Removing Acrylic Nails at Home

Acrylic nails aren’t just for celebrities – whether you’re craving longer, more even nails, or a blank canvas for stunning nail art designs, you might be considering getting acrylics. Nails that are long and luxe are a great way to show off your commitment to glamour, but removing acrylics requires plenty of patience so that you don’t damage the natural nail or cuticle underneath.

All About Acrylic Nails

All About Acrylic Nails

Acrylic nails are made of a thick resin formed by blending liquid monomer and powder polymer, then adhering them to your natural nail and shaping them to the desired length and shape. Acrylic nails, when applied by a professional who knows how to do acrylic nails, are not much worse for your natural nail than most chemical products are, but removing them at home can be tricky. Do acrylic nails ruin your own nails? Only when improperly removed. So, if you’re determined to learn how to get acrylic nails off at home, you may be risking significant nail damage if you don’t follow the appropriate steps. 

How to Remove Acrylic Nails

When you go to a salon to have your acrylic nails removed, the nail tech will likely use an electric file or nail bit. While you could invest in getting one yourself, and watching some Youtube tutorials on how to use the drill, there are some easier ways of how to remove acrylic nails at home. Regardless of the method you use, the most important thing is that you do not try to peel them off. The natural acrylic nails instinct is to start picking at them once they begin to grow out, but doing so can seriously harm the layers of the nail that the acrylic is bonded to, leaving you with weak, damaged nails for months afterward. 

How to Remove Acrylics the Easy Way

The most common technique for how to take acrylic nails off is to soak them in acetone. This process takes about a half-hour, and you’ll need to do it in a well-ventilated area because acetone has a strong smell, and breathing it in directly for long periods is not good for your respiratory system or overall health.

What You’ll Need

For how to take off fake nails safely at home, you’ll need:

You might also want a nail buffer and cuticle oil, for afterward. 

How to Remove Fake Nails: The Process

Step 1

Get as much of the acrylic nail off as you can before the acetone soak. If you have long acrylics, you’ll want to cut them down to a shorter length. Then you’ll want to file off as much of the fake nail as possible using the 100 grit nail file, but don’t get too close to the natural nail underneath, advises nail artist Amy Le. Filing down too far can damage the nail underneath the acrylic – and no matter how tempting it may be, resist the urge to pull at them or pry them up!

Step 2

Soak cotton pads in acetone. Rest each acetone-soaked pad on top of the acrylic nail, and wrap the ends of your fingers in aluminum foil. Cosmopolitan advises warming your acetone to make it more effective – but NEVER microwave it, since acetone is extremely flammable. Just run the bottle under hot water before pouring it. If you don’t have cotton pads and foil, you can soak your fingers directly in the acetone, but this will be harder on your skin and may take longer before the acrylic starts to soften.

Step 3

Once the acrylics are softened, use the orange sticks to gently push the remaining material off your nails. Be patient – you may have to do more than one soak.

Step 4

Once you’ve finished your DIY acrylic nails removal, you may want to buff the tops of your natural nails with a nail buffer, as well as moisturize and repair with cuticle oil. It’s good to take some time off between acrylic nail removal and reapplication so that your natural nail doesn’t get too weak from all the chemicals and scraping. 

Other Kinds of Fake Nail Removal

Other Kinds of Fake Nail Removal

All fake nails – whether gel, dip, or acrylic, are better removed by a professional at the salon. But if you have to remove them at home, the process is similar for all three. 

For how to take off dip nails, you’ll need basically all the same products as removing acrylics, besides the orange sticks. First file off the top layer – not as far as filing acrylics, just to roughen the surface. Next, you’ll soak your nails in acetone, either wrapped up in cotton and aluminum or in a small bowl. Unlike removing acrylics, after being soaked, dip nails should rub right off without scraping. That’s because the powder that creates them is softer and more flexible than the polymer of acrylics. 

Gel nails can also be soaked in acetone to remove them. Like with dip nails, you’ll want to roughen up the surface of the gel before soaking. After a long soak with acetone, gel nails should be able to be peeled off and lightly rubbed off. You may want to use the orange sticks as well, but be sure to dispose of them regularly, as bacteria can grow on the wood. 

Finally, because acetone can be very drying for the skin, you may want to use thick hand cream on the skin around your nails before letting them soak in the chemical, no matter what kind of artificial nail you’re removing. 


Acrylic nails are a tried-and-true beauty staple with known advantages, like their affordability, durability, and versatility. However, they are also among the most time consuming of fake nails to remove, especially at home. You will need plenty of patience, acetone, and some restorative cuticle or other natural oil to keep your natural nails healthy, strong, and prepared for their next round of nail art along with simple everyday makeup.

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