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How to Remove Polygel Nails

20 Sep 2023
How to Remove Polygel Nails

Polygel nails have taken the nail salon by storm the past few years. Stronger than gel polish but more natural-looking than acrylics, Polygel makes for a stylish daily wear manicure that can go 3-4 weeks in between touch-up appointments.

But the more durable a manicure is, the tougher it is to get off. Understanding a little more about the chemistry of Polygel nails and the removal process can help you keep your manicure and natural nails looking great.

Without further ado, the team at NotPolish is here to help you learn how to take Polygel off!

What Are Polygel Nails?

Polygel is a product chemically similar to acrylics. It can be used as an overlay to strengthen your current nails and create a smooth canvas for polish or other decorations. Or, it can be used in conjunction with nail tips to give your nails more length.

Polygel is a “middle of the road” option between gel polish and acrylic nails - it’s lightweight and natural-looking, like gel, but it’s also strong, like acrylics. Polygel extensions last about as long as acrylics.

How Do Polygel Nails Differ from Acrylics?

Polygel is made from the same acrylic powder used for acrylic nails. Instead of being mixed with a monomer, it’s mixed with what’s called an oligomer.

An oligomer is partway between a monomer (one molecule) and a polymer (multiple molecules that form a long chain). This structure keeps it in a liquid or gel state until it’s hit with UV radiation from the sun or a curing lamp.

Many Polygel mixtures actually come pre-mixed in a tube like toothpaste. It has a consistency similar to clay or putty, making it much easier to sculpt and shape than acrylic liquids.

Another benefit of using oligomers is that they’re less smelly and toxic than monomers. If you’re concerned about your respiratory health or worried about developing a monomer allergy, Polygel may be better than acrylic for you.

Polygel won’t cure unless it’s under a UV light. This can make it easier for beginners or new nail techs to sculpt the manicure. 

Good Removal Is Key to Nail Health

When you’re first getting your Polygel nails, it’s important to choose the right products that won’t damage your nail bed. It’s also important to keep all your tools clean to avoid infection.

Good procedures are just as important when it comes to removing your nails, too. It can be tempting to take shortcuts, but taking your nails off the right way will keep your hands healthy and prepped for more manicures!

Preventing Damage

Polygel forms a tight bond with your natural nail, and that’s exactly what you want. That bond is what makes your Polygel manicure durable, watertight, and long-lasting.

However, that kind of durability makes removal a bit tricky. You risk cracking, tearing, or even removing the whole natural nail if you remove your Polygel the wrong way.

Damaged nails are unsightly and make it difficult to apply a fresh manicure. They also can lead to infection and other health issues.

Keeping a Smooth Surface

Keeping your natural nail strong and smooth makes it easy to wear Polygel or other artificial nails. Improper removal of your manicure, especially with a nail file or e-file, can cause problems by creating holes or divots in your natural nail.

These divots can make it much harder to attach a new nail tip or gel and make it much more likely that the tip or gel will fall off.

There’s not a whole lot you can do once the surface of your nail is damaged. You may have to wait up to 3 months for the nail to grow out.

Preventing Infection

Bonding an artificial nail to your nail bed can trap more than just adhesive. Fungus and bacteria can get trapped in there, too.

This normally isn’t a problem, provided you or your nail tech keep everything clean. But a damaged nail surface can make that a lot more difficult. 

Bacteria and fungus can get trapped in the divots and cracks of a nail and stay there even after a thorough handwashing. These creepy crawlies can lead to thickened and discolored nails, pain, or a bacterial infection that spreads through the body.

Improper polish removal can also cause microabrasions on your hands and cuticles, another risk factor for infection.

How Do You Take Off Polygel Nails?

So removing Polygel nails properly is a must. But what’s the best way? How can you do it safely at home?

Salon Is Best

It’s always best to go to the salon and have a professional remove your Polygel manicure. Many of the techniques to remove Polygel can be harsh on your nails and hands - it’s better to have the wisdom of an experienced nail tech.

A salon removal is even more important if you plan to have a new set of nails. This is because if you don’t get all the Polygel off, the nail tech may have to use more harsh chemicals to get the old gel off before the new gel can be applied.

Acetone Removal

Sometimes you need your nails off right away and can’t get to a salon, though. If that’s your predicament, you’ll want to get your hands on some acetone nail polish remover. Acetone is the best tool for the job - it has a special affinity for dissolving gels and acrylics.

Acetone is extremely flammable, not to mention smelly. Only do acetone removal in a well-ventilated space far away from any sources of open flames. And always wash your hands well before and after using acetone.

  1. After you’ve washed and dried your hands, gather your tools. You’ll want your acetone, cotton balls/squares, 10 squares of tin foil about 1”x1”, and a cuticle pusher or orange stick. Cotton swabs are good to have on hand, too.
  2. Soak a cotton ball or square in the acetone, then place it on your nail. Try to maximize contact with the nail and minimize contact with the skin.
  3. Use the foil to secure each cotton/ball square to a finger.
  4. Chill out for 15-20 minutes while the acetone does its work.
  5. Take off the tin foil and cotton, then try using the pusher to push off the Polygel and any nail tips.
  6. If gentle pressure from the pusher doesn’t work, reapply your acetone-soaked cotton for another 10-15 minutes.
  7. Use cotton swabs dipped in acetone to get off any stray polish hanging onto your nails and cuticles.
  8. Finish by washing your hands and applying cuticle oil and hand lotion. Acetone can dry and irritate the skin, so it’s important to hydrate your hands after.

Filing Removal

Another way to get Polygel off your nails is with a nail file. This technique can be gentler on your nails and hands, but you do have to be skillful with the file. Otherwise, you risk filing the actual surface of the nail bed.

  1. Pick an appropriate file. You can use a glass file or go with one that’s a 100 or 120-grit surface.
  2. Cut your tips short with a nail tip clipper. In a pinch, you can use a toenail clipper. Shortening your nails will make removing the Polygel easier.
  3. Using gentle motions, start removing the top layer of Polygel with your nail file. Keep going until you reach the natural nail, then stop. 
  4. You can use a gentler nail file to remove the last scraps of polish, or you can use acetone.
  5. Finish by washing your hands, then applying hand lotion and cuticle oil.

E File

If you own an e-file or electronic file, you can also use that to remove your Polygel nails. Working an e-file takes a bit of skill, so make sure you know what you’re doing before you start!

  1. Start by cutting your tips short with a tip clipper.
  2. Use a low and gentle speed on your e-file to buff off your Polygel. Stop when you reach your natural nail.
  3. Use a manual file or acetone to remove the last bits of gel.
  4. Finish by washing your hands and applying hand lotion and cuticle oil.

Out of Acetone?

If you need to remove your Polygel nails but don’t have acetone, don’t fret! You can still get them off with a little bit of know-how.

If you have non-acetone polish removal, you can substitute that in the acetone method described above. It will take longer to remove your nails than with acetone, though.

If you don’t have any polish removal, put a few drops of dish detergent and a teaspoon of salt to a bowl of warm water. Let your nails soak in the water for 20 minutes. If the Polygel isn’t loose enough to push off, try another 10-15 minutes.

How Do You Remove Polygel Nails Fast?

It’s best to take your time when it comes to removing your gel nails. But sometimes, you need to get them off right away.

The fastest way to remove your Polygel nails is to use an e-file with acetone for the last bits of polish. If you don’t have an e-file, acetone alone is the next fastest way.

It can be tempting to pick or pull at your nails, especially if the gel polish has already chipped. However, this can damage your nail bed and make it more difficult to apply a new nail. 

Does Rubbing Alcohol Remove Polygel?

While rubbing alcohol is great for removing stains from your Polygel nails, it’s not a good choice if you’re looking to remove them. 

Rubbing alcohol can weaken Polygel. This can be a concern if you use rubbing alcohol as a dehydrator to prep your nails for Polygel application.

However, that doesn’t make rubbing alcohol a good choice for an in-a-pinch nail remover. It’s not particularly efficient and can be quite drying to the nails and hands. If you don’t have any polish remover, it’s better to use warm water and soap.

Can I Peel Off Polygel Nails?

If you only take one piece of advice from this blog post, let it be this: do not peel off your Polygel nails!

Polygel is designed to bind tightly with your natural nail. Repeated exposures to UV light during your daily life can strengthen the gel-nail bond, too. 

That means that you will almost certainly damage your natural nail. In the best case, you’ll just pull of the top layer, putting dents and divots in the nail.

In the worst case, though, you could pull off part or all of your natural nail. Trust us - that makes more manicure problems than it solves!

Can You Refill Polygel Nails?

Yes! You can refill Polygel nails about every three to four weeks. Your nail tech will let you know when it’s time for a new set.

During your fill-in appointment, the nail tech will fill down the gel a bit, then apply fresh gel near your bottom cuticle. This will keep the gel strong and ensure it covers the whole nail.

Tips and Tricks

  • You should budget 45-60 minutes for removing your Polygel nails, more if you’re not using acetone or a drill.
  • Don’t skip on the cuticle oil and hand lotion! Dry and broken cuticles make manicures both more difficult and more painful.
  • You may want to consider giving your nails a few days to rest in between removing one set of gel nails and applying the next. You can also apply a collagen or keratin treatment to your nails to strengthen them.
  • You can make your Polygel manicure last longer by wearing gloves while washing dishes and doing other household chores. You shouldn’t use your nails as tools, either.
  • Are your gel nails stained? Simply wipe them with rubbing alcohol or wash your hands with warm, soapy water.

Buy the Best Polygel Nails

Knowing how to remove Polygel nails at home can be useful in a pinch and can help you keep your manicure looking beautiful and your natural nails strong. 

Another way you can keep your manicure looking its best is to use high-quality Polygel products. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use system with plenty of color options, take a look at what’s on sale at NotPolish.

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