How to Remove Acrylic Nails

Let your real nails shine through.

Fake Nails
Ales Dybal / EyeEm/Getty Images 

When acrylic nails begin to look yellow, or when over-application has caused them to thicken, it's time to remove them. 

Ideally, fake nails should be grown out, but if that is not an option they can be removed at home. But remember, patience is key. 

Forcing the nail extension from the natural nail can cause serious and long-term damage to your nail bed. If a nail tip lifts or is broken use an artificial nail glue to reseal until you are ready to remove. 

Items you will need:

• Nail clippers 

• Nail file for natural nails 

• Acetone 

• 2 bowls, each large enough to fit one hand per bowl

• Kitchen towel

•Almond oil or olive oil

• Nail block/buffer 

• Hot water

• Aluminum Foil 

• 10+ Cotton pads

• Bag for garbage

• Towels or newspaper to cover surface

The Process

There are two ways in which you can do this, if you are pushed for time then choose the first method:

  • Quick Method

1. Clip fake nails down as low as possible, removing as much as you safely can.

2. File the surface of the nail so that you are breaking down the acrylic and allowing the acetone to penetrate.

3. Soak 10 cotton pads in acetone and place on the nails; wrap each one in a section of foil.

4. Leave for a minimum of 30 minutes, remembering that the moment you remove the foil the break-down of the acrylic will stop because exposing it to the air hardens it.

5. After 30 minutes, remove foils, wipe nail firmly with kitchen towel to remove any acrylic that has dissolved.

6. Soak pads in acetone again and repeat steps 3-5.

7. There will still be some residue left after this hour; however you should be able to gently file it off. If not, you will have to repeat the soaking and wrapping process for a further 15-20 minutes.

8. Wash hands in a non-abrasive soap, the acrylic will have dried your hands and nails significantly.

9. Massage plenty of olive or almond oil into your nails and use a good quality hand cream regularly.

  • Longer Method

Depending on the size of the bowl, it is likely you will have to soak one hand at a time, hence this method is longer because of the time it takes to soak and remove each nail. 

1. Fill the larger of the two bowls with warm water and the smaller one with acetone (find a remover made for acrylic or gel nails specifically) and gently place one inside the other.

2. Immerse fingers into the acetone, no further than the first joint of your finger if possible (this saves drying out your skin.)

3. Soak for a minimum of 20 minutes before removing, this gives the nails enough time to soften up so that they remove more easily and don't take any of your natural nail with them when they come off. 

4. Wipe acrylic away, and buff slowly to encourage the next layer down to lift then re-immerse in acetone.

5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for as long as it takes. This could be over an hour for each hand.

6. Avoid the temptation to pick the acrylic as it lifts. This WILL cause pain and could result in long-lasting, even permanent damage to your very fragile nail bed.

7. When the first set of nails are clear of acrylic, repeat for the second hand.

8. Wash hands in a non-abrasive soap.

9. When you have finished apply plenty of olive or almond oil to hands.

10. Re-moisturize hands regularly, the acetone is very drying. (If the acetone dries out your cuticles too much you can use a cuticle conditioner each night before bed to help hydrate them so they don't crack and bleed.)

After care

  • In order for the fake nail to adhere to your nail bed, several layers of the natural nail are drilled or filed away. Nails will be weak and fragile for up to three growth cycles (from cuticle to tip) which can be up to six months per cycle.
  • Nails grow slower in the winter, so be patient and encourage growth by moisturizing and use of a product such as Nail-Aid Collagen Nail Builder to strengthen nails.
  • Make it part of your beauty regimen to moisturize your hands and nails. Or, better yet, buy a nail/hand treatment pack from the drug store and give yourself a monthly hand-pamper session.