The Easiest Way to Remove Acrylics Without Destroying Your Nails

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Once upon a time, my friend sheepishly admitted to me that she removes her acrylic nails by biting and pulling them off. Very promptly, I exploded into a ball of light, the Earth cracked beneath our feet, and centuries of ghosts proceeded to haunt her forever more. This is a true story. Because the number-one rule before getting your nails done for the first time? Knowing how to remove acrylic nails the correct way.

And surprise, surprise: Taking off your acrylic nails shouldn’t be done at home. The safest way to remove your acrylic nails is by going to a salon and seeing a trained nail tech who can remove them without damaging your own nails. “Your natural nails grow out regardless of how long your acrylics last, and you’ll start to see growth at your cuticle beds after two weeks,” Rita de Alencar Pinto, founder of Vanity Projects nail salon in NYC, has told Cosmo.

Which means unless you’re ready to get your acrylics filled again asap, you should be heading back to the salon to get them professional removed—or, I hate to say it, try to remove them yourself at home. Is this the smartest and safest way? Nope! Is it what any professional would recommend? Nope! But I also understand that our time is limited, our lives are busy, and the world is on fire, and sometimes, you just need to do some sh*t yourself.

Lucky for you, I parsed through the questionable world of nail advice to find the best tutorials on how to remove your acrylic nails without the damage—or, well, without as much damage as you’d probably inflict on your own. Keep reading and watching, and maaaaybe consider the easier-to-remove gel nails for your next mani?

How do I remove acrylic nails at home?

Get in a car and drive thyself to a nail salon. Sry, just had to remind you one last time of the best—and honestly, probably fastest—solution. But if you’re at home? The easiest way to remove acrylic nails fast is to cover them with a cotton ball soaked in pure acetone, wrap your fingers in tin foil, and let them sit for 30 minutes. The acetone will help break down the acrylics, so you can buff or scrape off the rest with an orange stick or cuticle pusher.

Confused? I gotchu. Stock up on the essentials above, then keep scrolling for more in-depth tutorials.

How to remove acrylic nails with acetone

Ah, yes, the classic removal technique for the average DIYer. As a ~hot~ tip (literally), try warming up your acetone before starting, which will help it work faster and more effectively on your nails. (Note: Acetone is incredibly flammable, so don’t microwave it—just run the bottle under warm water for a few minutes.)

The steps:

  1. Carefully clip off your excess acrylics, cutting them as close as possible to your real nails.

  2. Using a nail buffer, rough up the surface of the polish until the shine is completely gone. Removing the top layer helps the polish soften faster in the acetone.

  3. Pour 100 percent pure acetone into a tray or bowl and soak your nails in it for five minutes.

  4. With a metal cuticle pusher, gently push the polish off your nails, pushing from your cuticles downward.

  5. Redip your nails for five mins, then gently push again. Repeat until your acrylics have completely soaked off.

  6. Buff off the rest of the smaller pieces with your nail buffer.

  7. Massage cuticle oil into your nails to rehydrate them, then buff it into your nails with the soft side of a buffer. Finish with another layer of cuticle oil.

How to remove acrylic nails with an electric file/nail bit

If you’re both lazy and an acrylics addict, you should seriously consider picking up an electric nail file to make the process way easier and safer on your nail beds. Yes, technically, this is the ~professional~ way to do it and it’s definitely a skill to learn, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try it at home (at your own risk and by watching a ton of tutorials).

The steps:

  1. Gently and carefully sand down the acrylics with a sanding bit, taking off the top layer of your acrylics.

  2. Then soak a cotton swab with 100 percent acetone, wrap it around your nails, and cover it with tinfoil, until all your digits are swaddled in foil.

  3. After 10 to 15 minutes of soaking, unwrap your fingers, then remove the excess acrylic with a cuticle pusher.

  4. Rinse your hands and finish with a cuticle oil.

How to soak off acrylic nails

If an e-file sounds like way too much work and you don’t exactly have a ton of spare nail trays hanging around your house, try the ultra-easy—albeit not exactly environmentally friendly—way of removing your acrylics with a plastic bag.

The steps:

  1. Cut off your acrylic nails (again, get as close to your real nails as possible without actually snipping them off).

  2. Pour 100 percent acetone into a large Ziploc baggie, filling it up just enough to be able to fully submerge your nails.

  3. Tilt the bag to the side so the acetone pools into one corner, then stick your hand in the bag, letting your nails soak in the acetone.

  4. Let them sit for 15 to 20 minutes (probably a good time to start a Netflix series), then gently scrape off the acrylics with a wooden cuticle stick.

  5. If your acrylics don’t push off easily, resoak them for another five minutes, then try again.

  6. Buff off any remaining residue to finish.

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