One of my most frequently asked questions is HOW DO I REMOVE MY (insert type of polish here)?! So I thought it would be fun to dedicate a blog post to my tried and true methods for removing all types of polish from gel to glitter to regular. Let’s get into it! I feel very passionately about this topic, so my thoughts are really flowing :) 

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I am an acetone LOVER personally. It’s cheap, it works so well, and it also just gets your nails so ready for painting (by making them super dry, which is a con of acetone but I feel like the pros mostly outweigh it for me here). 

I personally don’t like acetones that are mixed with like vitamins or oils or anything else. Sometimes I’ll see some that say they are effective at removing gel, but they also have like oils and things added to prevent it from drying your nails out, but the thing is, we don’t want any oils on our nails when we’re about to paint them! So make sure you wipe with rubbing alcohol before painting if you’re using that. These may be disguised with marketing terms like “Advanced” or “Ultra Powerful”. Just be aware!!! I suggest just not using those and going with 100% acetone, so much better and straight to the point!

So all of that to say, I always look for 100% acetone from the drug store, target, the grocery store, beauty stores, etc. I’m a purist! And I always use a cotton ball, mostly because they’re cheap. Cotton balls work 1000000x better than paper towels. Please don’t waste your time using them, or napkins, or tissues. Cotton balls are just able to saturate your nails with the acetone so much more efficiently. I also like using lint free wipes because little cotton fibers are SO annoying to get in your polish, and I feel like they always linger. 

 Here are links to my favorite products:


Cotton Balls

Lint free wipes


I love glitter polish but removing it can be soooo annoying! I think acetone is the only way to go here. Not to be a broken record, but it’s just able to penetrate through the polish (almost like gel removal) and actually break it up and get it to come off. You also need pressure. If you have tried removing glitter in a non-acetone nail polish pot… oof. I’m sorry for all of that wasted time. Here’s what I do:

  • Soak a cotton ball with 100% acetone
  • Press & hold firmly onto one nail for 30-60 seconds
  • Apply some pressure and wiggle the cotton ball upwards to try to get the glitter to come off
  • You can even gently buff off some of the top layers, just like you would do with gel!
  • Hold the cotton ball on you nail for a little longer if needed
  • Use a new cotton, fresh, cotton ball with acetone to clean off your nail once you have most of the glitter removed. I would probably keep one cotton ball for actually cleaning the nail, and one for the soaking/pressing process or else you’ll just be moving the glitter around a bunch

A note on acetone-free nail polish remover:

I personally don’t love using this. It works to remove polish usually, but I feel like it sometimes leaves a mess. Especially using it for cleaning up polish while painting your nails - SUCH A MESS. 


I’m breaking this into two parts, one part that I hate doing, and one part that I love doing, personally :) 

Let’s start with hate! Which is of course filing off your gel and soaking it off with acetone.

I talk about why I don’t like this process a little more in this blog post :

But the gist is that soaking off your gel with acetone time and time again can make your nails really dry & brittle. I already mentioned that acetone is drying, so when we keep it on our nails for 10-30 mins (it can really take 30 mins if you’re being super gentle, which you should always be!!) it can basically deplete your nails of any natural oils and make them super weak and bendy. Pair this with a full gel removal which means buffing and scraping off the product from your nail, and you’re left with dry, flimsy, weak nails. Sometimes… I’m not saying this happens all of the time, but at least for me, it does!! And also, it takes SO LONG!!! For all of those reasons, I prefer my e-file infill method much more, but I do need to remove my gels fully from time to time, so sometimes I’ll do this. 

If you prefer this method after all of that slander (kidding :)), here is how to safely and gently do gel removal: 

  • Use a low grit file to gently file off the top layers of the gel. You want to pretty much fully remove the top coat so the acetone can penetrate through the gel layers. This will look scratchy, rough, and matte. If you see any shiny bits, file them off a little more. 
  • Use a portion of a cotton ball that is practically dripping in acetone (seriously, be generous), and place it in a gel removal cap 
    • If you’re doing this frequently, PLEASE invest in these caps. They are 10000000x easier to use than foil. I don’t have time for foil! 
  • Let your nails soak for 10-20 minutes
  • I like to use a wash cloth and get it wet with water that’s as hot as you can stand. Wrap your hand in it and let the steam help the gel come off! 
  • After the time is up, peek at your gel and see if it starts to lift and peel away from your nail when exposed to air. If it doesn’t, put the cap back on for 5-10 more minutes.
  • When it’s starting to peel off, this is when you can use an orange wood stick or a cuticle pusher and *****GENTLY***** start to push the gel off of your nail. If it’s not budging, put the cap back on and soak it for longer. Sometimes I’ll even file or buff my nails a little more because the acetone is clearly not penetrating through! 
  • When you have most of your gel removed, use a sponge buffer to *****GENTLY***** buff the surface of your nail to smooth it out and get off any excess product
  • Make sure to use cuticle oil to rehydrate after all of that acetone exposure! 

Here are the products I recommend:

Files (100/180)

Sponge Buffers

Gel removal caps

Now for my favorite process, the e-file fill!!! 

Here is why I love it: 

First off - I use my e-file for gel manicure removal & manicure prep! I like to think of the e-file as just a step in my prep process. But also, the e-file:

  • Allows me to do a fully dry manicure
  • Helps me do a QUICK & efficient gel manicure 
  • Allows me to keep a thin layer of base gel on my nail surface, and gives my nails additional protection!
  • Cuticle bits allow you to get extremely precise and can help with longevity 
  • Takes a little bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it, you will love it! 

Read this blog post for tons more info about the e-file and this process:

And check out this course for a full tutorial on how to use it!

I go over the exact steps in the course, and I HIGHLY recommend checking it out because while the e-file is very user friendly and possible to use with no experience, there is a learning curve which took me a WHILE to understand, I did all of the testing so you don’t have to! You can just learn the good parts and start using it correctly. I’ve gotten so many messages from people who have tried this course saying that it has helped them so much, whether they have never used it before, or were using it incorrectly! I promise you you can figure it out and it will make such a big difference in your manicure process once you try! 

Here is the efile I love!

And here is the removal bit and the cuticle bits I've been loving too.

I ALWAYS use builder gel, so this allows me to do an infill which means I pretty much never remove the gel fully from my nails, which means I never soak them in acetone, which means they’re super strong and not suffering from all of the cons of soaking off gel in acetone!

If you want to know more about builder gel, check out this blog post:

Ok here is my process:

That pretty much sums up all of the ways I like to (and don’t like to :)) remove my polish! If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment! 


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