Removal of acrylic nails


The most popular home method for removing acrylic nails is to soak them in an acetone solution. Many commercial nail polish removers contain acetone, but not alll of them do. Check the bottle so you can be sure that you have the right kind.

Supply List

Here’s what you’ll need to try this method:

  • A generous supply of acetone nail polish remover (enough to soak the fingertips of both hands)
  • A glass bowl large enough for soaking fingertips
  • Towels to cover your work surface and to dry your hands
  • Old towels or rags to wipe away the acrylic
  • Petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline
  • A nail file and a nail buffer with coarse and smooth sides
  • Several orange sticks (used to push back cuticles)
  • Moisturizer

What to Do

  1. Cover your work surface with a towel, being mindful that acetone can damage furniture and other surfaces.
  2. Pour the acetone nail polish remover into the bowl, deep enough to cover your fingertips.
  3. Coat your cuticles and the tips of your fingers in petroleum jelly, leaving the nails bare. This will help protect your skin from the harsh acetone.
  4. Soak fingertips in the acetone. Try to keep only your nails in the solution, not your entire fingers.
  5. After about 20 minutes the acrylic gel should become soft and begin to dissolve away.
  6. Use the cuticle sticks to gently scrape away the softened acrylic. The gel may be sticky and gooey, and it can take several rounds of soaking and gentle scraping to remove most of it. Be careful not to scrape at the surface of the underlying nail.
  7. Use a towel or rag soaked in acetone to wipe some of the acrylic away.
  8. When the acrylic is nearly gone, wash and dry hands and allow the nails to air-dry completely.
  9. Use your buffer to smooth away any remaining bits of acrylic, again being careful not to damage the natural nail. Note that some people prefer to leave a thin coat of acrylic, to avoid any risk of scratching the nail surface.
  10. Apply moisturizer to skin to help soothe away any irritation.

When to Stop

If your skin becomes reddened, painful, or otherwise irritated, stop immediately. Wash your hands thoroughly with gentle soap. If the irritation doesn’t calm down, call your doctor.If you find yourself scraping, tearing, or otherwise damaging your own nails, nail beds, or cuticles, take a break. You may decide to continue more carefully, or you may choose to head for the salon and let the experts take over.

An Alternative Method

Some people prefer to soak cotton balls in acetone, then place them over the nails and wrap the fingertips with aluminum foil to hold the cotton in place. This dissolves the acrylic without requiring you to soak your fingertips in acetone. You’ll need to leave the cotton balls on your nails for at least 20 minutes. Remove them one at a time, gently scraping or wiping off the acrylic on each nail.

Removal Techniques to Avoid

It may be tempting to snap off the tips when you’re tired of your fake nails, but it’s not a good idea. If your nails have grown out substantially underneath, you can end up hurting yourself if the acrylic nail and your natural nail both break off below the edge of the nail bed. Even if the acrylic comes off painlessly, you can damage the surface of your nail.


Resist the urge to file away at the hardened acrylic paste, too. This layer can be quite thick, and you’ll find it difficult to file it down evenly. In addition to the aesthetic challenge of smoothing out your nail surface, you could easily file away too much. Overzealous filing can remove your natural nail along with the artificial layer.

Salon Removal May Be Necessary

Sometimes, removing acrylic nails yourself just doesn’t work out well. If you’re sensitive to acetone, home removal probably isn’t for you.If you experience problems with do-it-yourself removal, remember that professional help is only a salon visit away.

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