The reason everyone loves gel manicures is that LED-cured polish stays chip-free for up to two weeks. But that longevity comes with a price: Removing gel polish can be a complete hassle.
You can either make another trip to the salon and pay to have it taken off, or you can attempt a DIY removal at home. The latter might be the more convenient, economical option, but if you've ever gone this route you probably know firsthand how hard it is to resist peeling off the polish once a free edge comes loose at the cuticle.
Peeling probably seems like an obvious way to get the polish off faster, but it's actually extremely damaging to your nails. "It's always very tempting to try to pick and peel it off yourself, people do it all the time!," says Nail Studio owner Amy Ling Lin. "But, it takes a layer of nail with it and can leave your them in very weak condition!"
Ling Lin says that leaving a gel manicure on for too long is what makes it hard to remove and why it weakens your nails. On top of not switching up your polish often enough, the super-strong topcoats that are on the market today can also make the process more difficult.
To make the job easier for yourself, plus prevent damage, don't skip on filing your nail beds before soaking them in acetone. "Gently file and buff the surface of the gel topcoat to break the seal," Ling Lin recommends. "This will make it easier for the acetone to soak in and lift the polish off with greater ease." If there are still some stubborn spots that just won't loosen up, use a wooden stick to coax them.
This article originally appeared on InStyle U.S.