When it comes to removing gel polish, it can definitely feel like a chore. Not to mention, when done incorrectly, your nails are damaged and feeling weak for months. That’s why I decided to give the steam off gel remover machine a try. It promises to remove gel nails quickly, and gently - big claims! As a certified nail tech, I had my reservations, but ended up pleasantly surprised with my results. Keep reading to find out how to use this gel polish removal device, and if it’s the right gel removal method for you!
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Let’s start with answering what you’ve all come here to find out:
Can Steam Remove Gel Polish?
Yes! Steam off gel remover machines can remove gel polish, soft gels, acrylic, and dip nails. These machines are also known as acetone nail steamers. They work by heating up small amounts of acetone, and using the steam to break down a variety of artificial nail enhancements.
How Do Salons Remove Gel Nails?
Salons use a range of methods to remove gel nails such as soaking off with acetone or filing by hand or e-file (electronic file). Depending on the client’s nail condition or type, an experienced nail technician will choose the appropriate gel nail removal method.
For example, clients with thin nails and sensitive nail beds, should have their gel polish removed with the soak off (with acetone) method. This is because filing can cause a burning sensation, which feels very uncomfortable. There’s also the risk of over filing nails that are already thin to begin with.
Here are the different methods of gel nail removal used by nail salons:
Soak Off Nails With Acetone
Soaking off with acetone is the most common way to remove gel polish in salons and at home (follow our step by step guide here!).
At the salon, the nail technician will start by filing off the gel polish top coat by hand. Next, they will soak small pieces of cotton with acetone, and place them onto the surface of the nails. Aluminum foil or nail clips will then be used to keep the cotton in place.
After soaking in acetone for about 5-10 minutes, the nail tech will check to see if the gel polish is ready. If the polish is starting to flake off, the nail tech will use a cuticle pusher or orange wood stick to gently push it off from the surface of the nail. If the polish isn’t budging, they’ll rewrap the nail with the acetone soaked cotton and wait a little bit longer.
Once all the gel polish has been removed, the nail technician will gently buff the natural nails to smooth them out. At this point, the nails are ready for another gel manicure or can be left as is.
Filing With E-File
Experienced nail technicians can remove gel polish safely (without damaging the natural nails) with an electric nail drill, also known as an e-file. This method is often used when clients have a thicker gel application because it’s faster than soaking off with acetone.
Another reason for removing gel nails with an e-file is to avoid the use of acetone. Some clients may be very sensitive to it because it’s very drying on the skin and nails. Also, acetone can cause stinging on cuts and open wounds.
Steam Off Gel Remover
In 2014, The Painted Nail, a salon in Hollywood, was the first to offer steam off gel removal with their Steam Off Gel Removal System. They claimed that their machine could remove gel polish in ‘one piece’ without the soaking and scraping, in less than 5 minutes!
Since then, similar steam off gel remover machines have appeared on the market for both professional and at home use.
This isn’t a common method of gel polish removal in salons, but has recently become quite popular for at-home removals due to the influence of satisfying TikTok videos.
This type of gel nail remover typically comes in a bottle with a brush attached to the cap. The product is brushed onto the surface of the nails, and within minutes, the gel polish will look like it’s ‘bursting’ off! That’s why these magic gel nail polish removers are also called ‘popping’ or ‘exploding’ gel nail polish removers.
Although they are increasing in popularity, experts are warning users of the harmful ingredients that could be found in some magic gel nail polish removers. One of these ingredients to look out for is methylene chloride, a solvent used to strip paint off from buildings and bridges. In Canada, methylene chloride is not allowed in cosmetic products due to safety concerns.
How Do You Use a Steam Off Gel Remover?
Steaming off gel polish is quick and gentle on the nails, and can be easily done at home. Here’s what you’ll need:
Step 1 - Set Up Your Gel Removal Station
Protect your work surface with an old towel or t-shirt (something you’re not worried about ruining), and place a few layers of paper towels on top.
Plug in your steam off gel remover machine and pour 5 mL of pure acetone into the tray. Put the finger tray and cap on top. Make sure everything is closed up properly so the steam doesn’t escape as it’s heating up.
Pro Tip: Pop open your windows or keep a fan running. Although this method of gel removal doesn’t make a lot of odours, it’s a good idea to work in a well ventilated area.
Turn on the machine - It’ll beep when you press the ‘on’ button and the red ‘heat’ light will turn on.
Step 2 - File Off Top Coat
Using the 100/180 grit nail file, file the surface of your gel polish until the shine is removed. Use long, even strokes without applying too much pressure. Remove the gel dust with a nail brush.
Pro Tip: If you’re comfortable with hand filing, try to take off some of the gel polish colour so that the base coat is peeking through in some spots (don’t file beyond this point!). This will help the steam off process go even faster.
Step 3 - Steam Off Gel Polish
When the light on your machine turns green (about 2 minutes after turning on), you’re ready to steam off your gel nails!
Carefully place your filed nails into the finger wells, and curl them slightly - you don’t want to be touching the acetone in the tray.
The machine will automatically start timing for the steam removal, which will take about 5 minutes.
Step 4 - Check Your Gel Removal Progress
Once the machine beeps again and the orange light goes on to ‘warm’, you can take your fingers out of the machine.
Gently push the gel polish off with a cuticle pusher or orange wood stick. If the gel polish is ready, it’ll flake off easily. If it’s not moving at all, steam again.
Repeat this process on both hands until all the gel polish has been removed.
Step 5 - Buff Nails & Wash Your Hands
Carefully buff your nails with a nail buffer to get rid of the last bits of gel on the surface of your nails. Trim and file your nails if necessary.
Wash your hands thoroughly to get rid of the nail dust.
Step 6 - Apply Nail Strengthener
This is totally an optional step, but if you feel like it, pamper your nails by giving it a nail strengthening treatment!
Here are some that we love:
Step 7 - Nourish your nails and skin
Although steam off acetone removal isn’t as harsh on your skin and nails, it’s always nice to keep your fingers looking their best with cuticle oil and hand lotion.
Step 8 - Clean Up
Remove the acetone tray from your steam nail remover and pour out the excess. Rinse out the tray with water and dry it. I also like to clean the rest of the machine with a damp paper towel, so it’s ready for my next gel removal.
And you’re done!
Can you steam off dip nails?
Yes, you can steam off dip nails by following the same steps as steaming off gel polish.
How do you steam off acrylic nails?
Here’s how to steam off acrylic nails:
What kind of acetone removes gel nails?
For removing gel polish and soft gels, you’ll need to use 100% pure acetone.
Is acetone the same as nail polish remover?
No, pure acetone isn’t the same as nail polish remover. Acetone is a solvent that has many uses including cleaning metal tools and removing gel nail polish.
Nail polish remover contains acetone or other solvents, as well as colour, fragrance and oils.
Although acetone removes regular nail polishes faster, nail polish remover is preferred before it’s less drying for the nails and skin.
How do you get gels off quickly?
Going to the salon to remove your gel polish is highly recommended, but it’s possible to do it at home quickly using the soak off (with acetone) method, acetone steam off machine, or magic gel remover (also known as a popping or exploding gel remover).
How long does it take to soak off gel nails?
Depending on how thick your gel nails are, it’ll take anywhere from 5-20 minutes per hand using the soak off method.
To reduce the soaking time, file the surface of your gel polish (with a 100/180 file) until all the shine is removed, and you start to see the base coat peeking through in some areas.
Is it better to soak or file off gel polish?
For removing gel polish at home, the soak off method is better.
At salons, experienced nail techs can remove gel polish with an electric nail file, also known as an e-file, safely and without causing any discomfort. The benefit of using this method is that it avoids the drying effects of acetone.
The Steam Off Gel Remover is a great gadget for salons and use at home. It’s easy to use, gentle on the nails and can remove gel polish, soft gels, dip nails, and acrylics. It reduces waste (no need for cotton and aluminum wraps), and above all, it’s fun and satisfying to watch the removal process!