How To Remove Your Acrylic Nails At Home

Nail artist Spifster Sutton shares the dos and don'ts of caring for your nails at home.

Much of the focus in preventing the spread of coronavirus revolves around our hands: washing them, not using them to touch our faces and generally making sure they are clean and free from germs.

For people whose hand and nail care routine includes acrylics, there is an added component ― how to care for them at home. All around the country, salons ― which are considered nonessential businesses ― have been mandated to close and stay closed. In the tristate area, the direction came on March 20, meaning that it’s now been almost a month since many people had their last appointment.

So, what’s going on with your acrylics? HuffPost reached out to Spifster Sutton, a Chicago-based nail artist with a wealth of knowledge about nail, hand and acrylic maintenance for some guidance. Here’s what she had to say.

Yes, you should remove them.

By now, your nails might be growing out, chipped or even cracked. You might be tempted to leave them as is ― but you shouldn’t. Sutton explained there are more than a few reasons to take them off.

“The number-one reason is to stop any kind of fungus from building under the nail,” she said. “You’re home, cleaning, washing hands and dishes at an alarming rate. If you have any lifting of the nail, water can get under there and can build fungus, then you’ll have a whole other issue. It’s better to keep them off than to risk it. Also, the weight of the product will cause pain to your nails — they could snap or break off in all different ways.”

How to remove acrylic nails safely.

“To remove, you need 100% acetone,” Sutton said. “A lot of people have regular nail polish remover at home, but that’s not going to do the job. The drugstores will still have it.”

You can either soak your nails straight in the acetone in a bowl, or you can soak cotton balls in the acetone, and wrap them around your nails with strips of aluminum foil.

For the former, you’ll need a small glass bowl (not plastic) that you can fill with the acetone, one that’s deep enough to cover your nails and preferably one that won’t be used for food. For the latter, you’ll need cotton balls and strips of foil. “Using foil takes a bit of coordination, so [if that’s too hard] you can just put your nails in a glass bowl ― not plastic ― and soak anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.”

Whichever method you choose, you’ll also need a nail file, “preferably one that’s about 180 grit,” to file the nail color down before soaking (and while soaking, if you use the bowl method). “You want to file the top until you see the color and/or design start to fade away,” she said. “Then you know they’re ready to come off.”

If you have regular polish on the nail, remove that with polish remover before soaking.

That means no dental floss, Jada Pinkett Smith.

“Do not take any object to pop the nails off,” Sutton warned. “Don’t take a bus card, a nail clipper, I saw a dental floss method that Jada Pinkett Smith did on her Instagram recently ― I do not want you to do that.”

Using an object instead of properly soaking your nails can cause damage and even infection. “You could break a nail, expose your flesh, get an infection in the very worst case,” she said. “You don’t want to have that ― you’re trying to maintain the health of your nails.”

What about once they’re off?

Moisture, moisture, moisture. Sutton said that at the very least, keeping your hands moisturized is the No. 1 way to maintain hand and nail health. It’s especially important to keep in mind right now with all the hand-washing we’re doing.

“If you don’t have anything else at home, make sure you’re always moisturizing,” she said. “Use essential oils, even olive oil in your kitchen just to keep your cuticles and hands moist. That will prevent breaking, increase nail growth and stop hangnails from growing so quickly.

There are a few basic products you can keep in the house.

Sutton recommends painting your own nails at home, recommending drugstore brands like Sally Hansen that make formulas with a base, color and top coat in one. “Make sure you’re letting every layer dry,” she said. “We’re not going anywhere, we’re not in a rush.”

She also endorsed the benefits of keeping a nail glue in your rotation. “It can be used for a few things,” she said. “You can do an at-home silk wrap. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials to do it. You just need some glue and any fabric, some people use tissue, paper towel, thread, any type of fabric. The glue hardens it and you can file it down which can help extend or patch up your nail, if you have splits or deep breaks. You can also use it by itself to just patch up a break in the nail to keep you going until you can get back to your appointment.”

Cuticle oil is a big one, too. And it all goes back to keeping everything moisturized. “We condition our hair but we don’t necessarily think of conditioning our nails,” she said. “It’s really necessary.” Sutton recommends an oil by fellow nail artist Sarah Nguyen.

But if you’re feeling adventurous, there are a few other options.

“If you are a bit more knowledgeable about doing your own nails, there is a great gel system called Apres, they have all kinds of tutorials on their page that even a beginner could do it,” Sutton said.

Sutton herself makes a line of press-on nails that she began selling recently to her customers and has put together an Amazon list aptly titled Mandated Manicures: COVID-19 with her recommended products to keep your nails looking their best at home. Check our Sutton’s Instagram to learn more.