How to remove fake nails at home and more nail tips for coronavirus quarantine

Consider this the mani-cure.

Now that nonessential businesses like hairdressers and nail salons have closed down because of the coronavirus, many beauty buffs are struggling with upkeep during lockdown without the help of professionals. One of the most popular Google topics during this period of quarantine has been “how to take off acrylics,” a service we can no longer take for granted.

Megan Miller, 23, who works for The RealReal, got her nails done two and a half weeks ago, but now that it’s time to have them removed, she’s decided against it. She tells The Post: “I didn’t want to go into a salon because the chairs are too close together, so I let them peel off, but a couple are stuck on, and it looks really messed up.”

It’s not just a frivolous worry, either; improperly serviced nails can increase your likelihood of contracting the coronavirus, reports the Huffington Post.

It’s no wonder nail nuts have ransacked shelves in New York City seeking at-home remedies. The nail care sections at a Duane Reade pharmacy and CVS, both on the Upper East Side, were practically bare as of Thursday.

One such DIY manicurist is Marietta Alessi, a 30-year-old social media manager for, who says her nails are normally “gram-ready.”

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made my self-care trips to the manicurist a thing of the past,” she laments to The Post.

Looking to remove her gel manicure, she turned her bedroom into a beauty parlor and began chipping away with various tools to remove the shellac polish.

But beauty mavens know that gel polish and acrylic removal can be tricky. The Post consulted nail-care experts for those looking for DIY removals or just how to clean up your cuticles in isolation without resorting to pedi-crime.

Gel polish

“Let’s be honest: Having to remove gel can often be a nightmare,” says Sundays nail salon founder Amy Lin. (Her New York City salons are currently closed for the safety of workers and clients, but Sundays launched a GoFundMe campaign for donations to support staff.)

To save time during soft-gel polish removal, Lin advises prepping for the process by gently “filing the top coat of your gel manicure.” If you can see your own nail during the process, you’re doing it too hard.

Using an acetone-based nail-polish remover, wet a cotton ball lightly before “placing the piece on top of your nails,” instructs Lin. Wrap tinfoil around each of your cotton-swaddled nails to keep the swab in place.

After 10 to 15 minutes, remove the tinfoil and dispose of all the nail removal waste in a Ziploc bag to avoid any unwanted acetone smells.

Finally, Lin recommends giving nails a little TLC post-removal. “This is an important step for those who tend to use gel nail polish a lot, as their nails tend to be thinner,” says Lin, adding that gel also doesn’t allow nails to breathe.

She recommends Sundays’ nontoxic after-gel Hydrating Base Coat to spruce up your nails.


DIY acrylic removal can be just as tricky. Kate Moore, a manicurist at Stephen Knoll in New York City, says at-home acrylic removal is “a very tough task” and “if you don’t have acetone, it’s almost impossible.”

The pro suggests filing nail length down as short as possible or cutting off extra acrylic close to the fingertip. To make the process easier, Moore also says to use a nail file to “gently smooth” the acrylic.

Using pure acetone, “soak your fingertips as long as it takes,” which can be around 30 minutes, she says. “It depends how old the acrylics are and how strong they’re attached.” Afterward, gently use a cuticle pusher to slide them off or scrape them off.

Both Moore and Lin suggest nourishing the nails and hands with either a hand cream or nail oil. Lin says Sundays has two new serums, an antibacterial CS.01 cuticle serum that’s best “for those who tend to bite their nails” and a hydrating formula called CS.02.

For a household remedy, Moore suggests warming up a small bowl of olive oil and soaking the nails for at least 10 minutes. Repeat “as often as you can to maintain and condition.”

Manicure tips

Until it’s safe for salons to reopen, Lin also has handy tips for simple DIY manicures.

When it comes time to reapply polish, Lin advises using a nontoxic product to protect your immune system from toxins, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Health is so important, especially right now,” she says. “It’s important to protect your immune system with fewer toxins and chemical exposure, especially when you’re at home.”

In the absence of Purell or other hand sanitizer, you can clean nails using household items like lemons, says Lin.

She also advises using a good base coat before the polish, a top coat after the polish and cuticle oil to protect the skin.

“It is important to take good care of the cuticle so that you create a good foundation for the polish step,” she says.

As for drying, she says air-drying is best, but for those looking to speed things up, opt for a quick-dry oil.

“Another good tip,” she adds, “is adding avocado oil and coconut oil to moisturize your cuticles, and this will also prevent your nail polish from getting dented when you are halfway drying your nails.”

Beautifying nails is just one of many beauty practices isolationists are using to stay sane while sequestered inside. Other bored quarantiners have taken to cutting their bangs, while funnyman Jim Carrey says he’s growing out his beard until the pandemic subsides.

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