No Contest: These Are the 16 Best Nail Polish Removers of 2022

Our best overall pick is Zoya Remove+ Polish Remover

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
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Byrdie / Danie Drankwalter

Nail polish remover is an essential part of every DIY manicurist's kit. In addition to eliminating all traces of lacquer, it can be used to prep the nails for fresh paint, create a clean line for French tips, and tidy up around the edges. Of course, not all formulas are created equal. Acetone (aka literal paint thinner) tends to be the quickest and most effective, though it can be pretty harsh on your nail beds. There are some great acetone-free removers that are a bit gentler and still get the job done.

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

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Our best overall pick is Zoya Remove+, which has a fast-acting, conditioning formula and spill-proof, pump-top bottle. For something more affordable, consider Cutex Ultra-Powerful Nail Polish Remover, a drugstore pick that works quickly and contains cuticle-soothing ingredients.

"The main ingredients in nail polish remover are acetone, isopropyl alcohol, or ethyl acetate," says nail artist Syreeta Aaron, explaining that these powerful solvents dissolve the polymers found in nail lacquer. "The polish breaks down, changing the hardened polish into a liquid form for easy wipe-off."

We conducted hours of research on the best nail polish removers, evaluating each formula on its key ingredients and how well they work to remove all traces of polish. We also took into consideration how easy the product is to dispense, as well as other factors like if a formula has extra benefits to your nails, nail beds, and cuticles. Our choices were informed by a nail artist and include top-rated picks to give you the best in show. 

Ahead, find the best nail polish removers to keep in your at-home manicure kit.

Best Overall: Zoya Remove+ Nail Polish Remover

4.8
ZOYA Remove Plus

Amazon

What We Like
  • Pump top

  • Spill-proof container

  • Award-winning formula

What We Don't Like
  • Strong smell

Our number one pick is Zoya Remove+. This nail polish remover gets rid of any shade of lacquer, dark or light, opaque or glittery. (Note: the main ingredient is 2-propanone, the chemical name for acetone). It also works as a pre-polish nail prepper, dissolving oily residues and leaving you with a clean canvas.

But that's not all. The three-in-one formula contains glycerin to hydrate and condition your nail beds, cuticles, and the surrounding skin. We also appreciate the user-friendly pump-top bottle and spill-proof design.

Key Ingredients: Acetone, glycerin | Amount: 8 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes 

Best Budget: Cutex Ultra-Powerful Nail Polish Remover

Cutex Ultra-Powerful Nail Polish Remover

Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Works quickly

  • Expert-recommended

What We Don't Like
  • Strong smell

  • Can be harsh on cuticles

"Cutex has been around forever and is a classic," says Aaron. "I like it because they offer a few different options, such as a remover with vitamin E and nutrients."

Key Ingredients: Acetone | Amount: 6.8 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Drugstore: Sally Hansen Moisturizing Nail Polish Remover

Sally Hansen Moisturizing Nail Polish Remover

Walmart

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Replenishes nail bed

  • Expert-recommended

What We Don't Like
  • Contains PEGs

"I recommend looking for a remover with vitamin E so you can add nutrients back into your nails," says Aaron, who is a fan of Sally Hansen. In addition to vitamin E, this acetone-based formula contains healing and strengthening vitamin B5 (panthenol), plus skin-soothing aloe.

Key Ingredients: Acetone, vitamin B5, aloe vera | Amount: 8 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Pure Acetone: Onyx Professional 100% Pure Acetone Maximum Strength Nail Polish Remover

Onyx Professional 100% Pure Acetone Maximum Strength Nail Polish Remover

Walmart

What We Like
  • Great Value

  • Works Quickly

  • Expert-recommended

What We Don't Like
  • Harsh on cuticles

"Acetone is a more powerful solvent, so it will break down a lot faster," says Aaron. If you're looking for something containing nothing more than acetone, she recommends Onyx. You can use this product to remove regular polish or soak off gel lacquer. For French nails, dip a small brush in and swipe it horizontally over your painted tips to create a clean line.

Key Ingredients: Acetone | Amount: 16 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

"Most salons just use acetone, as it can be used for all different polish removals—acrylic, gel, and of course, regular lacquer."Syreeta Aaron, Nail Technician

Best Acetone-Free: Nailtopia Fresh Avocado Nail Polish Remover

Nailtopia Fresh Avocado Nail Polish Remover

Amazon

What We Like
  • Plant-based formula

  • Gentle yet effective

  • Moisturizing

What We Don't Like
  • Takes several swipes

Not a fan of acetone? Go with Nailtopia. This gentle nail polish remover contains 99 percent earth-sourced ingredients. It breaks up lacquer with ethyl acetate, which tends to be a bit less irritating than acetone, then moisturizes with avocado oil.

Key Ingredients: Ethyl acetate, avocado oil | Amount: 8 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Pot: Olive & June Polish Remover Pot

Olive & June Polish Pot Remover

Olive & June

What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Mess-free

  • Gentle yet effective

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for toes

This pink pot from Olive & June makes for easy-peasy, mess-free polish removal. The acetone-free formula leans on ethyl and butyl acetates to gently yet effectively erase all lacquer and prep your nail beds for your next manicure.

Key Ingredients: Ethyl acetate, butyl acetate | Amount: 2 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

"Both acetone and non-acetone remover breakdown the polish but acetone is way more powerful."Syreeta Aaron, Nail Technician

Best Wipes: Butter London Nail Scrubbers 2-in-1 Prep & Lacquer Remover Wipes

Butter London Nail Scrubbers

Amazon

What We Like
  • Travel-friendly

  • Works quickly

  • Replenishes nail beds

What We Don't Like
  • High price per use

  • Contains PEGs

Butter London Nail Scrubbers are not only convenient and travel-friendly, but they also do an impressive job removing the most stubborn, dark, or glittery polish. These one-swipe-wonders are soaked in acetone to quickly eliminate all traces of lacquer, plus vitamin E and aloe to prevent irritation and replenish your nail beds.

Key Ingredients: Acetone, vitamin E, aloe vera | Amount: 10 wipes | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Gentle: Tenoverten The Rose Soak

THE ROSE SOAK

Violetgrey

What We Like
  • Gentle yet effective

  • Fortifying

  • Eco-friendly packaging

What We Don't Like
  • Not fast-acting

"Finding a nail polish remover that is both gentle and effective can be challenging," says nail care expert Nadine Abramcyk, who co-founded Tenoverten. The Rose Soak contains propylene carbonate, a less-harsh acetone alternative, plus soothing, fortifying ingredients like aloe vera and rosehip extract.

Key Ingredients: Propylene carbonate, aloe vera, rosehip extract | Amount: 4 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Non-Drying: Ella + Mila Jojoba Based Nail Polish Remover

Ella + Mila Jojoba Based Nail Polish Remover

Ella + Mila

What We Like
  • Acetone- and alcohol-free

  • Gentle yet effective

  • Moisturizing

What We Don't Like
  • Not fast-acting

  • Contains PEGs

This nail polish remover from Ella+Mila doesn't contain any acetone or alcohol, which can be drying. It effectively removes lacquer of any shade and replenishes the nail beds with a dose of moisturizing jojoba oil and soothing vitamin E.

Key Ingredients: Dimethyl glutarate, dimethyl adipate, jojoba oil, vitamin E | Amount: 4 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Set: Cirque Colors Frest Start Duo

Cirque Colors Fresh Start Duo

Cirque Colors

What We Like
  • Works quickly

  • Conditions nail beds

  • Lint-free wipes

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

This bundle from Cirque Colors comes with an 8-ounce bottle of nail polish remover and 325 perfectly sized, lint-free cotton wipes. The acetone-based remover works quickly while hydrating and conditioning with glycerin. While this is a more expensive pick, we think the inclusion of moisturizing glycerin justifies the price, making it worth the spend.

Key Ingredients: Acetone, glycerin | Amount: 8 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Dark Polish: Deborah Lippmann The Stripper Nail Lacquer Remover

Deborah Lippmann The Stripper Lavender Nail Lacquer Remover

Sephora

What We Like
  • Works quickly

  • Non-drying

  • Award-winning formula

What We Don't Like
  • High price per ounce

"Darker colors are harder to remove," says Aaron, explaining that acetone-based formulas are usually best for deep nail polish shades. Deborah Lippmann's cheekily named The Stripper works quickly and effectively, calling on aloe vera to prevent dryness and lavender essential oil to mask the strong smell of acetone.

Key Ingredients: Acetone, aloe vera, lavender essential oil | Amount: 4 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

"Acetone breaks down and liquefies the polish easier. That will make these darker colors easier to remove without having to use a polish remover that's 100 percent acetone."Syreeta Aaron, Nail Technician

Best for Light Polish: People of Color Acetone-Free Nail Polish Remover

People of Color Acetone-Free Nail Polish Remover

People of Color

What We Like
  • Gentle formula

  • Non-drying

  • Minimal ingredients

What We Don't Like
  • Not fast-acting

  • Not ideal for dark colors

"If you're removing regular lacquer, acetone can be too harsh, so just a basic polish remover is best," says Aaron. This acetone-free formula from People of Color effortlessly dissolves light-colored polish with methyl acetate, promising not to dry out your nail beds.

Key Ingredients: Methyl acetate | Amount: 4 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Touch-Ups: OPI Nail Polish Remover Pen

OPI Nail Polish Remover Pen

Amazon

What We Like
  • Innovative design

  • Marker-like tip

  • Refillable

What We Don't Like
  • High price per ounce

OPI's Correct Clean Up pen is perfect for smoothing out little smudges and cleaning up your nail edges. The marker-like tip makes it super easy to apply the acetone-based formula with precision—no Q-tip or brush needed. It's also refillable, helping you cut down on waste.

Key Ingredients: Acetone | Amount: 0.1 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Gel Polish: Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Acetone Remover

Sally Hansen Gel Polish Remover

Ulta

What We Like
  • Works quickly

  • Replenishes nail beds

  • Non-drying

What We Don't Like
  • Harsh on cuticles

  • Strong smell

"Acetone tends to strip away the oils and not necessarily replenish the vitamins and nutrients in the nail, which makes it best for a gel polish," says Aaron. With this in mind, Sally Hansen's gel remover contains soothing aloe and moisturizing grape seed oil to replenish your nail beds.

Key Ingredients: Acetone, aloe vera | Amount: 2 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Soak-Off: LeChat Perfect Match Soak-Off Remover

LeChat Perfect Match Soak-Off Remover

LeChat

What We Like
  • Generous amount

  • Works quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Strong smell

"If you need a professional product for gel removal, LeChat Perfect Match is my go-to," offers Aaron. This no-nonsense formula uses acetone to soak off stubborn shellac and gel lacquer within minutes.

Key Ingredients: Acetone | Amount: 32 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Manicure Prep: Mineral Fusion Nail Polish Remover

mineral fusion nail polish remover

Mineral Fusion

What We Like
  • Gentle yet effective

  • Helps new polish stick

What We Don't Like
  • Strong smell

Mineral Fusion is not only great for removing polish but also prepping your nails for a fresh coat of paint. As Aaron explains, it works by "dehydrating the nail of oils so the gel or enhancement will stick to it better."

Key Ingredients: Methyl acetate | Amount: 8 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Final Verdict

Zoya Remove+ is the best nail polish remover overall on account of its fast-acting, conditioning formula and spill-proof, pump-top bottle. If you're on a budget, go with the manicurist-approved Cutex Ultra-Powerful Nail Polish Remover. And if you need a travel-friendly option, we highly recommend Butter London Nail Scrubbers

Meet the Expert

Syreeta Aaron is an Alabama-based nail specialist, as well as an educator and brand ambassador for LeChat.


Nail care expert Nadine Abramcyk is the head of brand and co-founder of Tenoverten.

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.  

How We Researched

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

Why Trust Byrdie

Theresa Holland is a commerce writer specializing in color cosmetics and lifestyle. She interviewed two sources for this story, including a professional manicurist and a nail care expert, who offers product recommendations and insight into active ingredients. Before narrowing down the final picks, she looked at dozens of formulas and referenced ingredients in several peer-reviewed journals. Of the above brands, Theresa has tried Zoya, Cutex, Onyx, Sally Hansen, and Butter London. She covers DIY nail products, makeup, and skincare at Byrdie.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1.  Nassim J and Liu K. A look at the effects of nail polish on nail health and safety. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. 2019.

  2. Becker LC, Bergfeld WF, Belsito DV, et al. Safety Assessment of Glycerin as Used in Cosmetics. Int J Toxicol. 2019;38(3_suppl):6S-22S. doi:10.1177/1091581819883820

  3. Proksch E, de Bony R, Trapp S, Boudon S. Topical use of dexpanthenol: a 70th anniversary article. J Dermatolog Treat. 2017 Dec;28(8):766-773. doi: 10.1080/09546634.2017.1325310.

  4. Radha MH, et al. Evaluation of biological properties and clinical effectiveness of Aloe vera: A systematic review. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. Published 2014 Dec 23.

  5. Abid Keen, M.; Hassan, I. Vitamin E in dermatology. Indian Dermatology Online Journal. July-August 2016; 7(4): 311–315. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.185494

  6. Kurowski G, et al. Active Ingredients in Paint Strippers. Chemistry. (2017). doi: 10.4467/2353737XCT.17.003.6100

  7. Mármol I, et al. Therapeutic Applications of Rose Hips from Different Rosa Species. International journal of molecular sciences vol. 18,6 1137. 25 May. 2017, doi:10.3390/ijms18061137

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