How to Remove Acrylic Nails at Home (Without the Damage!)

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Acrylic nails are great and come in so many varieties, but they’re always a pain to take off. It’s so hard to justify coughing up more money at a salon to get your nails taken off, especially if you don’t intend to have a new set applied. Luckily, there are a ton of effective home methods! Do you want it to be particularly fast? Particularly safe? Particularly painless? There’s probably a way to do it! The catch is, there’s no fast, safe, and painless to remove your fake nails. Figure out which type of solution you’re looking for, settle in, and let me teach you how to remove acrylic nails.

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Acetone and Aluminum Foil

This is going to be the easiest and least painful way to remove your acrylic nails. That said, it does (as you see) involve the use of acetone. While acetone isn’t an intensely harmful chemical, it’s not completely harmless either. You can’t get serious acetone poisoning unless you start drinking it (and don’t do that!) but you shouldn’t overuse it either. That said, here’s the process for this method. What you need:

  • Acetone
  • Nail clippers
  • Nail file or buffer
  • Cotton balls or pads
  • Aluminum foil
  • Petroleum jelly

The first step for any of these methods is to clip your acrylics as short as possible. Then, file away the top coat and color so you don’t get messy while you’re taking them off. Apply petroleum jelly to the area around your cuticles and soak the cotton in acetone. Place the cotton ball on your nail and wrap aluminum foil around it so it stays.

Now comes the fun part – put on your favorite TV show wait 25-30 minutes. When you think it’s been long enough, pull gently on the aluminum foil. The nail should come off with it – if not, just let it soak for a few more minutes.

Soak in Acetone

This one will take a little bit longer, but it’s just as effective. What you need:

  • Acetone
  • Orange sticks
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Nail clippers
  • Warm water
  • Tweezers
  • Two bowls (one larger than the other)

Again, clip your nails as short as possible. This time, also push your cuticles down with an orange stick. Take a large bowl of warm water and a bowl of acetone. Warm up the acetone gradually by placing the bowl of acetone in the bowl of water. Once again, apply a hefty amount of petroleum jelly to the area around your cuticles.

You’ll have a long wait again, so flip the TV on. Dip your nails into the bowl of acetone, making sure to submerge the entire length. Wait for 30-40 minutes until the acrylic nails go soft. Then, gently pull them off with a tweezer. If the nail doesn’t come off easily, let it soak for a bit longer.

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Dental Floss

On top of its use for dental hygiene, floss can work wonders removing fake nails. The one caveat to this method is that you need a friend to help, so bribe your roommate, sibling, parent, or significant other and get cracking! What you need:

  • Orange sticks
  • Dental floss
  • A partner

Push your cuticles down with the orange stick to make an inlet between the fake nail and your cuticles. Have your partner insert the floss under the acrylic nail from the base. Move it in a sawing motion until the nail pops off.

Business Card

This is a great on-the-go method if you carry business cards (or something similar like a credit or debit card) in your purse and desperately need to get those nails off in a rush. It’s not the gentlest method – and can be uncomfortable if you have a low pain tolerance – but it gets the job done. What you need:

  • Laminated card
  • Orange sticks

Use the orange sticks to push the cuticle down and make a small opening to slide the card under your nail and gently pry it up. Apply pressure on each side alternately so that you don’t accidentally rip a layer off of your actual nail bed. It couldn’t hurt to apply cuticle oil after this process, too, though it’s typically not as necessary.

Acetone-Free Nail Polish Remover

If you’d rather avoid acetone all together, you can try using your acetone-free polish remover of choice. The process is exactly the same as soaking in acetone, but you don’t have to warm it in water. What you need:

  • Acetone-free nail polish remover
  • Tweezer
  • Bowl
  • Nail clippers

Clip your nails down as far as possible and pry the corners up slightly with a tweezer to loosen them. Soak in polish remover for 30-40 minutes. Gently pull with a tweezer to remove the nail, continuing to soak for a while longer if it doesn’t come off easily.

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Nail File

This method is one of the most time consuming, but it does a decent job of removing the acrylic and guarantees that nothing toxic comes in contact with your skin or nails. What you need:

  • Nail file or buffer
  • Orange sticks
  • Nail clippers
  • Cuticle scissors
  • Cuticle oil

As always, clip your acrylic nails as short as possible. Remove any color or decoration so that it doesn’t make a mess while you’re filing down the nail. File your nails with long strokes, and continue filing until you reach the actual nail bed. Be careful not to file down your nail itself.

If there are parts of the acrylic that aren’t coming off, pry up the edges and clip with cuticle scissors. After all of the nail is off, take the orange stick and scrape off the acrylic glue. This method can be particularly harsh on your nails, so it’s a good idea to follow it up with some cuticle oil to revitalize your nails afterward.

Warm Water

This is by far the gentlest method to remove your nails, but it also requires the most patience. The principle is the same as with acetone or non-acetone nail polish remover. What you need:

  • Warm water
  • Nail file
  • Orange sticks
  • Nail clipper

Trim the nails down to the shortest possible length and use the orange sticks to push down your cuticle, creating an inlet as in previous methods. Put warm water in a bowl – make sure it’s not too hot since you’ll be soaking your nails for a while. Also, keep in mind that the water’s temperature will cool over time, so you’ll want to refresh it every few minutes to keep the temperature consistent.

Soak your nails for 30-40 minutes so that the glue dissolves. You’ll have the best luck if the nails are submerged enough to have warm water running down through the inlet you created. If the nails won’t come off after that amount of time, continue soaking for longer.

General Tips

After your nails are removed, there are a few things to keep in mind. A lot of these procedures are pretty hard on your nails and skin, so use a cuticle oil and moisturizer afterward to revitalize your fingers and nail beds. Also, whichever method you use, make sure that you scrape off the glue that’s left when the nail is gone. Keep whatever surface you’re working on covered (especially if you’re using acetone!) and wait at least a week after you take your nails off to get a new set put on.

Now that you know how easy it can be to remove your nails at home, what are you waiting for? Save the money and try a few of these out – and don’t forget to let us know how it goes. Do you have a magic method for removing fake nails that you want to share? Leave that in the comments, too.

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