Once your nail is wrapped up, Gyimah says to give it a squeeze. “There should be a bit of acetone dripping out when you squeeze — that is how you know you have enough on the cotton ball,” she says. Soak each nail for a minimum of 10 minutes to ensure the acrylic is breaking down properly.
If you want to take things a step further, Amy Le suggests placing a hot towel on top of your wrapped foils. “The warm acetone works faster,” she says. (Just do not under any circumstances microwave acetone, as it is flammable.) You might have to repeat this step if it seems like the acrylic has not softened. Be patient! Having to wait is better than having a weak, damaged nail later on.
If you don’t have remover clips and are also out of foil and cotton balls (times are tough, we hear you), try this second method. Pour acetone into a small bowl and submerge your fingers. It will take about 20 to 30 minutes to break down your acrylics. “While your fingers are submerged, use your thumbs to rub the other four fingers — it helps break down the product faster,” says Johnson.
Much like the warm towel trick, Mytien Le advises putting a heating pad or warm bottle underneath the bowl to slightly heat the acetone. This acrylic removal method might be quicker and more effective than using a cotton ball and foil, but be warned that your skin will be parched. Still, Le prefers it to the foil method. “It does dry out your hands, but it’s a lot easier, and you can always rehydrate [the skin and nails] afterward,” she says.
Gently Push the Acrylic Off Your Nails
“As you’re soaking your acrylics, you’ll notice they’ll start to melt and become really gooey and gross-looking,” says Mytien Le. That’s your cue. Take your cuticle pusher or orange stick and carefully push the acrylic off your nail, starting from the cuticle area to the free edge. “The acrylic should come off easily without using too much pressure on your nail bed,” says Monserrat Rodriguez, nail artist and owner of Shears and Laque nail salon in Rancho Cucamonga, California. If it doesn’t easily come off, repeat the previous step of soaking your nails in acetone.
Shape, File, and Buff Your Nails
After you’ve successfully removed the acrylic, Mytien Le suggests using a buffer to lightly buff the top of the nails, removing any residue and smoothing the nail. “Then, of course, wash your hands hard,” she says.
Hydrate Your Nails
Your nails will likely feel very dry after this entire process, so rehydrating them is crucial. Apply cuticle oil to your cuticles and around the front side of your finger towards the free edge of your nail bed, says Gyimah. This will help moisturize the ara. Amy Le likes using marula oil from Drunk Elephant or The Ordinary‘s “B” Oil. We like the Best of Beauty-winning Naturally London Hydrating Cuticle Oil.
Strengthen and Repair Your Natural Nails
“Once the acrylics are off, I like to give my nails a break for a few weeks or at least a few days,” says Mytien Le. Consider taking some time away from more acrylics, gel extensions, press-ons, or even regular polish to give your nails time to breathe. Some signs that your nails might need a sabbatical, as New York City-based dermatologist Dana Stern, M.D., previously told Allure, include ridges and splits in your nail, thirsty cuticles, discoloration, peeling, and keratin granulation, which are those white patches and rough spots that may appear on the surface of your nails.