How to Remove Press-On Nails Without Damaging Your Nails

How to Remove Press-On Nails Without Damaging Your Nails featured image
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Unlike gel or acrylic, which last a long time and are difficult to get off, press-on nails are pretty easy to remove with the proper tools. In fact, that’s one of the beauties of press-on nails—they’re pretty easy to apply, simple to remove, and can be changed up frequently, depending on your mood.  

That being said, you can’t just pop off your press-on and expect your nail bed to be okay. “If you don’t remove the nails properly and just pull or pry them off, it can take pieces of the upper layers of the nail away as they will still be attached to the adhesive,” explains Tom Bachik, a celebrity manicurist and imPRESS Brand Ambassador. “This can cause your natural nails to become very thin, which could lead to splitting and cracking and even tearing off pieces of the natural nail.” To avoid this, we tapped three celebrity nail artists for their best tips on how to remove press-on nails without damage. 

Featured experts

  • Tom Bachik, a celebrity manicurist
  • Julie Kandalec, a celebrity manicurist
  • Gina Edwards, a celebrity manicurist

What you need

*Note: According to Julie Kandalec, a celebrity manicurist and author of the Nail Art Design Book, you want to make sure you have 100 percent pure acetone and not an acetone-based polish remover. “Those are not strong enough to remove the glue and the press-on, and it’ll only make your nails feel ‘gummy,’” she explains.

How to remove press-on nails

To remove press-ons that are self-adhesive or have sticky tabs

  1. Soak hands in a bowl of warm water with a bit of cuticle oil or in a hot bath—this will be enough to soften the contact for easy removal. Pro tip: You can also apply cuticle oil or nail glue remover around the edges of nails to help loosen them, according to Bachik.
  2. Once they have loosened, gently peel the nail from side to side. Using a cuticle pusher can help you lift the nails from the side. 

To remove press-on nails that use nail glue

  1. When using nail glue for your press-ons, apply a nail glue remover, like the Kiss Glue OFF Instant False Nail Remover, around the edges of the nail and wait a few minutes.
  2. Use the chisel tip on the Glue OFF to lift the nail around the edges.
  3. Then re-apply more nail glue remover. 
  4. Use the chisel tip again to lift a little bit more and apply some more nail glue remover. You may need to do this a few times, according to Bachik, so be patient.

To remove press-on nails using 100 percent pure acetone in a bowl

  1. Start by using a nail clipper to cut down the length of the tips. 
  2. Use the coarse side of your nail file to rough up the surface of the nail tip and remove shine before soaking. Note: Be careful not to file your natural nails. 
  3. Get a small bowl and pour the acetone into the bowl. 
  4. Add some cuticle oil to the acetone. 
  5. Soak your nails for about five minutes. 
  6. Use your cuticle pusher from the sides to help lift the tip from side to side. Depending on the glue, this may take a little longer. Remember to be patient and take your time, suggests Bachik. 

To remove press-on nails using cotton balls and foil

  1. Use your nail clipper to shorten the length of the tips.
  2. Use the coarse side of your nail file to rough up the surface of the nails and remove the shine.
  3. Take a cotton ball with acetone and place it on the nail. 
  4. Then wrap with aluminum foil—Bachik recommends doing one hand at a time. “This technique is designed to keep acetone from evaporating and use the warmth from your body to allow the acetone to be more effective,” he explains. 
  5. Let your nails soak for about five to ten minutes. “Taking an extra couple minutes to soak will ensure an easy removal and a healthy nail underneath,” says Bachik. 
  6. Give yourself a manicure after, and gently buff away any remaining glue residue. 
  7. Rehydrate your nails with cuticle oil and lotion.

Pro tips and tricks

Whichever press-on nail removal method you choose, there are a few things you should note. “You don’t want to use harsh metal tools, which can be detrimental if you are not a professional,” explains Gina Edwards, a celebrity manicurist and KISS Brand Ambassador. “Also, patience is important—most of us don’t want to take the time for removal.” The prep prior to applying your press-ons is just as important as removing and preserving your natural nails.

As tempting as it can be, you really don’t want to just rip off your press-on nails. ”Improper removal, like ripping them off, can lead to long-lasting and brittle nails,” says Kandalec. “Do not rip them off!”

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