How to Remove Fake Nails Without Ruining Your Real Ones

Make the process a little less painful.

manicured hand

@thevicstyles / Design by Camden Dechert

Before you scoff at the idea of acrylics, just think: Wouldn’t it be nice to go two weeks without a manicure and still have long shiny nails? We think so. While there are quite a few perks to fake nails, there are some downsides as well, namely damage to your real nails. Therefore, we reached out to nail experts Gina Edwards and Pattie Yankee to learn how to remove fake nails without damaging your real ones.

It's a huge bummer and money-suck to get a fresh set of fake nails only to find that they're beginning to fall off. Since going to the salon to get your nails taken off isn’t always an option, we asked Edwards and Yankee to tell us how to remove fake nails from home. While they each recommend seeing a licensed nail professional to effectively minimize any damage to your natural nails, they did share a few at-home removal tips that will come in handy if you’re ever in a bind.

Meet the Expert

  • Gina Edwards is a celebrity manicurist and brand ambassador for Kiss Products Inc. Her work has been featured in numerous beauty and fashion editorials, as well as covers for the likes of Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Narcisse.
  • Pattie Yankee is a consultant at Dashing Diva with over 30 years of experience in the nail industry. She is also a celebrity nail artist whose clients include Priyanka Chopra, Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez, Chrissy Teigen, Nicki Minaj, and many others.
01 of 06

Add Nail Guards Prior to Application

Yankee recommends applying Dashing Diva Nail Guards to your nails before adding any enhancements. Nail Guards are super-thin nail-shaped films that are applied to your natural nails first, before any acrylic, hard gel, dip powder, or gel polish manicure.

"The Nail Guards create a barrier between your natural nail and the artificial nail application. After applying Nail Guards, any artificial nail service can be applied over the top," Yankee says. "Then, when it comes time for removal, simply apply a generous amount of cuticle oil to the base of each nail. Using a wooden manicure stick, gently lift the enhancement off the nail by slipping the stick under the Nail Guard from side to side until loosened."

Then, little by little, lift the enhancement off the nail. You may need to apply additional cuticle oil or non-acetone remover with the stick to completely release the fake nail. After removal, clean off any residual adhesive from the natural nail with polish remover. Massage in cuticle oil to finish.

02 of 06

Use Pure Acetone

Edwards says that fake gel nails must be drilled down at the salon. However, if you have acrylics, you can remove them by soaking them in pure acetone. Yankee advises cutting your nails down as low as possible for this process. "Then use a coarse nail file to remove the top surface of each nail to break the seal of the existing product," she says.

Fill two glass bowls with acetone about halfway. Wet a hand towel in water and microwave on high for one to two minutes, then unfold the towel and cover one side with a piece of plastic wrap. Apply cuticle oil generously to the area surrounding each nail. Place your hands into the bowls of acetone, and cover with the warm damp towel with the plastic side down to face hands. The plastic wrap and warm towel will generate heat to speed up the removal process. Remove hands after 15 minutes, and evaluate the progress. Push away any loosened product from the nails with a manicure stick.

Repeat the process as necessary until all product is removed. After removal, lightly buff any remaining residue from the nail plates with a fine-grit file or buffing block, and clean with polish remover. Massage in cuticle oil to finish.

03 of 06

Add Baby Oil

To make a mixture that will let you remove your acrylics in an even gentler way, Edwards says to add a small amount of a mineral-based product such as baby oil to your warmed acetone, as this will gently lift the acrylic from the natural nail. Soak your nails for 45 minutes so that the fake nails come off nicely, no prying necessary.

04 of 06

Clip Your Nails and Use a Recovery Kit

Clip your nails to an active (shorter) length, and then file and shape the top layer of your nails to break the seal of the gel. Edwards suggests that as your natural nails grow, you should place a strengthener on your nails to fortify the new layers.

05 of 06

Apply a Base Coat

After removal, Yankee says to make sure to protect your nails by applying a few layers of a nourishing base coat to help strengthen the nails.

Once your fake nails are off, you might be tempted to go back to the salon to have a new set put on. However, if you are in the DIY spirit, Edwards recommends using press-ons like imPress Press-On Manicures ($9).

She adds to make sure and replace them every seven days for a fresh look that doesn't require harsh removal, as they have a self-adhesive backing that is easy to take off and causes "no damage at all." Your natural nails will grow underneath the press-ons.

06 of 06

Try a Soak Off Steam System

Edward says a great, smooth way to make sure there is no damage during gel polish removal is to use a soak off steam system. The best part: There are no harsh chemicals that come with using this removal method.

  • Can I just quickly remove my acrylic nails at home?

    While you can remove faux nails at home, it will take some time (you'll want to file them down, soak them, and gently remove them), so don't try to just quickly yank them off.

  • How long can I go in between acrylic nail sets?

    There's no definite timeline, though it's best to wait until your nails are healthy again (which could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months).

  • How should I care for my natural nails after removing my acrylics?

    First off, you'll want to keep nails short and healthy, as they will likely be weak from the acrylics. Moisturize with oils often, and apply a strengthening treatment as necessary.

Related Stories