How To Remove Hard Gel Nails?

A hard gel manicure is the ultimate when you need solid and perfect nails. Unfortunately, building the ideal hard gel manicure takes quite a while, which can take a chunk out of your schedule.

Furthermore, the important question is how to remove hard gel nails properly?

Let’s find out with me!

How To Remove Hard Gel Nails?

A nail tech should remove the hard gel with a filing grinding technique. Hard gels have a composition that doesn’t allow any solution to break the bond to the nail. Thus, acetone soaks won’t be successful. It is possible to remove it at home, but patience is a crucial factor when removing hard gel.

a gel polish set on natural nails

The hard gel might seem impossible to remove. Still, with some research and prioritizing, you can safely remove it at home. Let’s look at what hard gel is and how to remove it.

What Is Hard Gel?

Hard gel is one of the most durable overlays you can go for. Nail techs rave about it because it gives more or less the same results as acrylic nails but can look more natural and lighter. Hard gel is perfect for those who want a long-lasting manicure, strengthen their nails, add beautiful nail art, and don’t have to go for too many removal or fill-in sessions.

The hard gel can be shaped before it dries, then cured under the UV lamp to set it. The hard gel’s composition is compact, meaning that once it is cured, it cannot be penetrated by anything. This includes dyes, harsh chemicals, and even acetone.

The perfect mix of hard gels might even overtake acrylics in that acrylics are manually mixed, which could lead to a wrong balance and affect the longevity of the overlay.

Why should you Remove Hard Gel Nails?

Think of hard gel and acrylic are long-lasting that won’t be bothered by any weather, water, or harsh chemicals. Thus, the only way to get hard gel off is to grind or file it. This is why it is crucial to know how to remove the hard gel.

If you don’t know how to remove hard gel or don’t follow the correct steps to the T, it can have consequences for your nails and future manicures.

  • Weaken the nails and lead to breakage.
  • Brittle nails that will take a long time to repair.
  • Future manicures might only last for a short time because the nail bed is not ready to act as the appropriate adhesive surface.
a nail technician buffing gel nails with a buffing machine

Steps To Remove Hard Gel Safely

Experts recommend that you get hard gel removed by a trained nail technician. However, if you are confident in your steps, you can remove them safely. Before you start to remove any hard gel, there are a few tips to follow:

  • The removal will take a long time. So make sure you set time aside to finish the job, or at least one hand.
  • It might be a massive task, but patience and delicacy are key. A hard gel removal can quickly go wrong if you over file, grind, or work too hard to try and lessen the time.

Step 1: Cut The Extensions

The first step in removing hard gel is to shorten the nail or remove extensions. Do this by using your favorite nail clipper with an easy grip. Some use specialized overlay clippers. These can become quite handy if you want to clip extensions, but it can be challenging to control precisely where and how you cut the nail.

Step 2: Use A Hard Nail File

a nail technician using a electric nail file to remove gel polish from acrylic nails

The enormous task starts at step 2. Some nail techs prefer hand-filing the entire hard gel overlay as they have more control over their file and angles. Ensure you don’t press too hard, but go in one direction and use fast forward and back motions to remove as much gel as possible.

 You can work at two minutes on the clock when you have the hang of it, or you can keep an eye on the finger and ensure you removed the entire top coat.

Step 3: Use A Nail Grinder

The nail grinder is something salons always have because it makes the removal more accessible and quicker. Hand-filing the entire overlay can get tiring and cause the process to be prolonged. The grinder makes a fast-moving motion for you, and you can use different heads to get into the nicks and corners of the nail.

Start with the sanding head, and move between smaller heads when grinding close to the skin or cuticle to get as close as possible without hurting the client or yourself. When the nails start turning white, you can stop with the grinder.

Set the wattage to fit you or the client. Too low watts will lead to less removal. Thus, evaluate the amount of gel removed with different watts. Don’t stay with the grinder in one place for too long; this will start to burn and can damage the nail.

This step might not be included for someone removing hard gel at home without the grinder. If you don’t have a nail drill, you might have to hand file with step 2 for 15 minutes on each finger before you reach the mark.

Step 4: Use A Medium Nail File

When the grinder reveals a white overlay color, you know you are close to the nail bed and can start practicing the delicate and softer filing technique. In step 4, you will focus on removing the gel’s last bits, but without over-filing to damage the nail itself.

Step 5: Clean The Nails

a woman using non-acetone gel polish cleanser

Wipe your nail with acetone or a lint-free wipe. This will clean the debris from all the filing and see where more filing is needed. Then, file again if necessary, and wipe it clean.

Step 6: Buff The Nail Smooth

At this point in the process, the nails look dull and bleak. Use your buffer to give your nails a new natural shine and smooth out any ridges that might have formed during the grind or file process.

Step 7: Apply A Nail Strengthening Base Coat

You decide to rest your nails or go to a professional to do the overlay. Thus, you nurture your nails after the harsh removals. The best nutrition you can give your nails at this point would be a strengthening oil or base coat. It protects and refreshes the nail bed.

Step 8: Add Cuticle Oil

a woman using cuticle oil after getting a gel manicure

Cuticles usually take some hammering during the file and grind phases of hard gel removal. Then, add oil to the cuticles to refresh and moisturize the cuticles, and give your nails life.

Step 9: Moisturize The Hands

Apply a regular hand moisturizer daily to ensure smooth hands and fresh nails. It will strengthen the nails when you go for a new overlay in a couple of days or weeks.


Removing hard gel is a mission and needs patience if you want to try it yourself. Salons have tools that will speed up the process but ensure your nail tech, or you take the nail’s health into consideration and not only focus on saving time.