If you're cack-handed, artistically challenged, or just plain busy, there's nothing better than gel nails. First, they offer half an hour of glorious hands-free, salon time out of your day – which means no mindless scrolling, and (hopefully) a little hand massage thrown in, too. Heaven.
After that? You're golden for the next few weeks, liberated from chipping, peeling and ropey patch-up jobs. Sounds fantastic, and of course it is. Right up until it comes to removing the stuff.
Peeling them off always seems like a good idea at the time (plus, it feels so good) but it will always leave you with weak, ridged nails underneath. If you head to the salon to get it removed (as advised) by the pros, that's another hour out of your day by the time you've got there and often it'll leave you a tenner lighter.
So, we've devised the ultimate guide to getting your gels off at-home, so you can enjoy them knowing your natural nail strength won't suffer for it.
These are the strengthening tools every flaky nailed gal needs in her kit
Step one: Gently buff the top of your gels
When we say gently, we mean very gently, and be careful not to scratch the cuticles and surrounding skin. Always use a buffer with a low 'grit', which measures how abrasive the buffer is (go for around the 100 to 300 mark). This breaks the uppermost seal of the gel formula, to allow for the nail polish remover to penetrate more effectively.
Step 2: Wrap your nails
Before you get going, it's a good idea to apply a generous layer of Vaseline to the cuticle area and skin around the nails to protect it from the drying effect of the remover. You'll need to buy nail polish remover with acetone in it, otherwise it won't be able to break down the gel formula. Cut your cotton pads into 10 small squares (one for each nail) and then cut ten strips of tin foil.
Soak each cotton pad in the acetone and place on top of your buffed nail. Wrap the strip of tin foil on top and twist to secure. Repeat for all ten nails and leave for 10 - 15 minutes. If you find this a bit of a faff, then you can buy special clips, which do the same job as the tin foil, stay in place properly and can be reused again and again (we tried these, and were seriously impressed). Or, if time is of the essence, try these clever remover clips from KISS with one touchscreen compatible tip so you can continue to scroll the 'gram while you soak. Genius, right?
Step three: Remove the foil and cotton pads
Don't worry if your gels are still on – that's ok. By now, they'll be soft which means you can oh-so-gently remove them using a wooden Orange Stick or cuticle pusher. If the gel is still too hard to coax off, you'll need to wrap them again. Sorry, it's the only way.
There's a nail varnish called 'LAIDback' and the colour is even more suspicious than the name
Step four: Nourish and replenish
Your nails will be feeling a little delicate from the gels and the acetone, so make sure you replenish lost moisture and support healthy growth with a rich oil. We love Loubelle Dadi'Oil (£10.49), which contains 21 nourishing natural oils and is a firm fave among the pros, or you can use anything with almond oil in it (nails *love* almond oil). Simply add a small drop to each nail and massage it into each nail bed and surrounding cuticle. Finish off with a generous dollop of hand cream and bask in your nails' natural beauty.