Technique: How to Remove Acrylics

Acrylic Removal Square

Technique: How to Remove Acrylics

Application of nail art is exciting, but surprising numbers of salons rush through the removal process – and sometimes even do it incorrectly. Make sure you’re following this step-by-step process to a T when taking off acrylics.


The Tools: Acetone-based remover, e-file or hand file, orangewood stick, cotton balls or lint-free pads, foil

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The Process: You likely cringe when you discover a client has literally ripped off her acrylics. Greg Salo, co-founder and president of Young Nails, says professional techs can do the same damage if they don’t understand how to use their tools properly. “Never pry or force the product off of the nail and don’t use nippers to snip any lifting,” he says. Before soaking in remover, take off the lacquer or gel polish and shorten the nails if the client desires. While this next step isn’t required, it can speed up the removal process: Salo removes a majority of the acrylic with an e-file to reduce the amount of product that the solvent must penetrate. (Note: The thinner the product remaining on the nail, the less soak time will be needed.) If you’re not a seasoned e-filer, use a 180-grit hand file instead.

When it’s time to soak, placing your client’s fingers in an open bowl of remover wastes time (and product) and unnecessarily exposes the skin to drying acetone. Instead, soak pieces of cotton and place them on each nail, then apply warmth, says Elaine Watson, vice president of marketing and sales and director of education for Star Nail International. “Adding safe heat will speed up the softening of the acrylic,” she says. To do this, wrap the soaked cotton and fingertips in foil and the client’s body heat will create the warmth needed for removal. Or, once the nails are wrapped, place the entire hand in warming gloves to speed up the softening process.

Leave the nails to soak in the foil for 20 to 30 minutes. (Note: Removal time depends on product chemistry, thickness and nail length.) After unwrapping the nails, use an orangewood stick to gently push the softened acrylic from the nail. If any product remains, reapply remover-soaked cotton balls and rewrap the fingertips in foil. “Don’t leave any product behind,” says Watson. “Old product has the potential to create lifting of new product.”

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