How to Remove Acrylic Nails | A Step-by-Step Guide

Acrylic nails are the best option for people who want long and sassy nails or even those who simply want long yet sturdy ones. As much as the application of acrylic nails requires precision, the removal also needs the same to ensure safety. It can be done at home but must be performed carefully to prevent damaging the natural nails.

The most popular and easiest way to remove acrylic nails is by using acetone. This method is the same as removing gel polish on natural nails. The slight difference is you need to soak the acrylic nails in acetone longer than gel polish.

In this article, we will discuss the step-by-step process of how to remove acrylic nails with acetone and other effective ways you can try at home.

Why Is Acetone the Most Popular Way to Remove Acrylic Nails?

The straightforward answer to this is it dissolves the adhesive of the acrylic nails quickly. It is strong enough to soften the glue and effectively separate the acrylic from the natural nails. Aside from that, acetone can help with the removal of excess nail polish on the nail bed’s surface.

How to Remove Acrylic Nails Using Acetone

1. Cut the Acrylic Nails with a Nail Clipper

To make the removal a lot easier and quicker, it’s helpful to cut the fake nails as short as possible. Make sure to use a sharp clipper for quick and easy cutting. Carefully cut the artificial nails until there is about 2 mm above the nail bed for safety reasons.

2. Buff the Acrylic Nails

Buffing the acrylic nails helps soften the polish faster when soaked in acetone. Rough up the nail’s surface with a nail buffer carefully, making sure the shine is gone. The entire area of the acrylic nails should also be thinned out. We recommend using a 100-grit nail file as it is coarse enough to remove the top layer of the fake nails.

3. Soak the Acrylic Nails in Acetone

We suggest using at least 70-proof acetone as it’s more effective in removing fake nails. Solutions with lower proofs may not be strong enough to soften the nails, which may require more time for soaking.

There are two ways you can soak off the acrylic nails with acetone.

  1. First is the most common and traditional way of removing nail polish, which is using cotton balls. Soak a cotton ball in acetone and place it on top of the artificial nail. Then, tightly wrap the entire area with foil. Squeeze the wrapped area, making sure there is acetone dripping out. This indicates you have enough solution absorbed in the cotton ball to help with the removal. Do this procedure for each nail and when you’re done with all the nails, wait for 10 minutes. Additional tip: Putting a hot towel or washcloth on top of the foil helps break the acrylic down faster. Warm acetone works quicker in breaking down acrylics.
  2. If you don’t want to go through the procedure above, try this other method instead. Pour a generous amount of acetone into a small bowl. Then, submerge your fingers for 20-30 minutes to break down the fake nails. Additional tip 1: Use your thumb to rub the other fingers while you submerge your nails to help soften the acrylic. Do this gently as rubbing them with too much force may damage the natural nails. Additional tip 2: Using the same concept as the hot towel above, you can heat the acetone by placing a warm bottle or heating pad under the bowl. Allow a couple of minutes for the warm bottle to heat up the bowl before using it.

A word of caution: If you follow the additional tips above, your skin may feel really dry after the procedure because of heat. Hydrate your skin right after the removal (see Step 6 below).

4. Push the Acrylic Nails Off with a Cuticle Pusher

After soaking the nails for 10-30 minutes in acetone, depending on the method you’re using, it’s time to push the acrylic off the natural nails.

Using a cuticle pusher, gently push the acrylic off, pushing from the cuticle downward. You may see the acrylic slightly splitting off the natural nails. The first attempt doesn’t remove the artificial nails yet. So, you need to soak your fingers in acetone again for another 5 minutes and push the acrylic off again. You may have to repeat the soaking and pushing off of the nails until the acrylic is completely separated from the natural nails.

5. Buff the Remaining Pieces of Acrylic Nails

Using acetone to remove acrylic does not entirely get rid of the fake nails. You may see small pieces still attached to your natural nails. This is where you need to buff these pieces to completely remove them. Do it carefully to prevent buffing the natural nails and even the surrounding skin. Your patience is a must in this step!

6. Hydrate the Skin and Nails

It is always recommended to moisturise every after the removal of fake nails. The procedure, whatever it is, may cause dryness to the skin and weaken the natural nails. Oil serums are recommended to help with hydration as they are rich in moisturising ingredients.

To hydrate the nails and the skin surrounding them, apply a thin layer of serum. Make sure to cover the entire area. Do this hydration procedure every day to help regain the natural nails’ and surrounding skin’s healthy condition.

Other Ways to Remove Acrylic Nails

If you’re not a fan of using acetone as a solution to remove acrylic nails, here are other ways you can try:

Use a Non-Acetone Remover

For a less harsh alternative, using non-acetone removers is a great option. These are alcohol-based formulas that effectively dissolve the glue on fake nails without causing damage to the natural ones. The only downside to this is these removers may take longer to soften the acrylic nails.

To follow this option, apply a desirable amount of the remover onto the fake nails’ surface. You need to wait for the solution to dissolve the glue before you slowly peel off the artificial nails.

Soak the Acrylic Nails in Warm and Soapy Water

If you’re avoiding harsh chemicals, using warm and soapy water is the best bet! The procedure is also easy. Use a bowl and fill it with warm and soapy water. You can choose a soap with moisturising power to help with dryness. Submerge your nails for 10 minutes to soften the glue. Use a cotton pad to remove the fake nails gently from your natural nails. Stubborn pieces can be peeled off with a cuticle pusher or tweezer.

Soften the Glue with Cuticle Oil

The healthiest method to remove acrylic nails is using cuticle oils, which are gentler than warm and soapy water, acetone and other nail polish removers. These oils are packed with vitamins and minerals that are healthy for the skin and nails and can effectively remove fake nails without causing damage.

To use cuticle oil, apply a few drops onto the nail base and allow your skin to absorb it before removing the fake nails. The oil works on softening the glue and moisturising the skin simultaneously.

Combine the Options Above

If any of the above methods is not working when used individually, you can always combine all of them. You can start by soaking your nails in warm and soapy water and then use a non-acetone remover or cuticle oil after to soften the glue. Then, you can use a cotton pad to gently remove the acrylic. Follow the procedure that works best for you!

How to Take Care of the Natural Nails After Removal

Your natural nails will be quite dry and brittle after the removal, which is why aftercare is important. To ensure your natural nails stay healthy and strong, we recommend applying a nail strengthener every day. This prevents breakage and smoothens out rough parts of the nails. Also, apply cuticle oil around the nail bed to keep the surrounding skin moisturised. Do this for 1 week after the removal and expect to keep healthy natural nails.

When Should You Remove Acrylic Nails?

That depends on how fast your natural nails grow. On average, acrylic nails should be peeled off after 4 weeks maximum.

Typically, natural nails grow out after 2 weeks, and this is when you start to assess if you need to remove your acrylic nails. Even if the gel polish on your acrylic nails doesn’t show any chipping, you’ll still notice the growth of your natural nails in 2 weeks. We strongly advise removing the acrylic at this point as the growth can make your nails susceptible to cracking, breaking and snapping off.

Why Take a Break from Acrylic Nails?

We can’t deny the fact that acrylic nails can cause dryness and weakness in your natural nails. That’s why it’s important to take at least a short break from acrylic nails to regain your natural nails’ strength and health. One week from the removal is already enough for the natural nails to heal.

During the break, apply a nail strengthener to your natural nails and moisturising oil to the surrounding skin. This prevents the natural nails from breaking and hydrates the skin. You can even level up the treatment by applying cuticle oil and cream to the natural nails and covering each hand with a warm towel or washcloth for 5 minutes. The result will give you smooth and shiny nails.

The Takeaway

With the helpful tips and various ways on how to remove acrylic nails above, you can do the removal yourself at home without visiting a salon. However, the best way to remove acrylic nails is still to ask for professional help from a nail technician. Nail techs are highly skilled and have the proper tools for different nail procedures.