Note: For tips on removing GEL nail polish (such as SensatioNail or Gelish), click here.
I can't take credit for this because it's a little trick from Deborah Lippmann that was posted to youtube a couple years ago. Click here to see the video. (Now whether she was the first one to do this or not I don't know. All I know is that video is where I learned about it and I'd never seen anybody do it that way before, so I'm just giving credit to the first person I am aware of doing this.)
I think she was using pure acetone in the video, not simply an acetone based polish remover, based on how quickly it worked for her. Pure acetone works faster than nail polish remover. But I don't use pure acetone.
I've been removing my nail polish this way for several months since I discovered that video, and I will never do it any other way.
What you are going to need:
Nail polish remover - or pure acetone if you prefer. I use nail polish remover. It can be acetone based or non-acetone, doesn't matter. (Note: if you have fake nails on then this DOES matter - only use non-acetone based removers if you're wearing fake nails!) Acetone based works faster, but either way this method only takes a couple minutes so whatever you use is just fine. I have used both acetone based and non-acetone removers so I can say from experience that both kinds will work equally as well.
Cotton - I've read other blogs on this method that say you need cotton balls, not cotton pads. Well, I use cotton pads because they're cheaper and it works just fine. So use whatever you've got on hand, no need to make a special trip to the store for cotton balls for this. I can say though that the cotton balls ARE easier to do this with, but it can be done with cotton pads. You will only need ONE cotton ball or pad. Yes, just ONE. No I am not crazy. You may need two cotton pads if you have a glittery polish on, or if you have a lot of layers of polish on your nails. The cotton balls go a bit further and have more bulk to them than the pads do so if you have cotton balls, you'll still just need one.
What to do:
Open up your nail polish remover and pour a bit of the remover into the lid.
Now, if you are using a cotton ball, unroll it. If you spin yarn you'll be familiar with what you need to do here: pull the fibers apart just a bit (for fiber spinners: just like drafting!) to loosen them but don't pull them so far apart that you pull the cotton apart. You want to just pull the cotton fibers apart just enough so they are not so tightly compacted and so that you have a thin piece of cotton. Tear off ten small pieces to cover your nails and one extra piece that is a little bigger. Set this bigger piece aside for now.
If you are using a cotton pad, look at the pad. One side is smoother than the other; peel that smooth top layer off. (Trust me. I've tried to skip this step, it's easier to tear the cotton if you peel this layer off.) Discard this top layer, you don't need it. Now gently pull the pad to tear it in half. Set one half aside - you will be using it later. Tear the other half into ten small pieces just big enough to cover your nails; pull the fibers apart a little to loosen them a touch as you are doing this.
|See how one side is fuzzy and the other side is smooth? You need to peel that smooth top layer off.|
|Peeling the top layer off the cotton pad|
|Tear the cotton pad in half|
Your cotton pieces should look a bit like this when you're done:
|Tear one half into ten small pieces; save the other half for later|
Now, working with one piece of cotton at a time, dip it into the nail polish remover. Make sure it's saturated well, but not dripping. You will only have to dip it in half way at most - the remover will travel up the cotton to saturate the whole piece. Place it over your nail. See how you only put a thin layer of cotton on? That's all you need, and that's why you "drafted" the cotton fibers to pull them apart a bit. You might be a little worried about how well this will work at this point, with such little cotton. But hang in there ok?
You can do this to both hands at once but I like to do one hand at a time. If you're so inclined you could even do just one finger at a time. But whatever you're doing, let the cotton sit on your nail(s) for about *3 minutes. It should remain wet through this time but if you notice it starting to dry out, dip an extra piece of cotton or the end of a q-tip into the remover and dab it on the cotton on your nail to keep it wet.
* - The time of 3 minutes assumes you are using non-acetone remover. Adjust time accordingly for acetone based remover or pure acetone, remembering that acetone based remover and pure acetone will work faster than non-acetone remover. If you have a very glittery polish or many layers of polish on, your time may need to be increased a bit.
Once the time is up, apply firm pressure and slide the cotton down your nail from cuticle to tip. Really, be firm when you do this. You're not going to hurt yourself. If you don't apply enough pressure it's not going to work as well.
|After one swipe to remove the cotton/polish. Only minimal polish is left on the edges and a couple pieces of glitter remain. My camera died at this point, but after this I used the extra cotton to remove those little leftover bits.|
If done right, this method should remove all or most of the nail polish in ONE SWIPE for most manicures.
You may still have a bit of polish on the edges or as pictured above a couple pieces of glitter still stuck to the nail; just go back over it with an extra swipe or two using the bigger piece of cotton you set aside earlier.
If you are removing a very glittery polish, or several layers of polish, you may need to repeat this process to get all of it off. You will know if you need to repeat the process by how much product is left on the nail after removing the cotton the first time - if there is minimal product left behind you can use the extra piece of cotton to remove the leftover product. If there is a pretty significant amount of product still on the nail after the first swipe, repeat the process.
You'll probably have some leftover remover in the lid when you're done. Pour it back into the bottle for next time.