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If one thing's for certain, it's that TikTok is filled with intriguing beauty tips. One of the latest hacks taking over "for you" pages everywhere is a method for quickly taking off acrylic nails with — yes, really — dental floss.
According to TikTok users, the key to removing acrylic nails with dental floss is waiting until the nails are lifting slightly around the edges. (Acrylic nails typically start to lift within two weeks, which is a sign that your nails are growing under your acrylics and the bond is loosening, and it's time to either remove the acrylics or fill in the gap between your natural nail and the extension with more acrylic.) This allows you to take a piece of dental floss (either regular floss or single-use picks) to manually loosen the bond between the acrylic and your natural nails. With your opposite hand, you sandwich the floss between the acrylic and your natural nail at the base, then slide it toward the tip of your nail. In addition to removing acrylic nails, some people are using the dental floss method for other nail enhancements, such as gel polish.
Of course, not everything on TikTok is worth trying (see: filing your teeth with nail files). If you're wondering whether this acrylic removal advice is worth ditching acetone for, read on. (Related: How to Remove Acrylic Nails at Home Without Damaging Your Real Ones)
Why would you use dental floss in the first place?
Without digging too deep into the science behind acrylic nails, they're created with a mix of powder and liquid monomer that makes a moldable "paste." The paste hardens, bonding to your natural nails to create any shape or length that your heart desires. While this process results in a long-lasting manicure, it also means that removal can be painstaking.
The most common way to remove acrylic nails is to soak them in pure acetone (a chemical solvent used as the primary ingredient in nail polish remover). This "breaks down the chemical bond between the acrylic and the keratin-rich surface of your nail, allowing you to gently separate the two from each other," according to Anna Parvatova, nail pro and creative director of the brand SNS Nails. If you've ever had an acrylic nail set, you know how time-consuming removing the acrylic nails with acetone can be — it's typically a 20- to 30-minute endeavor. You may have to repeat the process of soaking your nails and filing off softened residue multiple times to completely remove them. With the dental floss acrylic nail removal hack, TikTok users report removing their nails in just a fraction of that time. Not to mention, acetone, which is essential for helping to break down acrylic, is super drying to your nails and skin, according to Parvatova. With both factors in mind, the appeal of sliding your nails right off without acetone is pretty obvious.
Can the dental floss acrylic nail hack harm your natural nails?
While there's no denying it's faster, the dental floss removal method could cause extreme harm to your natural nails, says nail artist and ManiMe partner Rebecca Ludwig. "I absolutely do not recommend using dental floss or any thin string to remove your acrylics," she says. "It is really damaging to your nails." Problem is, when you slide the floss under the acrylic nail, you may end up ripping off layers of your natural nail, which can lead to weak and brittle nails, she says. (Related: How to Strengthen Your Nails)
If that doesn't convince you to skip this hack, the worst-case scenario might: "Another thing to consider is the string may catch a snag in your nail and can possibly rip your nail bed in half, which would be incredibly painful," says Ludwig. The rip could leave you vulnerable to pathogens and "could cause an infection if not tended to properly," says Ludwig.
Are there better hacks for removing acrylic nails quickly?
Sadly, when it comes to removing acrylic nails, "the long way is the best way," according to Ludwig. Ideally, you'll visit a salon to have them professionally removed or block out plenty of time to allow your nails to soak in acetone at home.
That said, there are a few tweaks you can make to shave off some time without wreaking havoc on your natural nails. First, try filing down the top layer of acrylic with a coarse (80-100 grit) nail file to the point where the nail paint looks dull and then soak them in acetone, says Parvatova. This can "increase the exposure of the acetone soak and decrease the length of time spent soaking," she says. When you remove that excess, it means there's less acrylic for the acetone to break down.
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You can also consider "heating the acetone in a double boiler beforehand, as warm acetone works quicker to break down the bond," says Ludwig. If you don't have a double boiler, you can also warm the acetone indirectly by placing acetone in plastic baggies then placing the baggies in heated water. Resist the urge to microwave the acetone to heat it up, since it's flammable. (Related: How to Remove Press-On Nails with Minimal Damage and Effort)
Finally, you can "soak some cotton in the acetone, and affix it to the nail using aluminum foil," says Parvatova. "This works more quickly than dipping your nails in acetone and won't dry out the skin on your fingers as much." The aluminum foil along with your body heat will help the acetone warm up and bit and work faster, she says.
Speaking of acetone's drying properties — you don't want to skip after-care even when you're trying to streamline the process, stresses Parvatova. She recommends applying a cuticle oil of your choice to your nails and fingers post-removal and going bare for a few days before jumping into another manicure. Giving your nails a break will allow you to restore lost moisture with the cuticle oil, which is especially important if your nails are prone to dryness that may cause them to peel or break easily.
There's no question that acrylic removal can seem like it takes ages and that there should be a better way. Despite what you might see on social media, though, you're better off saving the floss for your teeth.