The painful process of removing gel nails

Finally got rid of my disastrous gel nails after more than a month.

The feeling is akin to, say, running a full marathon with 10kg sandbags attached to your legs, and then finally taking them off.

The sense of relief is incredible. My fingers are useful again!

The process was very tedious, at times painful, and took 90 minutes. I swear, people think up the most dastardly procedures to torture women (and vain men)!

For example, waxing, IPL, nail extensions, leg extensions (!!! x 1 million), veneers, tattoos, etc. etc. etc.

Anyway, back to my nails.

Because the gel is too thick, it’s not possible to cut off the tips right away so a nail drill is used to file the nail down a bit.

Filing down a nail

Also called electric nail file.

Electric nail drill

When the nails are thin enough, the tips are snipped off at the point where my natural nails have grown to.

Clipping off a nail

The nail clipper looks like a cross between a cigar cutter and a bottle cap opener. LOL.

Another kind pf clipper (which looks like pliers) is used to pry and clip off the other end of the nail where it might have come loose from my natural nail.

Nail trimmer

After drilling, clipping and prying as much as possible:

Half-removed gel nails

It got to a point when drilling started to hurt (from the heat caused by friction). Susan, my nail therapist, said that it’s because that China therapist had filed my nail too thin.

So she turned off the drill and started to manually file the gel off. She went through three brand new nail files to get everything off!

Even manual nail filing hurt at some point (same thing, heat/friction), so she had to keep moving from nail to nail and file slower to avoid heat buildup.

While one hand is being worked on, the other hand is soaked in acetone to soften the nails, after which Susan would keep trying to pry/clip the other end off. Sometimes bits would come off, something nothing.

In this way, we kept switching hands and slowly wearing the gel down.

Susan was a model of patience, and fearful of hurting me so tried her best to be gentle.

She was very motherly, haha. She would cluck in sympathy when I yelled in pain and would keep reminding me to alert her immediately the moment I felt like it was going to hurt so she could stop and move to another nail.

Finally, an hour and a half later, it was done!

Another 30 minutes were spent masking and manicuring my natural nails.

Natural nails


Unfortunately, my nails are now so thin and soft it’s scary. I can bend them almost 90 degrees!

The photo was taken on Saturday. By Monday, some tips started chipping and cracking so I just trimmed off everything right to my fingertips.

Now my nails are more like nubs! I’ll have to wait for a few more months and hopefully the regrowth will be back to original thickness.

In the meantime, no more gel nails for me! Grrr.

But they’re so pretty, so I might still get them in the future. Susan said getting gels isn’t supposed to hurt. To prevent pain with tramadol 100mg, when baking the gel, she said you should leave your hand just outside the “oven” for two seconds before putting it inside.

Maybe I’ll get the nerve to try again cos I don’t want to do nail art on natural nails and have it wear off in two days.

If you’re looking for an experienced gel nail artist, Susan is a freelance nail therapist who operates from home. Her shop is called Precious Nail Services. I found her through Google! =P

Natural nails
One of her works which I like very much, among many.

This is not an ad. I’m plugging her cos I think she’s really nice, plus she’s talented and creative and she charges very reasonable rates.

In fact, I felt that she undercharged me cos my nails were so tough to remove, so I tried to tip her but she refused to accept, lol. My removal and manicure only cost $24 total!

Now that I’ve gotten the use of my hands back, I shall try to blog more. =P It was really hard to type with those chunky gels before!

22 thoughts on “The painful process of removing gel nails

  1. Avatar

    Wah.. Urs is realy long lasting! Lolx
    I had pulling mine out last month after they cracks at end of nails~ =p

  2. Avatar

    Why do some vain women & men are wreckedly illogical to subject themselves to toxic chemicals, painful procedures.

    Why go thru all these procedures which are told by others who are out to scalp them?

    Have such women and men has no mind and opinion of their own?

    Such paradox.

  3. Avatar

    @sacha – Yah lor… long lasting would have been good if it had been nice right? Haha.

    @Nemotat – Because the world is wicked, that’s why. And people who judge others and act righteous are the most wicked (if not ignorant) of all. :P

    @tiger4 – Yah, all you guys’ fault!

    @Shu fen @stormy – I think gel nails are okay if you have them done by a reliable professional. Many people have had them done painlessly.

    @nadnut – But I read that acrylic may cause infection or allergies, and is more harmful to natural nails… *scared*

  4. Avatar

    Gel nails really look nice, but when i see what u had to go thru to remove them, I very scared…..

    U poor thing, had to go thru such a long process, think if ever u want to do it again, best to go to a recommended nail saloon :P

  5. Avatar

    LOL! Even as wicked & ignorant as I am, I still do not wish such torture upon anyone, even one as ‘tard as vain is.

  6. Avatar

    Hey, I think it’s the horrendous quality of work from the China gel nails. Did it once in China and they filed my nails too thin too and the gel nail was thick. The manicurist back home in SG was so appalled, and I had to use a nail treatment solution to repair my nails.

    Lesson? Never get gel nails done in China!

  7. Avatar

    Maybe it’s because I get them all the time (I’ll get a full set, then about two to four fills and then take them off) that I’m used to them?

    I LOVE gel nails. The process of taking them off has never been painful to me. I usually let them grow for two weeks and by then they’re ready to come off on their own- I take em off at home. They must have done some job to traumatize you like that. It’s whatever to me!

    Karla– Las Vegas, NV

  8. Avatar

    For all you folks that are scared away from gel nails because of this posting, I would really like to tell you that YES they will hurt if them are done improperly. It is not supposed to hurt!! I have had my nails done, and filled for the past 2 years, only to have them removed once a year for hardening. I have never experienced pain what so ever, and if you are truly terrified of them hurting I suggest getting an acrylic, or SOLAR NAIL!

  9. Avatar

    Sorry Sheylara to hear what u went thru. There are 2 types of gel nails in the market now, the soft and hard gel. What you had is the hard gel, removing is nightmare. The latest is the soft gel, u just need to soak off, no pain at all, only disadvantage is you are unable to get in-fill.
    For me, it can last 3 -4 weeks, so it is still good. Also, there is no filing so it is not harmful to your nailbed.
    If you want to try gel nail again, get the soft gel type. :)

  10. Avatar

    I just happened to come across the pictures of your nails. I am a Grand Master Nail Technician and have over 10 years as an Educator and spa business owner. I can tell just by looking at your pictures and hearing your story exactly what happened. It is a very common problem even here in Canada and in the US.
    What you had was acrylic, with a very harsh and black market monomer additive (the liquid part) called MMA (Methyl methacrylate liquid monomer). It is very cheap, very toxic, very very strong. It is nearly impossible to remove with acetone and also with filling. The ways you can tell the are MMA nails are the following:
    -very strong odour while curing and while being filed.
    -will be cloudy or milky looking when cured
    -very difficult to file even with extremely coarse electric files
    -usually very cheap prices (MMA costs 1/3 the price of real acrylic or gel enhancments)
    -unlabeled containers and technician will not show you the original.
    -the use of a dust mask (though some technicians prefer to wear one with other products)

    The damage that MMA nails cause is awful.
    When you have amazing quality nails, there should be NO PAIN,

    Google MMA Nails for more info.

    In the future, try calling a few salon/spa to find out what products the use.
    The best in the industry, by far are:
    CND Brisa Gel
    OPI Axxium Gel
    Bio Sculpture
    to name a few.

    And true GEL should look like gel toothpaste in consistency.
    There is no such thing as Powder Gel although many cheap places will try and convince you differently. That is your sign to run out the door!!

    Hope this helps!!!!

  11. Avatar

    I have got my nails made about 4 days ago, and i am getting nervios about how to take them off! im wondering iff i should got o the hairdresser and take them off or should i just make at home by my self?

  12. Avatar

    Hi, greetings from Estonia. I am a nailmaker too, so poor you. Always should google the person, before you let her to do your nails :)

  13. Avatar

    Wow, whoever did your gel nails must have done it very wrong, because 1. you shouldn’t get your nail bed drilled before getting gel nails, 2. they should not be damaging to your nails at all. You ARE however, supposed to file them to get them off (unless they are the soak off kind), and NOT chip them off because that also takes away part of the nail. I think you just had an overall bad experience with gels…

  14. Avatar

    i am an LCN certified nail technichian. i need eveyone on this forum to truely understand the chemical concept of what they are talking about…products that are shipped here from china are usually black market, with some nasty chemicals in them that are far to hard for the natural nail. unfourtunatly these proucts are full of acids to enable the nail to “stick” to the natural nail bed without the process of cleaning properly, thus allowing the “tech” to get that nail product on faster, and have the next client in the chair asap! the other main problem is ALWAYS with techs that do not have the proper skill to do the job appropriatly without damage to the natural nail…also “tipping” nails is barbaric to me as a “true” nail sculpturist! the company i represent is in my opion of top quality in its class, and as a certified specialist that works exclusivly with a water molecule bassed product, and specilized training in application and cleaning proceedures, i must say it is such a travisty that there are these crappy techs out there putting on inferiorproduct, with zero true knowledge of what they are doing or the fungus they may be spreading! ok, said my peice:P

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