your cuticles and nails.

Why Your Gel Polish Might Not Be Coming Off

If you've followed all the steps above and your gel polish still isn't budging, there could be a few reasons why…

Reasons Your Polish Won’t Come Off


Not buffing the shiny top coat enough

The top coat acts as a seal & can make it harder for the acetone to penetrate the polish.

It's important you buff the shiny coat enough to create a rough surface & always use a 100-grit file.

Your polish was applied in thick layers

Thicker coats can make it harder for the acetone to dissolve the layers underneath.

You should re-buff & re-wrap a few times to fully remove the polish. Apply thinner layers next time to make removal easier.

Not using enough acetone

If you don't use enough acetone, it won't be able to break down the polish effectively. Make sure to thoroughly soak the nail wipes.

Not waiting long enough

Make sure you give the acetone enough time to break down before attempting to remove it.

We wouldn't recommend waiting longer than 15 minutes each time to re-wrap, though, as it can dry out your nails.

Using the wrong strength of acetone

If you find a weaker acetone isn't doing the job, a pure acetone will probably be more effective, so we recommend switching out your product.

Summary: Removing Gel Polish at Home With Acetone

When the time comes to remove your gel polish, doing it properly and safely is so important for the health of your natural nails.

While you might be tempted to try out shortcuts to avoid using acetone or save time, using acetone to take off your gel polish is the best method and the only way to ensure it's fully and safely removed. Always follow the right steps and take the time to do it correctly.

Find the Best Acetone Gel Removers at Mylee

But aside from the method, it's also important to use the right products. Gel removal products can vary greatly in their effectiveness, so it's important to know what you're using.

We've made our acetone removers super simple to use and really effective at breaking down the gel polish for easy removal. We've also made sure to include a range of options depending on your preferences, whether you're looking for a quick removal or a classic soak-off method.

You can shop our selection of acetone removers along with our other removal tools, like nail files, scrapers, and nail wipes, to make your gel polish removal process even easier!


How Do You Remove Gel Nail Polish Without Acetone?

Simply put – don't! Acetone is a key ingredient in most gel removal products. If you don’t want to use 100% acetone, you can try a remover with a lower percentage. But you must use an acetone-based product.

Normal nail polish removers without acetone are best used on regular nail polish and won’t penetrate gel polish.

Is It Okay to Peel Off Gel Nail Polish?

If your gel polish is starting to lift or peel, it can be very tempting to peel it off but restrain yourself. Peeling gel polish off your natural nail bed can cause damage to your nails and make them a bit thinner. Instead, your proper polish removal method should be soaking your nails in an acetone remover.

What is the Fastest Way to Remove Gel Nail Polish?

Our Magic Gel Remover can remove your gel nail polish in just 6 minutes! Simply buff your nail, apply the remover, let it sit for 6 minutes and gently push it off your nail bed.

Is Acetone Different from Nail Polish Remover?

Acetone is a key ingredient in most nail polish removers, at varying percentages. You can use 100% acetone to remove your gel polish, and you can also use gel polish removers.

Many normal (non-gel) nail polish removers don't contain any acetone, so this won’t be effective.

How Long Do You Soak Nails in Acetone?

We recommend soaking your nails for 10-15 minutes. But depending on the thickness of your gel mani, the time can vary. If your gel polish isn’t lifting away or is a bit more stubborn, you can soak for a bit longer or repeat as needed.

Stronger products, such as our 5-in-1 Builder Gel or Magic Extender Gel, might need a bit longer soaking to remove.

Is Soaking Nails in Acetone Safe?

Soaking your nails in acetone for a short time to remove your gel mani is safe. As a top tip, you can put cuticle oil around your cuticles before soaking your nails in acetone to keep the skin around your nails from drying out.

Please note: Acetone can be dangerous when ingested, so be sure to keep it in a safe place away from children or pets.

Ellie Simmons

Ellie is the Brand Ambassador at Mylee, where she immerses herself in all things gel nails. 

Alongside being a skilled and certified nail technician, Ellie's expertise extends to gel manicures and nail extensions. Her heart and soul are devoted to all things nail-related, and she loves flaunting her own long, natural nails with captivating nail art. 

Ellie's ultimate favourites are iridescent and sparkly designs!

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