How to Safely Remove Acrylic Nails


Is it time to remove those old enhancements? There is no reason why removing them should be painful or damaging to your natural nail. Under no circumstances should you try to pry off or bite off the enhancement. Doing so will rip of layers of your natural nail and cause extreme pain. Follow the steps below to remove your enhancements with ease.

The best way to remove artificial nails is to have a trained, licensed professional do it for you.

The chemicals used to remove artificial nails are dangerous. If you are going to use acetone, be sure to do so in an area that is well-ventilated and far from any heat sources. Acetone is flammable and combustible. It will also irritate and dry out your skin. Make sure to wash your hands with moisturizing soap and use oil on your hands after you remove the enhancement material to replenish the lost moisture.

You will need:

  • a towel
  • paper towels
  • 100% pure acetone
  • aluminum foil, cut into 3 in. squares
  • cotton pads
  • latex gloves
  • oven mitts or hand towels that you don’t mind possibly ruining
  • cuticle oil
  • hand lotion
  • orange wood sticks
  • fine grit buffer
  • 180 grit file
  • nail strengthener

1.) Prepare your workspace. Place a layer of aluminum foil down on the table. Other articles I’ve seen advise using a layer of plastic wrap to protect your workspace. Do NOT use plastic wrap unless you want to be scraping the melted plastic off of your dining room table. Acetone will destroy plastic wrap. Place the towel on top of the layer of aluminum foil. Put a paper towel on top of the towel to protect the towel from the pieces of melted enhancement, which can get quite gummy and sticky.
2.) Remove your polish with the acetone and cotton pads.
3.) Use the file to file your enhancements down in length, then file the body of the nail down as much as possible.
4.) Soak a cotton pad with acetone until it is dripping wet. You really want to make sure it is truly soaked. Acetone evaporates quickly and the enhancement product will absorb a lot of it.
5.) Apply the cotton pad to the body of the nail. Try to avoid placing the acetone soaked cotton too far down your finger.
6.) Wrap the nail in aluminum foil, keeping the cotton on top of the enhancement. Make sure you wrap them as tightly as possible. You don’t want them to be loose. The best way to get a good seal is to fold the foil over several times, forming a packet.
7.) Repeat this process on the remaining nails and soak for 30-45 minutes. If you have the latex gloves, carefully put them on. Put your hands into the oven mitts or cheap hand towels that you don’t mind ruining. This will help keep the heat in and the air out. It will also keep you from messing with anything and loosening the foil.
8.) Carefully unfold the aluminum foil and pull off the cotton for one nail. Using the orange wood stick, gently push off the remaining enhancement material. If you have EMA based acrylic (the good stuff), it should slide right off without a problem. It will appear almost sandy in texture. If you have MMA based acrylic (the bad, cheap, illegal stuff), be prepared to encounter a gummy, sticky mess. MMA acrylic products are extremely difficult to remove. You’ll want to scrape off as much as you can, file off some more of the gummy stuff, and re-wrap them, repeating steps 3-8 until the product is completely gone. For more information on MMA acrylic, read my post, MMA: What it is and why your nail technician is endangering your health by using it. (You could read it while you’re waiting the 2 hours it is going to take to remove that garbage from your hands.)
9.) Repeat this process on the remaining nails.
10.) Using the buffer, gently buff away any remaining enhancement product.
11.) Wash your hands with moisturizing soap and warm water.
12.) Apply nail strengthener.
13.) Once the nail strengthener has dried, apply cuticle oil.
Massage it in well.

Professionals, do you have any tips for removing acrylics? Share them in the comments below!

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Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of the book The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and the blog This Ugly Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.


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