9 Nail Polish Removers That Make the Task Much More Enjoyable

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Removing nail polish may not be the most enjoyable job, but, let’s face it, it is a necessity. No matter whether your mani has run its course, or you’re just in the mood for a polish change, it’s always important to have a good nail polish remover on hand. And while it may not seem like a beauty category where there’s a ton of variety, there are plenty of options to pick from. Acetone-based formulas will work the fastest (and are what you need for gels or acrylics), though they can be drying and harsh. Non-acetone removers may not work quite as well but are gentler, and there are even now natural options on the market.

To help you find the best one for you, we compiled this list of the best nail polish removers out there.

Our Top Picks
It removes every shade and preps your nail beds for polish application.
You know you can trust OG-brand OPI to create one of the best nail polish removers out there at a very reasonable price, no less.
This affordable pick is ideal to use for acrylics, gels, glitters, and the more stubborn polishes of the bunch.
This classic pick has a delicious cucumber scent and is made with apricot seed oil to moisturize.
This formula works quickly to remove product and leave behind much-needed hydration.
It comes with an acetone-based remover (that’s infused with hydrating oils), plus foil wraps to take off a gel manicure, stat.
Touch up your DIY manicures with this pen that precisely targets runaway polish.
Remove polish on-the-go with these convenient wipes—they're a cotton pad and remover in one.
Feel good about using this clean formula with hydrating ingredients on your nails.

Best Overall: Zoya Remove+ Nail Polish Remover

ZOYA Remove Plus
What We Like
  • Gentle formula

  • Offers extra benefits

  • Lasts a long time

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

This three-in-one formula goes above and beyond the call of duty. Sure, it removes any and every shade of polish completely, but it’s also excellent for prepping nails pre-polish, helping to remove dirt and oil. And on top of that, it’s also infused with ingredients that help condition your nails. Bonus points for the spillproof, pump-top container.

Key Ingredients: 2-propanone | Size: 8 ounces | Cruelty Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Budget: OPI Expert Touch Lacquer Remover

OPI Expert Touch Lacquer Remover
What We Like
  • Works quickly

  • Contains hydrating ingredients

  • Removes even the darkest shades

What We Don't Like
  • Bottle isn’t spill-proof

A tried-and-trusted brand for anything and everything nail-related, it’s no surprise that OPI also makes a great nail polish remover. This acetone-based formula contains extra hydrating ingredients (grapeseed oil, aloe leaf extract), works quickly and effectively, and rings in at a super wallet-friendly price.

Key Ingredients: Acetone | Size: 3.7 ounces | Cruelty Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Budget, Runner-Up: Onyx Professional 100% Pure Acetone Maximum Strength Nail Polish Remover

Onyx Professional 100% Pure Acetone Maximum Strength Nail Polish Remover
What We Like
  • Removes all types of polish

  • Works quickly

  • Easy to use

What We Don't Like
  • Can be drying

Aaron is also a fan of this brand, pointing out that their options are widely available. This is the heaviest-hitting of the bunch, a straight-up acetone version that is ideal to use for acrylics, gels, glitters, and the more stubborn polishes of the bunch. And of course, we’d be remiss not to mention the price.

Key Ingredients: Acetone | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Classic: Cutex Ultra-Powerful Nail Polish Remover

Cutex Ultra-Powerful Nail Polish Remover
What We Like
  • Works quickly 

  • Affordable

  • Pleasant scent

What We Don't Like
  • Can be drying

“This brand has been around forever and is a real classic,” says Syreeta Aaron, LeChat Nails Educator. She adds that she also likes it because they offer different types of removers, including those infused with good-for-your nail nutrients. To that point, while this pick is made with 98% acetone (AKA it works super quickly, even on stubborn dark colors or glitter polishes), it even contains apricot seed oil. The cucumber fragrance helps combat that strong, acetone scent.

Key Ingredients: Acetone | Size: 6.7 ounces | Cruelty Free: Unclear | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Hydrating: Deborah Lippmann The Stripper Nail Lacquer Remover

Deborah Lippmann The Stripper Lavender Nail Lacquer Remover
What We Like
  • Works quickly

  • Contains hydrating ingredients

  • Nice smell

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

When a nail polish remover is created by one of the most well-known celebrity manicurists out there, you know it’s going to be good. Exhibit A: this formula, which is beloved for working lightning fast, yet still has aloe vera and glycerin in it to help combat any of acetone’s drying effects.

Key Ingredients: Acetone | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Gel: CND Offly Fast Remover & Care Kit

CND Offly Fast Remover & Care Kit
What We Like
  • All in one set

  • Contains hydrating ingredients

  • Includes foil wraps to remove gels quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Has a strong, acetone scent

Taking off regular nail polish can be annoying, but taking off a gel manicure is 10 times so. But since peeling it off is a recipe for wreaking havoc on your nails, soaking it off is the only option. Happily, this set makes it easier than ever to do so. It comes with an acetone-based remover (that’s infused with hydrating oils), plus foil wraps to take off a gel manicure, stat. There’s also an orange stick to help you push off any excess, and the brand’s beloved cuticle oil to apply afterward.

Key Ingredients: Acetone | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Unknown

Best for Touch-Ups: OPI Nail Polish Remover Pen

OPI Nail Polish Remover Pen
What We Like
  • Mess-free

  • Comes with one replacement tip

  • Gets around cuticle edges

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Whether it’s to clean up a tiny smudge or remove tell-tale polish on the edges of your cuticles, this pen is amazing. It dispenses just enough remover through the marker-like tip (which makes precise application super easy), and there are no cotton pads needed.

Key Ingredients: Acetone | Size: 0.13 ounces | Cruelty Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Unknown

Best for Travel: Butter London Nail Scrubbers

Butter London Nail Scrubbers
What We Like
  • Contains hydrating ingredients

  • Easy to use

  • Mess-free

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Similar to a nail file or Band-Aids, nail polish remover is one of those things that’s always good to have on hand when you travel. (Trust us.) The only issue? Traveling with a big ol’ bottle—plus the necessary cotton pads—isn’t ideal. Enter these mega-convenient wipes. Each individually wrapped pack holds one wipe that has two different sides. The textured side helps scrub off even glitter polish or dark shades, while the smooth side wipes away any excess. And in our experience, you can usually get away with just one wipe per hand.

Key Ingredients: Acetone, Vitamin E, Aloe | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Natural: Blossom Nail Polish Remover

Blossom Nail Polish Remover
What We Like
  • Gentle formula

  • High positive feedback

  • Entirely natural with plant-based ingredients

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Those seeking to keep their beauty routine as clean as possible will appreciate that this formula is entirely natural and made with plant-based and even organic ingredients. Essential oils not only help condition your nails (and surrounding skin), they also give this a pleasant, lavender scent. And how pretty is the bottle? It’s easily the prettiest nail polish remover we’ve ever seen.

Key Ingredients: Propylene Carbonate, Lavender Oil | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Final Verdict

It’s time to upgrade your nail polish remover game. The Zoya Remove+ Nail Polish Remover (view at Ulta) is our favorite, gentle yet effective, non-acetone-based option. You also can’t go wrong with Cutex Ultra-Powerful Nail Polish Remover (view at Amazon); it’s a powerful acetone formula, though it smells good and has hydrating ingredients. We also recommend stocking up on the extra-convenient Butter London Nail Scrubbers (view at Amazon), single-use wipes that are ideal for travel.  Prefer a natural formula? The Blossom Nail Polish Remover (view at Walmart) smells great and works extremely well.

What to Look for in a Nail Polish Remover

Acetone or Non-Acetone

According to Aaron, this is pretty much the most important thing to consider. More on the difference below, but acetone is great for breaking down more stubborn polishes (such as gel) as well as darker shades. “If you’ve been wearing reds and darker colors, they are harder to remove and clean away from in between the cuticle and nail plate,” she explains. In this case, you may want an option that has at least a little bit of acetone in it.

On the flip side, non-acetone-based formulas tend to be more hydrating and gentle, good if you’re just wearing a lighter color of normal polish, she says. FYI, it bears mentioning that typically nail salons only use acetone since it works equally well on all kinds of polish, including gels and acrylics, she adds.

Extra Nutrients

Unless you’re using a pure acetone remover, Aaron says to seek out formulas that contain extra hydrating ingredients. She cites vitamin E as one of her top picks.

FAQ
  • How does nail polish remover work?

    “A nail polish remover contains a powerful solvent that breaks down the polymer molecules. When this process takes place, the polish breaks down, changing the hardened polish into a liquid form that can easily be wiped off,” says Aaron.

  • What is the difference between acetone and nail polish remover?

    “Acetone is a more powerful solvent, so it will break down the polish a lot faster,” Aaron explains, adding that many removers unless they specifically say ‘non-acetone,’ may contain a small percentage of the ingredient. Both acetone and non-acetone remover break down the polish, but acetone is way more powerful. Some removers may have a small percentage of acetone to help break down.  

Why Trust Byrdie?

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. While her DIY mani skills definitely leave something to be desired, she does always have nail polish remover on hand (as nothing irks her more than chipped nails). She’s used many of the ones on this list, though is especially partial to the Butter London wipes because of how easy they are to use.

Meet the Expert

Nail artist Syreeta Aaron is a LeChat Nails Educator and brand ambassador.

According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any nail polish removers from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

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