If you’re going to enter the world of gel manicures, you need to resign yourself to soaking them off. “You save plenty of time on the application and long wear of a gel manicure, so the tradeoff is committing to the soak-off process,” says Elle.
If you'd rather take them off yourself, these Opallac UV Gel Remover Wraps ($15) are ready handy, just use with an 100 percent acetone solution. But whatever you do, do not pick and peel. "Gels aren't what ruin your nails. It's the removal process, so make sure you take the time to do it the right way."
To do so, use a gritty emery board to buff the surface of your gel manicure until you've dulled down its shine, then secure a acetone-soaked cotton ball atop each nail. Tightly wrap a square of tinfoil around each fingertip so no air can get in (which would let the acetone evaporate), and wait at least 10 minutes for the nail polish remover to work.
This could take a little trial and error — depending on the strength of the gel, you may need to wait up to 40 minutes for the gel to flake off. But if the lacquer looks like it's ready to lift away from your talons, use an orange stick to gently scrape it away from your nail's surface. Once you've completed these steps on every finger, nourish your dehydrated nail beds with a cuticle oil like this one from OPI ($26.95).
It's essential that you're gentle as you remove your gel polish: your nails are likely quite soft from this process. You absolutely should not have to force the gel off with that orange stick; it should just come off with a very slight push. If you attempt to roughly slough off the lacquer, you'll remove the top layers of your nails along with it, making them even weaker.