How To Remove Builder Gel: 2023 Guide

Builder gel is a lifesaver for most and gives a great-looking manicure. But, like with any overlay, there comes a time to remove the builder gel overlay. We all have heard the stories and seen the horrendous photos of damaged nails. So how to remove builder gel in 2023?

How To Remove Builder Gel

To remove builder gel, one must go the extra mile, as builder gel is more robust and thicker. File the top coat and color down until the overlay turns white. Wrap the nails in acetone cotton balls and foil. Soak for 10 minutes. Gently scrape off loose parts of the overlay. Repeat the steps again.

There are different strategies when removing builder gel. Some work and others damage the nails. Let’s look at builder gel and the correct ways to remove it without causing damage to the nail and surrounding finger.

Why Is Builder Gel Hard To Remove?

Builder gel has a specific function. The key to builder gel is to strengthen the nail, build up a nail form and extend a nail if you wish. Although it is part of the soft gel group, it is harder and resembles something like acrylics.

Because the bond between the builder gel and the nail is stronger and more secure, you might have to go the extra mile when removing it. We always hear how crucial it is to remove gel strategically and keep the health and well-being of the nail in mind. So what is the strategy when it comes to builder gel removal?

Steps To Remove Builder Gel Safely

filing nails to remove builder gel

We have heard it all – no acetone removal methods, soaking the hands in a bowl of acetone, scraping off the product, and using a file to remove everything. Although all these methods work somewhere along the line to remove a specific overlay, there are certain steps to follow to remove builder gel successfully.

Step 1: Use a file and put in some elbow grease. Filing down the top coat and some of the color might take a while, but be sure to file away as best you can. An electric nail file will help you with this step, but only if you have one and know how to use it.

Step 2: Here, you can choose which one you prefer. Some salons will do it one way, while you will see someone else do it another. However, this step involves acetone. It has been tried and tested and is the best way to remove builder gel.

  • Option 1 – Dip cotton balls the size of your finger in acetone, wrap them around the nails, and cover your finger and the cotton ball in foil as tight as possible.
  • Option 2 – Get nail soaking trays from any nail wholesaler or Amazon. Fill the finger pockets on the tray with acetone and submerge the nails.

Step 3: The soaking time is essential. For regular soft gel, you will soak for 10 to 15 minutes. However, with builder gel, you might have to soak longer. The total time might be 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how dense your overlay is.

Step 4: Remove the nails from the acetone option you chose, and pat dry with a paper towel. Use a cuticle pusher, wooden or metal, and gently scrape off the loose and dissolved gel.

Step 5: Lightly file the remainder of the builder gel to open the bonding pockets to receive more acetone. Repeat steps 2 to 4 until the remaining gel can be lightly buffed.

Step 6: Buff the nail to get the last bits of now weak builder gel off. Buff the nail in the form and shape you desire.

Step 7: Apply nourishing cuticle oil to the cuticles and nailbeds. The acetone dehydrated the nails, and looking after them directly after removal will ensure they revive in time for a new set.

Pro Tips To Remove Builder Gel

Although the steps above will surely help you to remove your builder gel successfully without any damage, there are pro tips that can help you.

Pro Tip #1: Patience Is Key When Removing Builder Gel

Do not try to remove the gel, especially the builder gel, when you are pressed for time. It is a process that needs your undivided attention and time. If you don’t have time, focus on removing one hand first and the other the following day.

Carefully filing, buffing, and scraping will ensure you don’t damage the nails. Unfortunately, when rushed, we tend to either do something harshly or halfway. This could lead to frustration and doing something like pulling at the gel – the number 1 thing you should never do.

Pro Tip # 2: Consider Hot Acetone For Builder Gel Removal

a woman can't remove gel nail polish

Some salons use nail-soaking trays with a bucket underneath for hot water. These work exceptionally well at removing builder gel. First, only putting the nails in the tray saves time, and you don’t have to wrap each finger individually.

Second, warm acetone works faster than cold acetone. Beware that the fingers might start to feel burning because of the hot water warming the acetone. It is OK to lift the fingers from the tray for a few seconds and put it back.

Pro Tip #3: Repeat Instead Of Extending The Removal Process

Removing builder gel, people go for a longer soak because they know it takes more time to get off. However, mainly when you use the foil method, the acetone can dry out at a point, thus, leaving you sitting extra time to soak with no acetone.

It is best to remove the nails after 10 minutes, scrape off the gel that wants to come off, and repeat the process. Then, with the foil method, add more acetone to the cotton balls before wrapping them again.

Pro Tip #4: Trim Before You Start

Using special clippers to trim the gel-covered nails will help you use less acetone and lead to a shorter removal time. Imagine filing, scraping, repeating, and buffing at a piece of nail you clip after the entire process.

What could Happen If You Remove Builder Gel Incorrectly?

Shortcuts are usually how we all want to go regarding things we don’t particularly love. For example, getting a new builder gel set is exhilarating, but removing it – not so much. The problem with shortcuts to remove builder gel is that they can leave you with much regret and terrible consequences.

  • File too hard – can lead to nail bed damage and brittle nails prone to tears and chips.
  • Soaking too long in acetone – can lead to the skin starting to burn and irritation occurring. In addition, it will dry out the skin and the nails.
  • Pulling on the gel that lifts or scraping too hard – the most severe damage where a layer from the nailbed can be removed, causing sensitivity and weakened nails.


Builder gel is one of the favorites in the world of nails and overlays. The problem is that people must pay more attention to the removal process and approach it correctly. However, following these steps and tips will make you a happily-ever-after builder gel wearer.