How to Remove Fake Nails Without Damaging Your Real Ones

Experts explain how to remove acrylic, gel, and dip powder nails at-home.

Getting a fresh acrylic, gel, or dip powder manicure can do wonders for your confidence and self-esteem. However, all good things must come to an end, and when it comes to your nails, it can be so tempting to remove your nail enhancements at home instead of paying the extra money to do it at a salon.

However, if you decide against going to a nail salon to remove your fake nails, you need to know the right way to do it. While there are few things more satisfying than peeling off your gel manicure, doing so can cause damage to your natural nails. We spoke with nail experts on the best methods to remove fake nails, and how to avoid weak and unhealthy natural nails afterwards.

How to remove fake nails at home

The process for removing acrylic, gel, and dip powder nails is the same.

Step 1: Gather all of your tools

Mar y Sol, a celebrity manicurist, says you'll need to prep your home station with the right tools, including a hand towel, paper towels, cotton balls, 100 percent pure acetone, aluminum foil, nail clippers, a cuticle pusher, and cuticle oil. "Pro tip: pre-cut your tin foil into 10 small pieces that can wrap around your finger, and layer your paper towels so that when the top layer of paper is full of product, you can easily remove it and have a fresh layer underneath to continue," she says

Step 2: Clip off any nail extensions

"If you have nail extensions, use your nail clipper to clip off the extra length," says Mar y Sol. "This will save time in the long run." Once you've clipped off the extra length, use the coarse side of your nail to file off the shiny coat of your nail polish. "This is called the inhibition layer, and once removed, the acetone can easily remove the product," she says.

Step 3: Soak off the nail enhancements

Once you've physically removed the excess nail, it's time to soak off what's left. First, start by prepping the nails with cuticle oil. "By adding cuticle oil, this can replenish the natural oils on your nails without drying them out with the acetone," says Syreeta Aaron, a professional nail artist, and LeChat Nails educator.

Then, soak a cotton ball with acetone, place it on top of the nail and wrap the finger in the aluminum foil. Repeat this step for each finger. "The aluminum foil is a perfect heat conductor that will speed up the process, says Rebecca Ludwig, a professional nail artist, and educator. After about 10 minutes, the acetone will begin to dissolve the fake nails. "The time it takes depends on how thick the product is, but when it is soaked properly, it will flake away from the nail and should be able to be wiped away with a paper towel," says Ludwig.

After the 10 minutes are up, Mar y Sol says to check on one nail and use your cuticle pusher to gently remove any remaining product. "Acrylic and dip powder might need a little more time and reapplication of remover, but patience is how you can keep a healthy nail after removal." Continue soaking the nails with cotton and wrapping them in aluminum foil until the nail enhancements are completely gone.

Pro tip: acetone is a strong chemical that can damage surfaces like wood. In addition to paper towels, Aaron recommends soaking your nails on a durable surface, like glass, to be safe and avoid any damage to your furniture.

Step 4: Follow up with after care.

"Whenever removing artificial nails, it's always best to replenish your nails with some sort of cuticle oil," says Aaron. Cuticle oil will help keep the nails hydrated.

Mar y Sol also recommends following up with a nail strengthener to help repair any potential damage and keep the nails healthy and strong post-removal.

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