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5 Simple Steps to Remove Press-On Nails (Without Nail Damage)

5 Simple Steps to Remove Your Press-On Nails (Without Nail Damage)

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Main image – MayaKruchancova/Adobe

Who doesn’t love press-on nail kits? They’re easy to apply, super cute, and you can customise them with different colours or types of nail art.

But what about when you’re ready to remove them? Is it actually possible to take off your press-ons without damaging your natural nails?

The good news is, yes! If you’re careful (ie, follow our expert tips below) you’ll soon be removing your press-ons like a pro- all without harming your natural nail bed or the surface of your nails.

We spoke to Syreeta Aaron, a BIPOC nail artist with over 17 years of experience in the industry and brand ambassador for LeChat, to put together a simple 5 step guide to getting rid of those pesky old nails all while keeping your natural nails shiny and healthy.


5 Simple Steps to Remove Press-On Nails (Without Nail Damage)

Image – DaryaLavinskaya/Adobe


The tools you’ll need

There are many reasons why you may want to remove your fake nails, whether that is a new set for a special event or maybe you just want to take a break from acrylic nails to let your real nails breathe.

Having gel extensions or acrylic nails on for a long time can be hard on your own nails, but glue-on nails are a great alternative to protect them while still having some length and colour.

Press-on nails are typically applied with nail glue, but they can also be applied with adhesive tabs. Regardless of the method you choose, the removal process for both types of press-on nails is generally the same.


5 Simple Steps to Remove Press-On Nails (Without Nail Damage)

Image – DaryaLavinskaya/Adobe


Here are some of the key tools you should have on hand to make the process easier:

  • Small bowl: Use a small bowl to soak and help loosen the false nail adhesive. Some people like to use a bowl of warm water and liquid soap, as this is less harsh for those with dry skin. Be sure to opt for a small ceramic or glass bowl if you’re using an acetone-based nail polish remover.
  • Nail file: Filing nails before the removal process can help thin out the glue, making them easier to remove.
  • Nail clippers: You can use clippers to trim long nails before your chosen removal method. This is especially helpful for those with long nails or gel extensions.
  • Orangewood stick or cuticle pusher: Helpful tools like an orange stick can be used to gently scrape off any leftover glue.
  • Cotton balls: Use a cotton ball or cotton pad to help apply and remove any acetone-based products.
  • Foil wrap: You can also use foil to wrap your nails
  • Pure acetone or isopropyl alcohol: These items can help dissolve the glue or sticky tabs and make them easier to remove. It is a strong chemical, so always use it with caution!
  • Nail buffer: This tool will help to smooth out any rough edges and buff away the remaining glue.


Now that you have all your tools ready, let’s start removing those press-on nails!


5 steps to remove your press-on nails


1. Should you file them?

Whether you should file your press-on nails will depend on if you’ve used a gel topcoat.

Aaron lays out the facts on removing a gel topcoat: “To soak gel polish, it is important to file off the first coat, which is the topcoat, before soaking the nail with acetone. If the topcoat is not filed off, the acetones cannot penetrate to the colour-based polish, so again, the topcoat must be filed off first.

Depending on the thickness of the nail, soaking can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes.” There’s no need to file if you haven’t used a gel topcoat, so you can jump right into the first step!


2. Soak

A bit like removing your dip powder nails, the soak is one of the most important steps when removing your press-ons.

Aaron explains it best. “To soak nails, you may use a glass bowl and fill it with acetone. The amount of acetone should only cover your fingernails. Keep in mind that acetone is a solvent and is used to break down materials like polish, acrylic, varnish, or even grease.”

“To avoid getting acetone on your fingers and skin, you can also use the process of placing a cotton ball just on the nail itself and wrapping it with a square sheet of aluminium foil just large enough to wrap each finger.”

“When soaking nails off, always remember to choose a safe place to do so. Acetone may eat away on surfaces, so it’s always best to use a glass surface that can easily be wiped. If a glass surface is not available, choose a surface that acetone cannot penetrate through. Avoid wood surfaces when using acetone.”


3. Use an orange stick to remove them

Another important step is to use a cuticle stick or an orange stick to help remove the nails from your nail bed. This is also a great way to help break down the remaining glue and make sure there’s no leftover residue. There are different sizes of cuticle sticks, so pick the one that’s right for your nail shape.

When removing the actual nail, you want to use a little bit of pressure for a light release. Using too much pressure could cause unnecessary damage to the natural nail and is best avoided.


4. Buff your nails

To finish things off, you’ll want to buff your nails to make sure the surface of your natural nails is smooth. This will help you get rid of any remaining residue that was left behind during the removal process and help to restore the natural shine of your nails.

Be sure to work with a gentle hand and avoid putting too much pressure on the nail, as this can lead to unwanted damage.


5. Rehydrate your nails

Once you’ve buffed your nails, you’ll want to rehydrate them with a few drops of cuticle oil (or face oil), aloe vera, or a good hand mask.

The good thing is, this step isn’t just about making your nails look nice; it’s also for the health of your nail beds! By rehydrating your nails, you’ll help to strengthen them and nourish the nail bed so it can grow healthily.


5 Simple Steps to Remove Press-On Nails (Without Nail Damage)

Image – DaryaLavinskaya/Adobe


How to avoid damaging your nails

When it comes to nail removal, damage is one of the biggest concerns. It’s important to remember that the best way to remove any type of fake nail is with patience and a little TLC.

There’s no need to rush the process; taking your time will help ensure you keep your natural nail health intact. The best press-on nails usually last for around 1-2 weeks, but it is possible to remove them sooner if needed.

Most press-on nail kits come with a step-by-step guide to the application process, but removal is the flip side of the same coin.

Good press-on nails, like Kiss Nails, have their own products that help make the removal process easier. Kiss Nails have Kiss Glue Off is designed specifically to help remove their own glue-on nails without much effort.

You don’t have to spend extra on these specialty products, though, as the most important thing is to use the right removal techniques that help prevent damage to your nail plate.


5 Simple Steps to Remove Press-On Nails (Without Nail Damage)

Image – MayaKruchancova/Adobe


When it comes to preventing damage, it depends on what type of artificial nails you have. Aaron helps break this down by explaining that with “store-bought press-on nails, you can just immediately begin to soak them off.” Things get a bit more complicated with gel polish, which has several layers of product and needs to be filed down before the removal process.

While it can be tempting, never peel off your gel or regular nail polish! “Peeling gel polish off could possibly take away layers of the nail,” says Aaron.

Soaking is a much gentler way to remove gel polish and can help minimise the trauma to the nail plate.


Can you remove your press-on nails without acetone?

While this can depend on the type of nails you’re using, most experts recommend using acetone as the best way to remove press-on nails.

Aaron explains that “The less acetone percentage of a remover can prolong the process,” highlighting the importance of using a higher percentage for easier and more effective nail removal.

However, “To avoid getting acetone on your fingers and skin, you can also use the process of placing a cotton ball just on the nail itself and wrapping it with a square sheet of aluminum foil just large enough to wrap each finger.”

Alternative methods for press-on nail remover include the liquid soap and warm water method or using a nail buffer to break down the glue.

While these methods can be used, they may take longer and not be as effective as acetone when it comes to effective removal. If you’re using a liquid soap and warm water method, make sure to hold your nail in the solution for at least 15 minutes to make sure all the glue is dissolved.


5 Simple Steps to Remove Press-On Nails (Without Nail Damage)

Image – LightfieldStudios/Adobe


How to save your press-on nails to use again

One of the most common questions about press-on nails is how to save them after removal. The good news is, it’s actually quite easy with the proper care and attention.

The best way to save your press-ons after removal is to clean them thoroughly to make sure there is no excess glue.

Once they are clean and completely dry, you can store them in a cool, dry place away from any other beauty products.

You should also make sure to keep the nails in a sealed container away from any moisture to reduce the chance of them getting damaged or harbouring unwanted bacteria.


5 Simple Steps to Remove Press-On Nails (Without Nail Damage)

Image – Zadveri/Adobe


The takeaway

Press-on nails are a fun, cost-effective way to gain salon-quality nails from the comfort of your home. The application process is simple, and with the right care and attention, you can save them for future use.

Following our 5 simple steps to safely remove the nail and glue without causing damage to your natural nails. From there, don’t forget to rehydrate your nails with a few drops of cuticle oil or hand mask to promote your natural nail health!

There’s no need to be intimidated when it comes to removing your press-on nails; with a few easy steps, you can do it yourself!


Meet the expert

BIPOC pro nail artist Syreeta Aaron is brand educator for globally-famous polish brand LeChat and has had a nail tech career spanning 17 years.





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Sally Underwood is a journalist, *serious* beauty fan, and Editor-in-Chief of Live That Glow. Formerly Editorial Director of one of Europe's largest newspaper groups, Sally has been a beauty obsessive since her teen years spent dragging her long-suffering (but immaculately-groomed) friends around every beauty counter in London. She now leads Live That Glow's editorial operations.

Expertise: Skincare, Body care
Education: University College London

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