How To Remove Glitter Nail Polish Once And For All

It's a struggle every holiday season. Here, experts share their best tips and tricks.
Glitter manicures are pretty, but they can be a huge pain to take off.
Kirezhenkova Marina / EyeEm via Getty Images
Glitter manicures are pretty, but they can be a huge pain to take off.

’Tis the season for festive glitter manicures, which are so much fun to wear but a nightmare to remove. If you’re wearing a chunky glitter polish, the removal process is like trying to scrape glued-on sand from your nails.

The ingredients in glitter polishes vary per brand, but the formulas are typically thicker and more glue-like to ensure the glitter blends in well with the polish and doesn’t flake off,” said Lilly Rojas, the cofounder of Lili and Cata, a nail salon in Brooklyn, New York.

To help you remove your full-on glitter manis or sparkly accent nails this holiday season, we’ve turned to the experts for their top tips. Here’s what they had to say:

Method 1: Buff And Soak

Similar to taking off gel, the first step to removing chunky glitter polish from your nails is to gently buff the surface with a nail file to remove the shiny layer of top coat and break the seal of the manicure. “You don’t need to overdo the buffing, just a little to remove the top layer,” Rojas said. If you buff too much off, you can damage your natural nails.

Once that top layer is removed, take cotton pads soaked in acetone or nail polish remover and leave them on top of your nails for three to five minutes. Acetone is more effective and will get the job done faster, but it can be drying to the nails and skin around them. Rojas recommends using aluminum foil or small rubber bands to hold the cotton pads in place. Of course, you can also use your hands, but this limits you to removing the glitter polish one nail at a time.

When it’s time to take off the cotton pads, push down as you pull the pads toward your fingertips. Pulling in a single downward motion should minimize the amount of glitter that ends up on your hands. “Most of the glitter should come off,” Rojas said. Repeat the soaking process as needed.

Method 2: Paint On An Extra Layer Of Top Coat

It might seem counterintuitive, but adding a fresh layer of top coat can make glitter nail polish easier to remove. “Top coat adheres to the polish underneath and helps pull it off,” said Rachel Apfel Glass, the founder of Glosslab, a membership-based nail studio with locations in New York City and elsewhere.

She recommends painting on a top coat, waiting 30 to 60 seconds for it to set, and then applying an acetone- or remover-soaked cotton pad to the nails.

UNT Ready for Takeoff peelable base coat ($11.97 at Amazon) and Orly GelFX Easy-Off basecoat ($13.56 at Amazon) are two peel-off base options.
UNT Ready for Takeoff peelable base coat ($11.97 at Amazon) and Orly GelFX Easy-Off basecoat ($13.56 at Amazon) are two peel-off base options.

Method 3: Use A Peel-Off Base Coat Underneath

This final method requires some prior planning and won’t work if you already have glitter polish on your nails.

A peel-off base coat is a handy tool for removing chunky glitter polishes with ease. As the name suggests, you can simply peel the polish off your nails. Unlike a long-lasting base coat, which helps nail polish adhere to your nails for longer and prevents staining, a peel-off base coat keeps nail polish on for just a few days. There are peel-off base coats for both regular and gel polish, Rojas noted. (Try UNT Ready for Takeoff peelable base coat or Orly GelFX Easy-Off basecoat.)

Paint a layer of peel-off base coat and allow it to fully dry before applying your glitter polish. For tips on how to keep polish on for longer while wearing a peel-off base coat, check out this video.

Be mindful of your hands if you’re wearing a peel-off base coat and preparing food, as polish can pop off without warning and you can end up with nail polish in your quiche.

When it comes time to take off the polish, “the best non-damaging way to remove polish with a peel-off base coat is by soaking your nails in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes,” Rojas said. She added that putting a few drops of cuticle oil in the bowl can speed up the process.

“Use an orange wood stick to help, if needed, and push from the cuticle area going down to the free edge,” she continued. “You should not need to apply much pressure.” Remove the polish one fingernail at a time, and be gentle; applying too much downward pressure can dent the nail plate.

After Removal, Moisturizing Is Key

Whatever removal method you choose, and especially if acetone is involved, it’s important to take time to hydrate your nails, cuticles and hands after removing nail polish.

Glass is a big fan of coconut oil. “It’s not only a great hand moisturizer but perfect for keeping nails from cracking and becoming brittle,” she said. There are a variety of moisturizing cuticle oils and hand lotions on the market to help keep your nails in great shape.

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