If you’ve been peeling off your gel nail polish – please stop! There is a better way, and it involves sugar.
If you’re wondering what we’re talking about, it’s the fact that so many people peel off their gel nail polish after it grows out and begins to crack, instead of going to the salon and getting it professionally removed.
We get it; going to the salon just to remove your nail polish seems like an unnecessary hassle, especially if you don’t plan on replacing it with a fresh coat of gel polish.
Some nail salons even charge a fee to remove your old polish. Naturally, many people just decide to remove it themselves. And seeing as the nail polish comes off so easily if you just pull on it… well, it’s understandable why so many people peel it off. We’ve all done it.
But here’s the thing – peeling off your gel nail polish is extremely damaging to your nails. And if you do it every few weeks, it becomes chronic, causing your nails to suffer over and over and making them weaker and weaker with time.
According to researchers, “The process of nail polish binding to and subsequently being removed from the nail plate may result in keratin degranulation. The clinical features of this finding are white striations, macules, and patches on the nail plate.”
Luckily, there is a way to safely remove your gel nail polish at home – and you probably already have all the ingredients on hand. Removing nail polish with sugar has become a trend in the last few years, and as strange as it sounds – it actually works.
So, how do you remove gel nail polish with sugar? To remove gel nail polish with sugar, you’ll first need to grind the sugar up into a more powdery form (do not use powdered sugar). Then, pick up some ground sugar with a cotton ball and rub it gently on your nails.
If you’ve been wondering if it’s really possible to remove gel nail polish with sugar, and how to do it right, keep reading this article, because we’re about to get into the nitty-gritty.
Can You Really Remove Gel Nail Polish With Sugar?
Yes, it’s true. You can remove gel nail polish with regular table sugar and a cotton ball. The reason it works is that ground sugar has abrasive properties, so it gently buffs the old gel polish right off.
It is very important for the sugar to be properly ground in order for this method to work. If you use regular granulated sugar that you keep on your coffee counter, it can damage your nails because the sugar particles are too large – too abrasive.
So before you use sugar on your nails, make sure that it has been ground up. We’ll go over that in a moment.
How To Remove Gel Nail Polish With Sugar
Our favorite part about this method is that it doesn’t require a lot of ingredients. Most of this you probably already have in your kitchen.
Here is a list of supplies you’ll need to have on hand before you start removing your gel polish:
- 2tbsp granulated sugar
- Grinder (a coffee grinder works well but other grinders can be used too)
- Cotton balls
- A small bowl for the sugar
- Cuticle oil (optional)
When it comes to sugar, make sure you are using granulated sugar. Powdered sugar (also known as confectioners sugar) is too fine, so you’ll need to start with granulated sugar and grind it down to the right size.
Once you have all these ingredients on hand, get yourself ready and follow the instructions below.
How To Do It
Before you begin the gel polish removal process, make sure that your nail polish is ready to be removed. What we mean by that, is this method works best on gel polish that is already showing signs of deterioration like little cracks. If it has started peeling in some part of the nail, this is a good sign as well.
Ideally, you want to start this process with nail polish that is over a week old, maybe even approaching two weeks. Follow the steps below to remove the old gel nail polish using the sugar method:
You want to make sure your hands are washed and dry before you start. This will prep your nails for the removal process and protect you from any risk of infections if you happen to scratch any parts of your skin with the sugar. Make sure your hands are completely dried before you start, otherwise the sugar will stick to them.
Place 2 tbsp of granulated sugar into the grinder and grind it for a few seconds. Any kitchen grinder should work, but we’ve seen the most success with a coffee grinder. If you don’t have a grinder, you can try using a mortar and pestle. Your goal is to get the sugar to a powdery form. It has to be finer than granulated sugar, but not quite as fine as confectioners sugar.
Once the sugar has reached the right consistency, pour it into your bowl. Make sure the bowl is dry before you pour the sugar in otherwise it might stick to the bowl. You’ll be working out of this bowl to remove the gel nail polish.
Pick up a cotton ball and dip it into the ground sugar. You might need to dip a few times to pick up a decent amount onto the cotton ball. Shake off any excess sugar so that you don’t make a mess. Once you see that the cotton ball is holding on to some of the sugar, you are ready to use it.
Now gently rub the sugar all over your first nail using the cotton ball. Be patient here. The abrasive nature of the sugar will slowly start to remove the nail polish, but you want to let it work its magic without rushing it.
It can take a few minutes per nail. If you start rubbing it forcefully, you may end up damaging the nail. So keep rubbing over the nail in a circular motion, remembering to be delicate with the pressure.
Once the nail polish has come off the first nail, dip the cotton ball back into the sugar and continue the process on your next nail. You may need to replace the cotton ball at some point if it becomes covered in bits of gel polish.
This is normal – use as many cotton balls as needed. And remember to be patient. We recommend watching a show or listening to a podcast while you do this so you don’t get bored!
Once you’ve removed all the gel polish, your nails should look smooth and buffed! But you might still have some crumbs of polish and some sugar on your skin and it may get sticky if you leave it there. Wash your hands with some soap and water.
This step is optional, but we highly recommend you apply cuticle oil or some kind of moisturizing agent onto your nails and surrounding skin after you’ve completed the removal process.
If you don’t have cuticle oil, you can use jojoba oil, vitamin E oil, or even olive oil. Rub it into your nail beds and the skin surrounding your nails until they feel soft and hydrated.
And that’s it! As you can see, removing gel nail polish with sugar is a very simple process that anyone armed with enough patience and a few tablespoons of sugar can do.
Other Ways To Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home
Sugar is not the only way to remove gel nail polish at home. Here are other things you can use to remove gel nail polish:
- Soaking in acetone
- Soaking in hand sanitizer
- Rubbing with vinegar
- Soaking in hot water with dish soap and salt
Most of these methods use some form of abrasive chemical that strips the gel nail polish off. The downside of these methods is that they can be harmful to your skin and nails. Acetone can even be bad for your airways if you breathe in too much of it!
If you end up using a chemical to remove your nail polish, make sure to do it in a well-ventilated area to protect yourself.
You should also make sure to moisturize your hands and nails afterward to mitigate the damage from the chemicals.
One of the reasons we love the sugar method so much is because it uses mechanical abrasion as opposed to chemical abrasion – and it is completely natural and non-toxic.
We don’t know about you, but we love any opportunity to use more natural and safe products in our homes!
Can You Use Sugar To Remove A Gel Pedicure?
Yes, you can! The same sugar method works on your fingers and toes, as long as you’re working with gel nail polish.
Keep in mind that the sugar method takes some time, so you will have to be comfortable sitting in a curled position to reach your toes for 20-30 minutes. If you can do that, you should have no problems using sugar to remove a gel pedicure.
You can also have a friend or family member help you remove the nail polish from your toenails if you can’t comfortably reach yourself.
Aside from the issue of positioning, there is no reason why the sugar method can’t work on your pedicure. The sugar works by gently buffing the polish off, so it will work on any gel nail polish regardless of its location.
What Happens If You Peel Off Gel Nail Polish?
As we mentioned earlier, peeling off your gel nail polish is a big no-no.
When you peel off your gel nail polish, you not only remove the gel, but also a layer of your nail. The removed layer serves as a protector for the rest of your nail, so without it, your nail begins to incur a lot of damage.
If you do this regularly, your nails will get weaker over time, leading to breakage and splitting of the nail. Your nails won’t grow as long.
Textural irregularities are also common – if you notice your nails developing bumps and lines, this is due to damage from removing the nail’s top layers. These texture abnormalities can last for months or even years because your nail will continue to grow incorrectly.
Color irregularities can happen as well. White spots and yellowing of the whole nail can happen as a result of peeling off gel nail polish.
Your nails may become dry and flaky, cracked, discolored, and bumpy. It’s not a pretty sight. This is why we are so adamant about never peeling off gel nail polish, even if it looks like it’s starting to peel on its own!
When it peels off on its own on the sides of your nail bed, it separates from the nail, but some part of it is still attached. It is this part that carries the most potential for damage.
As tempting as it is to pick and lift at a peeling manicure, we urge you not to do it. Especially when there’s a much safer way you can remove it at home by using sugar or one of the other DIY gel polish removal methods.
What Is The Fastest Way To Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home?
While using sugar to remove your gel nail polish is definitely easy and non-toxic, it is not the fastest way to remove your manicure. In fact, it takes around 30 minutes because it’s a slow process and takes a lot of patience.
If you’re looking for the fastest way to remove gel nail polish at home, sugar may not be the way to go. The fastest way is using acetone.
Acetone is what the nail salons usually use to remove your gel nail polish. It’s a chemical that is widely available at pharmacies and department stores.
To remove gel nail polish with acetone, you need to soak a cotton pad in the chemical and press it over your nails. You need to keep it there for at least 10 minutes, wrapped securely with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
The acetone will soften and weaken the gel polish so you can gently scrape it off after you remove the cotton pad, without damaging your nail.
Even though it takes 10-15 minutes, it is the quickest method of gel nail polish removal since all other methods take at least twice as long.
There is no instant way to get rid of gel nail polish. A word of caution: acetone can be damaging to your nails and skin.
According to Dr. Eisman, a dermatologist at Sinclair Dermatology, “Nail enamel remover containing acetone can cause nail dryness or brittleness. It can also cause troublesome irritant contact dermatitis (red, dry, itchy, inflamed) of the skin surrounding the nail, which can cause pain and discomfort. Broken skin can also be a portal for infection.”
If you’re using acetone, make sure not to keep it on your nails for longer than 10 minutes. Protect the surrounding skin by applying some petroleum jelly to your cuticles prior to nail polish removal. And always moisturize afterward!
If you’re not strapped for time, however, we recommend going the non-toxic route and trying the sugar method. You can’t do much damage to your nails with sugar!
For more tips and mistakes to avoid, take a look at this video below from Cutepolish on YouTube.
What Is The Cheapest Way To Remove Gel Nail Polish At Home?
Cost is an important factor when it comes to removing your gel nail polish. So many people resort to peeling their gel nail polish off because they simply don’t want to spend the money to go get it done at a salon.
But it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can remove your gel nail polish safely and cheaply at home.
Out of all the DIY gel polish removal methods, we found that sugar is the cheapest, especially if you already own a grinder and don’t have to buy it separately.
In fact, you probably already own the sugar and the cotton balls, too. It ends up being “free” for most people. If you don’t already own a grinder, it might seem like an investment, but it will serve you for many years and for lots of different purposes.
If the sugar method doesn’t work for you for whatever reason, we found that the acetone method is the next best thing if you’re looking for cheap options. You can buy 100% acetone solution for a couple of bucks and it will last you for months and years.
We hope this article was helpful and you were able to learn a lot about gel polish removal. As you can see, removing gel nail polish correctly is vital for the health of your nails. The sugar method is both non-toxic and inexpensive, so it can be a great choice for you if you want to remove your gel nail polish at home.