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Best Gel Nail Polish Removers

Updated December 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 42 Models Considered
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    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best gel nail polish removers

    Last Updated December 2018

    Gel nail polish has become the standard for those who are serious about the appearance of their nails. True gel nail polish requires ultraviolet or LED light to dry and set it. Nails look and feel amazing for weeks, and the durability of gel polish makes it a perennial favorite. But that durability also makes it hard to remove, and that’s where gel nail polish removers come in.

    Gel nail polish does take some extra work to remove, and while salons offer the service, not everyone wants to spend time and money at the salon every time they change nail colors. Gel nail polish remover is specifically designed to not only remove the polish but also moisturize and protect your nail and the surrounding skin. With the health of your nails at stake, you want to find a gel nail polish remover that gets the job done without harming your nails.

    You’ve come to the right place. At BestReviews, we strive to bring you the information you need to make wise purchasing decisions. So, relax and take a look at our shopping guide to help you find the right gel nail polish remover for you.

    You can find gel polish removal aids sold separately – such as plastic protectors that slide over the nail and hold the cotton ball in place – to make removing polish much easier and less messy.

    Gel nail polish remover features to consider

    Acetone vs. acetone-free

    • Acetone: Also known as propanone, acetone is a flammable liquid solvent that removes nail polish. Basically, it’s a paint stripper with a strong scent, and it can be pretty harsh on your nails and skin. The higher the percentage of acetone in the gel nail polish remover, the better and more quickly it removes the nail polish, but frequent use can cause cuticles to dry and split, creating a higher risk of infection.
      Solutions with a high percentage of acetone work incredibly well to remove all kinds of gel nail polish, including those that contain glitter, which can be particularly hard to remove. It’s possible to find 100% acetone removers, but these should be used sparingly because they can dry out your nails and skin.

    • Acetone-free: Some people prefer to use an acetone-free and/or alcohol-free gel nail polish remover. These removers may include propylene carbonate, a weaker solvent than acetone, along with natural oils to help moisturize nails and skin. These nail polish removers can be unscented or scented with lavender and other essential oils.
       

    Liquid, pad, or brush

    • Liquid: The vast majority of gel nail polish removers come in a liquid-filled bottle. You soak a cotton ball in the solution and apply it to the nail. Liquid nail polish removers are less expensive than pads or brushes.

    • Pad: Nail polish remover pads come in containers of ten or more pads that are saturated in nail polish remover. You’ll still need to let the solution sit on your nails to fully remove the polish, but it eliminates the need to apply nail polish remover to a cotton ball. Pads are convenient because they’re ready to go as soon as you open the container, but they cost more than liquids.

    • Brush: These gel nail polish removers come in a small tub with a sponge and brush. The sponge covers the opening of the tub. You hold your finger in the solution through a hole in the sponge and then scrub off the nail polish with a brush. This method is more convenient and less messy than a bottle of liquid, but it costs more and gets used up quickly.
       

    Hydration

    Gel nail polish removers that include lotions and moisturizers can save your nails and skin from permanent damage. Some formulas work better than others, and finding one that you like might take some trial and error. Keep in mind that solutions that include hydration helpers may be oily, but the extra oils can be wiped away or rubbed into your skin for further moisturizing.

    EXPERT TIP

    Try to keep your skin and nail beds hydrated before, during, and after the removal process. Soaking your skin in acetone can cause skin and nails to dry, peel, and crack.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    How to remove gel nail polish

    Gel nail polish can last two or three times longer than regular nail polish. However, its durability and staying power can make it hard to remove. Here are some basic steps to follow for better nail polish removal.

    1. Prep your materials. Gather ten cotton balls and ten pieces of aluminum foil cut into rectangles large enough to enclose each fingertip. You’ll also need a nail file and skin lotion.

    2. File your nails. This is to remove the top coat of polish. You only need to file down until the sheen is gone.

    3. Put lotion on the skin around your nails. This keeps your skin from drying out.

    4. Soak a cotton ball in polish remover and place it over your fingernail. Make sure to cover the entire nail surface.

    5. Wrap the fingertip and cotton ball in a rectangle of aluminum foil. This holds the remover in place on the nail. (Repeat for each finger.)

    6. Soak your fingernails for 15 to 20 minutes. If the polish has been on your nails for a long time, give it an extra few minutes.

    7. Press on the foil and move the cotton ball gently back and forth across the fingernail. Remove the cotton ball and foil. Most, if not all, of the gel nail polish should come off with the cotton ball. (Repeat for each finger.)

    We recommend washing your hands after removing your nail polish to get rid of nail polish flakes and any remaining acetone.

    Staff
    BestReviews

    Gel nail polish remover prices

    You can expect to pay from less than $1 to more than $2 per ounce for gel nail polish remover, depending on the brand, format, and ingredients.

    Inexpensive: For less than a $1 per ounce, you can find many liquid gel nail polish removers that contain 98% to 100% acetone. These powerful removers might contain some extra moisturizers like vitamin E and/or grapeseed oil. Some are designed for general nail polish removal, while others are specialized for gel nail polish.

    Mid-range: At $1 to $2 per ounce, you’ll see more formulas specifically designed to remove gel nail polish. Some of these removers also include a nail file for pre-treatment of the nails.

    Expensive: For over $2 per ounce, you’ll find some of the most effective acetone-free, organic, and hydrating gel nail polish removers. These removers may also come as a kit that includes a file or stick to remove excess nail polish.

    CAUTION

    If part of your nail starts to peel off with the nail polish, stop removal, and apply more nail polish remover. Stripping away the nail weakens it and can potentially lead to infection.

    Tips

    • Be patient. If your gel polish has been on your nails for two or three weeks, you might need to let your nails soak in the remover a bit longer than usual. The polish is well bonded to the nail, and you don’t want to damage your nails by peeling the polish off too soon.

    • Speed up the process. You can buy precut foil wraps that come with cotton pads already attached. You still have to apply the gel nail polish remover, but these handy options make the process easier and faster.

    • Finish up the job. After you’ve finished the removal process, some pesky nail polish might still remain on your nails. Use a cotton ball soaked with remover to take off the last vestiges of nail polish.
    Removing the nails from the gel nail polish remover too soon can cause part of the nail plate to come off with the nail polish. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

    FAQ

    Q. What’s the difference between nail polish remover and gel nail polish remover?

    A. In some cases, there is no difference. Many general nail polish removers are effective on gel nail polish. However, they might take longer and cause more damage to your nails and skin. That’s usually where the products differ – gel nail polish remover tends to include moisturizers and other hydrating ingredients to protect cuticles, nails, and skin. Typically, the higher the percentage of acetone in the remover, the harsher it is on your skin and nails.

    Q. Are organic gel nail polish removers effective?

    A. There are several organic products on the market that can remove gel nail polish. However, many of them require you to leave the remover on your nail for longer periods of time. So, yes they are effective, but they take more time to work.

    Q. Should I soak my fingers in a bowl full of gel nail polish remover?

    A. Some manufacturer instructions recommend this method. However, professionals continue to use foil for the best removal. Aluminum foil helps keep the nail polish remover localized to your nails and provides some protection for the skin on your fingertips. That isn’t to say some remover won’t find its way onto your skin, but it does provide some extra protection. Plus, you don’t have to sit with your fingers in a bowl for 15 to 20 minutes.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Enid
      Enid
      Editor
    • Kailey
      Kailey
      Writer
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Stacey
      Stacey
      Writer

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