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 • Nails  • Nailcare Guides  • How to Shorten Your Acrylics *from Home*
How to Shorten Your Acrylics *from Home*

How to Shorten Your Acrylics *from Home*

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Main image – Tatiana/Adobe

Picture this: You’ve just spent a couple of hours or so in the salon getting a new mani and you *LOVE* it, but there’s a problem. You get home and realise they’re Just. Too. Long. Zipping up your coat is a struggle and picking up small items is even harder!

Fear not, dear reader, this doesn’t always mean you need to contact your nail tech or take off your acrylics altogether – you can fix this at home (honestly.)

Shortening your acrylic nails can also mean more time between salon visits, and can fix a crack or chip on your nails – *bonus*!

So, forget expensive salon appointments and time spent waiting in line for a professional nail artist, embrace the convenience and creativity of DIY nail care right in the comfort of your own home.

Live That Glow HQ spoke with Kayla Bramlett, the Director of Education and Training for Frenchies Modern Nail Care, to arm you with the essential tools, share tips on avoiding common pitfalls, and reveal the secret hacks that manicurists keep up their sleeves so that you can *really* take nail shortening into your own hands!


How to Shorten Acrylic Nails at Home nail file natural nail

Image – Harsa/Adobe


Tools you’ll need

The good news is that, with a little patience and the right tools, you can *easily* cut your acrylic nails at home  – but you’ll need the right tools.

Here’s what you’ll need, depending on whether you’re removing your polish or not:

  • A high-quality 100/180 emery board or an electric nail file
  • Lint-free cotton balls
  • Nail polish remover
  • Straight nail clipper
  • Cuticle pusher
  • Buffer
  • Nail polish
  • Top coat


How to Shorten Acrylic Nails at Home

Image – Iana Alter/Adobe


7 steps to shorten your acrylic nails at home

Ok, so to have any work done to your acrylics you should really be going to our nail technician for best results.  After all, they have literally years of experience.

But if you are going to shorten the length of your acrylic nails yourself, one of the most important things to remember is patience. Don’t go straight in for the kill like you would with your natural nails, because acrylics are REALLY strong (like you didn’t know already, eh.)

The middle part of your nail will be exposed to cracking right down the middle and this is because both sides of the nail will flatten to match the pressure of the clipper, causing tension in the centre. If the centre of the nail undergoes too much pressure, it can cause a vertical crack.

Not only is this a disaster for your mani, but it’s also pretty painful and can lead to your natural nail cracking, leaving it exposed to bacteria and infections. Absolute nightmare!

But don’t worry, we’ve got 7 *super* easy steps to help you cut your acrylic nails the best way at home:


Step 1: Start by deciding how long you want your nails and, if using nail clippers, position them on the side of your nail. Remember – you can always cut more off but you can’t reattach it once it’s been cut so be cautious!

You’ll also want to decide whether you remove your nail polish and, while you may be reluctant to (especially if you’ve got nail art), structured nails can look quite thick when shortened and often need to be top-filed to thin them out.


Step 2: Make sure the clippers are positioned at the right angle and carefully cut towards the centre of your nail.

It’s *essential* that your clippers are sharp enough to actually cut through the acrylic and to avoid damage to your nails and your mani.


Step 3: Once you’ve cut one side, move onto the other side of your nail and do the same thing.

Take the time to measure it up so you’re cutting at the right point and BE GENTLE!


Step 4: Once you have cut both sides of the nail, it should be pretty easy to gently pull the tip off.

If the nail is being stubborn, you can use some small nail scissors to cut the centre part that is still attached to the nail. I’ve found that twisting the tip can also help it detach from the rest of the nail.


Step 5: Once you’ve done this on every nail, it’s time to file them into shape and remove ay rough edges! You can do this the same way that you would with your natural nails. Make sure to use a high-quality file or electric file to avoid damaging your acrylics or causing any pain, and resist using a ‘sawing’ action back and forth.

You might also need to ‘de-bulk’ your nails, since they might look a bit thick now they’re been cut shorter. To do this, use a nail file and medium pressure to file up and down the nail, removing the very top layers of acrylic. Make sure this is even on across your entire nail.


Step 6: Now you’ll want to clean your hands and nails to remove any debris. This should be done with soap and water and be sure to thoroughly dry your hands before step 7!


Step 7: Now you can add a topcoat or your chosen colour to your newly-shortened acrylic nails, particularly on the ends to avoid any chipping and smooth any roughness.


If you decided to remove your polish and de-bulk the nails, it’s a good idea to use a buffer on the entire nail as well as the new free edge. The last step is applying a top coat to avoid lifting and adding cuticle oil for the *perfect* finish.


How to Shorten Acrylic Nails at Home nail file natural nail

Image – yavdat/Adobe


How to keep your nail shape while trimming them

We cannot repeat this enough – use high-quality clippers and nail files when cutting and shaping your acrylics. These will be your *besties* during the process!

Keeping your nail shape is pretty simple, as long as you follow the original shape and use a coarse nail file. As you begin filing, focus on one side of the nail at a time and keep the angle consistent as you work towards the centre of the nail.

For square-shaped nails, file straight across the tip at a 90-degree angle to maintain that sharper edge.

Almond and round-shaped nails require a more delicate approach. File from one side and curve the emery board towards the centre of your nail, repeating on the other side for symmetry.

More of a fan of stiletto nails? You’ll want to file inwards at an angle from both sides of the nail towards the centre, ensuring you preserve that sharp tip.


Can you cut acrylic nails without damaging them?


The most important thing to remember is that acrylic nails are SUPER strong, so don’t attempt to cut them like you would cut your natural nails.

First, cut both sides and then determine whether you can pull the tip off without causing damage or pain and, if it’s still firmly attached, use small nail scissors to remove it.

The same goes for fake nails, too!


How to Shorten Acrylic Nails at Home nail file

Image – Tatiana/Adobe


How long do acrylic nails normally last?

Crafted from a blend of liquid monomer and powdered polymer, acrylic nails are extremely versatile.  Because they’e pretty intricate, they’ll generally take between one and two hours to apply.

But, how long do they last?

Acrylic nails need to be filled every 2 – 3 weeks which, depending on your regular beauty regime, is quite the upkeep!

However, you’ll be pleased to know that as long as any lifting of the acrylic is filled in, a set can be worn for 6 to 8 weeks before they need to be removed.

There are some easy things you can do to ensure your acrylic mani lasts longer. You’ll want to avoid unnecessary pressure on the sides of your nails, scrubbing your cuticles or nails, and submerging your hands in water for long periods of time (wahey, an excuse not to do the dreaded dishes!)


How to Shorten Acrylic Nails at Home nail file nail clippers

Image – Alina Cardiae/Adobe


How to remove your acrylic nails

We’ve covered how to remove your artificial nails in detail here. But just know that there a couple of different way to do it.

The most common removal process involves using a pair of nail clippers to reduce the length before filing off the top layer of acrylic with a coarse file.  The next step involves soaking nails in a bowl of acetone (being really careful avoid your skin) or applying acetone-soaked cotton wool to nails before wrapping them in foil.

You can also remove your acrylics by soaking them in warm water.  Be aware that this is a better option for nail health but will take longer.

As a final step, use a good quality cuticle oil on your natural nail plate to pamper your nails and prep them for their next treatment.


The takeaway

And there we have it, 7 *super* simple steps to shorten your acrylic nails at home, as well as help you to maintain your mani for as long as possible!

If you use patience, the right tools, and a gentle hand, cutting your own acrylic mani won’t mean a return trip to your nail tech.

Nailed it!!



Meet the expert

Kayla Bramlet is the Director of Education and Training for Frenchies Modern Nail Care, a fast-growing national non-toxic nail salon franchise. Bramlet also owns a Frenchies franchise location in Lakeville, Minnesota.








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Senior Beauty Editor

Laura Kemp started her journalism career as a news reporter for one of the largest newspaper groups in Europe before moving into features and editorial writing. Combining her love of hard-hitting journalism with her passion for beauty, she’s now Senior Beauty Editor at Live That Glow. When she’s not writing, researching, or interviewing her favourite experts, you’ll find Laura practicing her downward dog or drifting on her paddleboard.

Expertise: Hair care, nails
Education: University of Salford

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