Saturday, October 20, 2012

Acrylic Nail Removal


I suffer with fingernail issues.  Some of them are soft and some of them are dry and brittle, breaking and cracking easily.  Pretty much all of them seem damaged in some way.  I do have a few that will grow fairly strong and lengthy, but that just looks silly, having one or two long nails and the rest short.  So, way back in the early Spring I decided to have acrylic nails put on.  I would go back every few weeks to have them filled in and repainted.  But, as anyone who has acrylics knows, this can be a time consuming and expensive adventure, so I decided the time had come to remove them.

Removing my acrylic nails at home:

I didn't have time to go back to the salon to have them removed, nor did I really want to pay for something that I thought I could do myself.  So, I bought some acetone and sat down the other evening to soak my nails.  I soon realized that this was going to require some effort, not the instantaneous effect I had hoped for.  I did a little research online on acrylic removal and started the process over again.

soaking fingers acetone

This time I heated a bowl of water up in the microwave, poured my acetone into a ziploc bag, and placed the bag into the bowl of warm water, creating a double broiler effect.  This was to heat the acetone up, since it is a solvent and highly volatile, you don't want to place it directly in the microwave or on the stove.

The instructions I was following said to let your nails soak for 15-20 minutes, then you should be able to peel the acrylic right off.  (Here's where I want to tell you what happened with mine and give you some tips on how to not have it happen to you.)

First, that acetone gets hot, and I mean hot, - quickly, so I wouldn't suggest bringing your bowl of water to a boil like I did.  Almost immediately after putting my baggy of acetone into the water, I placed my nails into the bag to soak, and OUCH!  Hot!!  Room temperature water is probably plenty warm enough, won't make that mistake again.

After about 20 minutes of soaking, after I let it cool down somewhat, I pulled one hand out to test it.  This is what your nail will look like after about 20 minutes of soaking.

acrylic nail removal

I thought I would try my pinky fingernail first because it had grown out the farthest and was already somewhat loose.  I pried on the acrylic and - SNAP, off it came bringing my fingernail with it, down to the quick.  ** Insert expletive here. ** 

It was obvious that I was not doing something correctly and 20 minutes wasn't going to touch this stuff, so I stuck my hands back into the little baggy of acetone, mindful not to put in my little pinky that was now bleeding.  I could feel the acrylic getting gummy and would use my fingers to rub it off.  Fast forward to the end, 2 hours later.  Yep, you read that right.  I sat there for 2 hours soaking my fingers in that little baggy of acetone before I got most of the acrylic rubbed off.  And I'm pretty sure that I have damaged my nails further in addition to totally drying out the skin on my fingers.

So where did I go wrong?  Here's what I learned, after the fact:

  • Trim your nails down and rough up the acrylic a little with a file or buffing pad.  When you file down the nail before soaking it in acetone, it helps the solvent work in two ways: there’s less product to remove, and  rough surfaces have more exposed surface area for the solvent to be absorbed into.
  • You can rub vaseline around the outside of your nails to keep the acetone from drying out your skin and cuticles.  Make sure not to get it onto your nails though because you want that acetone to penetrate the acrylic.
  • After you've soaked for about 10 minutes or so and the acrylic is gummy feeling, you should take one of the  wood sticks that come with a manicure kit, I'm not sure what they are called, to GENTLY push the acrylic off your nails. You would lay it on the top of the first layer of acrylic and gently, at an angle, push the acrylic towards the top of the nail.  (DO NOT attempt to push from the base of the acrylic where it meets the nail. This is what I did with my pinky nail and it's the reason why it broke off in the quick.) 
  • The acrylic should 'flake' off with little pressure. If it gets difficult to push it then you need to soak the nails again. Try soaking in five minute intervals after the initial ten. Before submerging back into the acetone, use an acetone soaked cotton ball to swipe the loose acrylic off your nail.  This keeps from gumming up your acetone.
  • Solvents can become saturated (meaning they can’t dissolve any more solute), so make sure to always use fresh acetone.  For the 2 hours that I sat there, I just continued to use the same acetone that I started with and I think, had I refreshed it, things might have moved faster, even the way I was doing it.
  • You will want to continue this process until all or most of the acrylic is removed. If your nails are particularly thin, pushing, even gently, on your nail is painful after awhile. If that happens you can use your buffer to LIGHTLY buff the remaining acrylic off your nail. Just be sure to use gentle pressure and keep the buffer parallel to your nail.
  • After you've buffed off the remaining acrylic, you are pretty much finished.  But you might want to give your nails a little boost to keep them healthy while the damaged parts are growing out.   You could do that by applying cuticle oil over the ENTIRE nail and the cuticle and leaving it for at least five minutes. Then you will definitely want to apply lotion to your hands. The acetone really dries them out.  
  • After you've applied the lotion, gently wipe the nail with alcohol to cleanse it and then apply a nail strengthener according to directions.  I like Nail Envy, it seems to work pretty well for me.  I would probably reapply the Nail Envy, daily without removing whats already on there.   You could also use it as a base coat for your polish.
  • If your nails are really soft, it would probably be a good idea to cut them down to the tips of your fingers so as to minimize any day to day damage.

The future of my nails:

I am on a mission now to have healthier, stronger nails.  Here's the plan for my dry, brittle nails:
  • Keep nails short. Long nails are more likely to split or break.
  • Use moisturizer. Apply moisturizer to my fingernails and cuticles several times throughout the day and before bed. Possibly wearing cotton gloves while I sleep, to help seal in the moisture.
  • Apply nail polish. A thin coat of clear nail polish can help keep moisture in my fingernails.
  • Limit use of nail polish remover. Don't use nail polish remover more than once a week. When I do need to use nail polish remover, choose the acetone-free variety.
  • Ask doctor about biotin supplements. Changing my diet or taking daily multivitamins isn't likely to strengthen my nails. However, some research suggests that the nutritional supplement biotin might help strengthen weak or brittle fingernails.
  • Drink lots of water.  Since my nails are dry and brittle, it might indicate a lack of moisture, so drinking plenty of water should help.

I hope this helps any of you out there considering removing your own acrylic nails.  Learn from my mistakes!  I will keep you posted on the progress of healing my unhealthy nails.

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