Help Me My Fingernails are Destroyed: What to Do When You’ve Ruined Your Finger Nails from too Much Gel or Shellac Nail treatments.

Below is a picture of my nails in their current awful condition. I have had gel nail polish three times in the last three months and the gel polish and process of removing the polish has ruined my nails. It is going to take along time for them to recover. I did some research on the best way I can bring my nails back to life so hopefully you can learn from my mistake. I know some lady’s get their nails done monthly with shellac or gel polish but the effects are brutal on your real nails and I had beautiful nails before gel polish. I would save gel or shellac polish for a special occasion.

My Nails Destroyed (Amanda Eifert)

1. If you do not want to pay $20.00 for a beauty salon to remove your gel shellac polish you can use acetone and either soak your nails in the acetone or soak cotton balls/rounds with the acetone and place them over your nails putting tinfoil over top the cotton balls/rounds. After twenty to thirty minutes, the shellac or gel polish should be easy for you to scrap off gently. It should come right off and be sticky. For me this method works for shellac but not gel nails. I soaked my Gel nails for fifty minutes altogether with the cotton balls and foils and the polish did not come off last time I had my nails done in December.


Acetone Gel/Shellac Nail Polish Remover (

2. For Gel nails, the second option I researched and that was  recommended to me by an esthetician, was to buff the nail polish off using a nail file. This takes along time and can be extremely hard on your nails especially if they are already super thin and cracking due to Gel polish. It also hurts your finger nails and I was trying to be gentle. If your nails are thin and peeling this method is not the way to go. I was able to remove most of the Gel polish, but underneath my nails were paper thin. In some places, they started to bleed underneath the nail. I left the Gel polish right at my tips because it was too painful to buff off and will grow out soon. 

***If your nails are as bad as mine, it is worth it to go into the salon and get the Gel polish removed. They salon has a special drill/file and it does not remove extra layers of your nail that are already thin, as filing the polish off can make happen. If I had only went to the salon in the first place and paid $20.00 I would’ve had nails in a better condition. I paid $20.00 anyways for the nail strengthener I talk about later on. So consider this please.


3. If your nails are thin, cracked, and peeling cut them as short as you can, so they can grow back stronger. Use a cream that is good for your hands and nails to moisturuze and help strengthen your nails and keep your hands soft. I recommend Vaseline Healthy Hand and Nail cream which you can find at any drugstore.

Vaseline. Healthy Hand and Nail Cream (Amanda Eifert)


4. Use cuticle oil to shine your nails when you have gel or shellac nails. This also helps to moisturuze your nails so they do not become cracked and peeling. Use it after you have removed your gel/shellac polish to keep your nails especially strong and your cuticles soft. I received this in a gift a few years ago but cuticle oil is available in drug stores and olive oil works well if it is all you have at home.


5. This next product, I read about from other people who found themselves in this nail situation. It is a Nail Strengthener by OPI, an excellent nail care brand. I ordered one from Nail Polish Canada. There were a few different OPI Nail Strengtheners to choose from and I bought the one for dry and brittle nails. The nail strengthener is from OPI’s Nail Envy line and costs about $20.00 Canadian for a bottle. The blogs I read, said to apply the strengthener to your nails at the beginning of the week. You can put a colour over it if you would like. Also, use it over top your coloured polish if you are applying a colour. Then mid-week, apply a coat of the nail strengthener again and also apply one last coat at the end of the week. Then start again the next week until your nails are strong. If you don’t want to invest in a strengthening polish at least put some kind of regular nail polish overtop as your nails grow more and will hold together better under a polish. Clear polish is fine and probably the best. But this Nail Envy works so well, it is worth ever penny.


OPI. Nail Envy , Nail Strengthener (

6. If you need to remove nail polish, do not use regular or acetone nail polish remover on your nails in their damaged state. Instead, use a natural nail polish remover. I received a great one in my Luxebox a couple boxes ago. It is called Sun Coat: All Natural Nail Polish Remover Gel made from Corn and Soy. It is $7.99 online or can be found at London Drugs with other Sun Coat products. You apply the gel to your nail (with regular polish on) and allow it sit for thirty seconds to a minute on your nails. You may have to reapply a bit if you missed an edge or a section of polish. But generally, within a minute your polish comes right off with a cotton round and your nails aren’t further ruined by chemicals or damaged more. Sun Coat’s Nail Polish Remover does not sting when you put it on or smell at all. It is the perfect polish remover to use and start again with applying the nail polish OPI strengthener to keep your nails from looking like mine currently do. 

If I can say one thing that is important it would be that if you are doing Gel or Shellac nails often, allow them to breathe for a couple weeks now and then. Also, pay the money and get the estheticisan to remove it with her special tool. It will save your nails. Inbetween, use the the OPI Nail strengthener on your nails. 


Sun Coat : Nail Polish Remover Gel made with Corn and Soy (Amanda Eifert)

©Mandibelle16. All Rights Reserved.


25 thoughts on “Help Me My Fingernails are Destroyed: What to Do When You’ve Ruined Your Finger Nails from too Much Gel or Shellac Nail treatments.”

    1. This was a year ago about I think. It’s not actual ‘gel’ or ‘acrylic’ nails you put on top of your nails, but those ruin nails too. This gel/shellac nail polish you have painted on your own nails. It dries extremely fast under a light and lasts a month.

      After three times in a row my nails were horrendous, I think I mentioned bleeding underneath they were so thin and splitting. After a couple of months they had improved a lot and after a year there back to excellent because I used that OPI nail strengthener.

      They key with gel/acrylic polish is paying the $10.00 to have it removed. I found removing it at home did not work well for me, for some women it does. But it’s best to go back to the salon because they know how to remove it properly so you don’t wreck your nails underneath.

      My aesthetician said it was fine to self -remove but it’s what destroyed my fingernails. You also need to take breaks every couple months from gel/shellac nail polish.

      Like you I save it for special occasions 🙂

      Thanks for reading 🙂


  1. Yikes! I am sorry that you had such a bad experience with gel polish! It is not supposed to be this way though. I wear new gel polish every week and my nails are in perfect condition when the gel is removed. It is all down to technique. How it is applied is just as important as how it is removed. Did your nail technician file your nails aggressively before the gel application? If so, this is a big no-no. With Shellac polish you don’t need to do this step at all. With gel you VERY lightly buff the nail just to remove the shine. If you see a little ledge as your nail grows out your nails plate is being filed down too much.
    Removal is supposed to be a gentle process. You should never be scraping anything off. I start by lightly filing the surface of the gel nail polish to break the seal of the clear top coat. I use a gritty nail file to do this because the gel is so hard. I file until the nail polish looks matte. (I have skipped this step before and I still get everything off. The removal process just takes a lot longer. I don’t need to do this at all when using all Shellac products). After soaking my polish in acetone (using the foil technique) I nudge off the flakes of polish that have lifted in their own with an orange stick. Anything remaining gets treated to a re-soak and it is usually all off by the second round.
    When the polish is first removed your nails will feel a bit bendy from soaking in the acetone, but they will get hard again as soon as they are exposed to oxygen. This is a great opportunity to massage in a little nail oil while you wait. I hope this helps anyone considering gel or Shellac. It is 100% not supposed to ruin your nails when done correctly. 😀👍🏻 My nails are in the best condition of my life since I found gel and Shellac polish. It is like armour and has allowed my nails to grow without breaking. Good luck, should you ever decide to give it another go!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for all the information. This is great. I have noticed a difference btwn shellac and gel, shellac easily comes off with acetone remover, however I did find my nails were still affected. With gel I did whstvyou described, filing the polish gently but I would never again, that’s what helped make them so thin they bled underneath. This was last year my nails are great now and I’d do gel for a vacation or special occasions. But my Mom had shellac brand and the polish peeled off on the second day in England. I’m not sure why that happened? As for me. I’d pay the $10 to have the gel brand removed it’s worth it. I’ve talked to aestheticians where I usually have manicures and pedicures and they are not cheap places of you know what I mean, but not completely expensive either. They say you need to take a break every two or three sets of gel/shellac nails. Since this post I have never worn them more than twice and they always leave lines, weaken my nails.

      Thanks for the info though. This helps me and my readers a lot. It seems to be a poultry post!


      1. Hmmm. I am curious now as to how many layers of polish you were wearing. It would be hard to make sure that you stop filing before you reach the actual nail plate if you only had 2-3 layers of polish on as a buffer.

        I have never seen it said on professional informational websites that you have to take a break between application of gel/shellac. (This is the best place to go for science based info on nail care: I am not sure what the benefit of a break might be as nails, like your hair, don’t actually need to breathe. My nails are stronger with the gel on, so taking a break from this and reverting to regular polish might result in breakage for me personally. I am glad that you found a system that works for you though and are happy with your nails! At the end of the day, that’ all that matters.

        Peeling can result from several factors. Was the nail properly dehydrated before the gel was applied? (This can be achieved by applying 99% rubbing alcohol to the nail or acetone beforehand. I also like to use a primer.) Any oil on the nail before product application can result in lifting. If the gel was touching the skin near the side walls of the nails this can also result in lifting. When I apply gel I am very careful to make sure that I apply the polish in thin coats and leave a fine gap along the cuticle area. It is also important to apply a base coat, the color and then a top coat. Skipping this step can also result in lifting as the color coat is designed to stick to a base coat and not the natural nail.

        Best of luck and congrats on having written such a popular post! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks glad you like. I find breaks allow my nails to become hard again. They can become so soft after the gel polish and they don’t grow out much but break easily. I think my Mom thought the humidity in England might have contributed. She said the manicurist did double base, after making the nail easier to stick to shellac first, then two coats color and two top coats. Maybe they didn’t allow her nails enough time to harden b/4 putting the oil on to make it shiny. Yes when u have gel on it makes your nails rock hard, it’s when u don’t they are thin.

        Thanks again.


  2. I’ve had great nails all my life until I started Shellac and Gel. Shellac was less harmful than Gel. Gell ruined my nails. I was told it was because I waited for a month to redo. They would look pretty good for a week (except for the growth). She said at about three weeks water would begin slipping under my Gel and that was the cause of the bad nails. I’m stubborn. I won’t pay more than a dollar a day for finger nail polish, so I’m at a stalemate, but at least my nails are healing. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad your nails are healing. It’s actually better to get ‘gel nail fills’ than to do the polish, if you want to do that often. There’s the cost of getting them
      Done once a month, but it’s better for your nails. Or, what you can do is save the gel polish for special occasions. I find it stays on better & longer than the shellac brand. Let it grow out, & soak your finger tips in acetone (20 mins or so) don’t get any remaining Grinded off/down by your nail lady — too many of them don’t know what they’re doing. Don’t do gel/shellac polish more than 2x in a row, that’s my rule. Using the acetone to get gel or shellac off should pretty much make the polish soft enough to get off with an orange stick, the end of a pointy nail file etc. Pealing it off also takes layers of your nail off with it.

      Any nail repairing polish for thin or pealing nails would help your nails grow faster and grow stronger. The OPI one is more $, but worth it. It will also last literally years. But, Sally Hanson or whatever other cheaper brand would work too. Hope that helps Oneta. It’s my Update from this post I wrote a few years back now. If you have questions I’m happy to answer 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for the advice. I know they have the OPI brand in our local beauty supply. I go near there often. I’ll check. I really don’t think their sales personnel know much about it. Much rather take your advice.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks Oneta. Yeah it’s good stuff. I wouldn’t say it was if I didn’t know. It is pricey, but worth it. I agree. And I think finding help at some stores who do know stuff about what they sell, is harder these days. I think even from when I was younger. I just find that myself too.

        Liked by 1 person

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