2. Break Out the Nail File
Start by using a coarse nail file to gently (and slowly) sand down the top layer of gel. The point is just to remove the very top layer of the gel polish. “Avoid filing too far into the color. Basically, you just want to remove the shine,” says Hipp.
3. Protect Your Skin
Next, coat the skin surrounding your nails and fingertips with a cuticle oil or a thick cream. “This will provide protection from the acetone, which is very drying to your skin,” says celebrity manicurist Tracylee. We like CND Solar Oil Nail & Cuticle Conditioner (and, bonus, this formula smells like an almond cookie).
4. Soak Some Cotton Balls
Tracylee prefers cotton balls to pads because they’re closer to your nails’ size and shape. Plus, cotton balls are able to hold on to the acetone better. “Cotton pads can absorb the acetone and dry out too quickly,” she says. Saturate the cotton balls with more acetone than you think you need, and avoid formulas with moisturizing ingredients, as these will slow down the soaking process, says Tracylee.