How to Remove Press-On Nails Safely, According to a Manicurist

If you’ve ever doubted how good press-on nails can look, please take a moment to appreciate the sleek, graphic set above. Yes, those are press-ons.

Aesthetics aside, one of the biggest draws to temporary tips is their convenience. Application is as easy as laying down some adhesive (be it from sticky tabs or nail glue) and pressing them over your natural nails. Removal isn’t as hard as you’d think either.

“When it comes to removing press-ons, the most important thing to remember is to not remove them by force. You never want to rip them off your nails aggressively, as that’s what damages your natural nails,” says Brittney Boyce, founder of NAILS OF LA and celebrity nail artist. “Improper removal can thin out your nails or even cause splitting,” she cautions.

Don’t worry, we’ve got a step-by-step guide for the safest removal ahead.

To Remove Press-on Nails That Are Attached With Adhesive Tabs:

1. First, apply rubbing alcohol or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer around the edges of the extensions and wait 30 seconds. “This helps loosen the adhesive tabs,” explains Boyce.

2. Next, gently rock the extensions from side to side to lift them off your nail beds. “You can apply more rubbing alcohol throughout the process until the press-ons come off,” she adds.

3. Once they're off, give the backs of the press-on nails a quick wipe down with rubbing alcohol to make sure you fully remove any remnants of the adhesive. This will keep them in good condition so you can reuse them.

To Remove Press-on Nails That Are Attached With Glue:

“Glue can typically last 2 to 3 weeks. If for whatever reason you want to remove them before that, wait at least a day. Do not try to remove them the same day you've applied them, as that will definitely damage your nails,” warns Boyce.

And if you’re wondering when the ideal time is to remove your press-ons, Boyce says it’s when they’ve started to lift a bit naturally. At this point, you can proceed with the following steps:

1. Start by soaking your hands in warm soapy water for five minutes. This will help loosen the glue.

2. Next, apply any sort of oil you have on hand—like olive or coconut oil. The oils will seep into the spaces between and further loosen the glue. Plus, it gives your nails and cuticles an extra boost of hydration.

3. Last but not least, use the same gentle rocking motion to lift the press-ons from your nail beds. “If needed, you can soak your nails for a while longer or apply more oil, so they slide off more easily,” says Boyce.

Need a visual reference? We made a tutorial outlining the steps below.

The 5 Best Press On Nails to Try Now (And How to Apply Them So They Fit Better)

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...