How I Removed My Acrylic Nails At Home

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tips on how to remove acrylic nails at home

I am not a nail expert, do not hold me accountable if this doesn't work for you, but I know a lot of you, like me, get acrylic nails.  Whether they are acrylic tips or powder dip acrylic layers, there's a good chance they're growing out right about now and you're struggling to keep your hands clean and function in everyday life.  Before you take clippers to them or try to peel them off, try what I did to get my acrylic powder dip nails off this past weekend.  This should also work to remove your acrylic nails at home too.

How to Remove your Acrylic Nails At Home

What you Need:

  • Some sort of disposable absorbing item.  Paper towel, cotton balls, fast food napkins, you get the idea.  You don't need anything fancy, but you want to be able to layer it up so it can be an absorbent pad/sponge
  • Acetone nail polish remover.  You need the acetone to remove the acrylic.  You can find acetone nail polish at any drugstore, at Ulta, and at Amazon.
  • Aluminum foil
  • An old nail file you don't care about.  It can be one of those cheapy foam ones that often come free in swag bags at conferences or in a manicure set.  You will either want to throw it away after this or hold onto it for future projects like this one.
  • Vaseline/petroleum jelly

how to remove acrylic nails at home

Instructions for Acrylic Nail Removal:

If you have a second person who can help, all the better.  It can get awkward when prepping your second hand.

  1. Lightly file the tops of your nails.  Do not file your actual nails, file the glossy polished part of the powder dip or the polish on top of the acrylic.  The goal is to sand off the topcoat so the acetone can penetrate better.
  2. Tear or cut aluminum foil into pieces about the size of a playing card. 
  3. Rub vaseline on the skin around your nails, including the tops of your fingers behind the nails.  This will protect your skin from the drying acetone.
  4. Soak your cotton balls or little folded sections of paper towel or napkin in the acetone polish and place on top of your nail.  Then wrap the top of your finger with the aluminum foil, which will hold the acetone pad in place.  Do not press or squeeze the acetone pad, just make sure it's held in place.
  5. Hang out for a while.  At the nail salon this can take maybe 10 minutes, at home it will take longer.  You can open the foil on one finger after every 15 minutes to check to see how they're doing.
  6. If the acrylic is getting really gummy, you can use the acetone pad to try to rub it off.  Then use the nail file to file only the acrylic to try to get it off (do not file your actual nail). If there is still acrylic left, soak a new pad and use the same foil to hold it in place and let it sit a while longer.
  7. Continue until all polish and acrylic are removed.  This can take up to two hours; it's a good activity to do while watching a movie. 
  8. I recommend placing your hands in a large bowl (not plastic, choose something like ceramic that won't be hurt by the acetone) and then place a towel between the bowl and your lap to catch any drips if you move your hands.  If the smell is bothering you, place another towel over your hands to hold the vapors in the bowl.
  9. Dispose of acetone, pads, and foil.  Wash hands extremely well with a nail brush.  Wash any towels that were used only with rags or items that won't be hurt by acetone.  If a towel got very saturated, rinse it before adding it to the washing machine.
  10. To keep hands happy afterward, consider applying cuticle oil (or honestly any oil, olive and almond are good) on the nails and a thick hand cream (I'm a fan of O'Keeffe's).  If possible, let the hands rest overnight before applying any other color or products.

There may be better methods out there, but this is what I figured out after watching my nail tech for years remove my nails.  This may also work for gel or lacquer polish.  Please note acetone is like paint remover; keep it away from most everything because it will eat away paint, plastic, and finishes on wood.  

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If you have any tips on removing gel or lacquer polish or better methods for removing acrylic tips or powder dip acrylic layers, please share them in the comments! 

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  1. Thank you for the tips! I had dip polish on my natural nails. I had my husband use his dremel tool to take off the top layer to make things go faster (not for the faint of heart or unsteady of hand).

  2. I get gel nails and my salon uses a heated towel on my hands after wrapping all my fingers. Not sure if it speeds up the process but at least it feels good!

  3. Luckily, I have been on my “off month”. I only do no chip manicures every other month because constant gel manicures will eventually cause my nails to lift from my nail bed. I learned that the hard way, a few times over! Weird, but true. So a few years ago, I went on the one month on, one month off schedule, unless there was a special occasion for it. Works well and I get to enjoy pretty nails some of the time!

  4. Looks like you pretty much nailed this process. I’ve removed my own gels and acrylics this way many times. Prep and wrap then settle in and wait. I usually did mine outside on the screened porch to help with the fumes but I know that’s not an option for everyone.

    I stopped doing gels/dips/acrylics a year ago. My real nails are sad (due to my illness and medications) and the damage was taking a toll. After several months of nail oil only I’m able to do my nails again. Now I use ColorStreet. They’re like stickers but made of actual nail polish. Pretty colors and designs and they last! Not quite as well as gels but better than anything I’ve ever done before. I’m still rocking my green & gold glitter St. Patrick’s Day nails. I know nails seem frivolous right now, but sometimes the little things go a long way to helping us feel better and push through.

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